Sowing the Seeds of Greed

By Isaac Turner

Thatcher’s death was a cruel reminder of her divisive time in government. The nation split between lovers and haters, it now seems fashionable to pin your political colours to the mast and declare whether you adored or abhorred her ideals. The tribal nature of the Thatcher debate takes us back to a bygone era, vastly differing from the current climate of consensus politics, which is curious as many of her policies that were once seen as controversial are now the norm. Privatisation, free market economics and a capitalist mentality will outlive her, and in that sense, Thatcher has achieved a somewhat immortalised form in British politics.

Thatcher loved aspiration. She loved the individual. She believed that any one person could rise to the top in society through hard work and determination. To Thatcher, there was no such thing as society, and this is where her legacy begins to unravel. The fact that she was not a supporter of cooperation or compassion, prioritising the needs of one over the needs of many instead, wreaked irreversible destruction within several regions of Britain.

Barnsley is a town with a rich working class heritage. Thatcher systematically shamefaced the working class, until being part of it was seen as a social negative. She waged war in her battle with the unions, the miners and the collective, socially centred values that defined communities such as Barnsley. In the recent words of my grandfather, ‘Thatcher tore apart everything I grew up knowing. We’d have days for the families of miners to come together, rituals, celebrations. The Barnsley of 1990 was unrecognisable from the Barnsley of 1975. It has no spirit anymore.’

This pattern is repeated in towns and villages all over the United Kingdom. South Wales, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Scotland. Thatcher created an environment in which the only way for such settlements to survive was to provide employment in the retail industry. Go to the towns with a working class heritage in 2013 and you might be able to see the next generation working in the local Londis, the local Peacocks, the local Wilkinsons, the local Superdrug. But they aren’t truly local. They cannot begin to embody the spirit of the previous generation, what makes the area and the people unique.

Thatcher was responsible for making people want more. The rampant materialism of the 21st century lies in the unsatisfactory outcome of her time as our leader in the 20th, and the way money and desire dictate our life stems from Thatcher’s desire for each individual to have more, get more, spend more. A recent trend in British society has been to question the valuation of everything in economic terms, and return to a more social, environmental model of living. This is exactly the kind of model valued in towns such as Barnsley before Thatcher took power in 1979.

The seeds of greed that were sown by Thatcher in her elimination of the spirit of community and solidarity are just as impactful as her economic policies. For one so vehemently anti-society, Thatcher managed to corrupt the individual in a way that has now resulted in isolation, overindulgence and selfishness. It is thanks to Thatcher that the working class are demonised, that so many towns have an unshakeable atmosphere of soullessness, that we value what we could have over what we already possess. What makes me dislike Thatcher so much isn’t the irreversible rates of unemployment, or her amiable approach to dictators, or her love of privatisation. It’s the complete despair I see in my grandad’s eyes when he talks about a beautiful kind of soulful British community which to me, and now also him, has been rendered utterly alien by Margaret Thatcher.

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