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Thatcher, Thatcher, Human Decency-Snatcher?

09/04/2013 13:21 BST | Updated 08/06/2013 10:12 BST

I am left-wing, and my personal politik is primarily ideologically driven - for better or for worse - and I would and have on occasion fought for the ideals I believe in; verbally at least, although I wasn't averse to throwing the odd drink in the run up to the 2010 election. Ever since I have been politically aware, Thatcher has cast a long shadow over my understanding of both the political history of the country I live in and of the way it works - and, perhaps more pertinently, doesn't work- today.

News of her death, then, was predictably explosive, dividing people along lines that have been scored deep into the sand for decades now, as anyone with any opinion at all was drawn back into the same dance of argument and hyperbole that characterises this kind of news day. There was a lot of gloating, and a lot of counter-gloating, and a lot of nausea-inducing glorification, but what struck me the most was the implied assumption amongst certain sectors that anyone of my generation, or younger, of those who didn't experience Thatcher first hand, were either shockingly ignorant (how dare fourteen-year olds around the country know more about One Direction than a politician who left office before they were born) or espousing opinions that somehow hadn't been earned.

Yes, it is true that myself and my peers cannot comment on what life was like during the 1980s, in much the same way that I couldn't possibly give a first-hand account of life in Ancient Thebes, but this doesn't mean I won't be writing about Oedipus in my finals when they come around. No, I am not old enough to remember this political monolith in action, and yes I live in the South, am fortunate enough to have access to a university education and there is nothing of the miner about me: my grandfather was one, but that was in another country, twelve thousand miles away. Yet these are all factors of circumstance: I do not need to be patronised. Anyone politically aware, politically interested, politically anything knows, if nothing else, that Thatcher has left a legacy that still very much holds the nation in its sway: why else would her death attract such vitriol? Thatcherism has informed our current political situation so heavily that the flames of the aggression she inspired whilst in power have only been stoked, not quelled, over time.

Of course, gloating is not dignified or sympathetic. Death is always sad, and an elderly, by all accounts pretty confused, woman has died, leaving two children and a grieving family behind; it particularly stings me, as those odd little details always do, that she died in a borrowed room, in a hotel. It wasn't any hotel, though; it was the Ritz, and this was one of the many things that attracted the vitriol of the internet. It's funny how genuinely inspirational quotations, like Martin Luther King's 'I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy', are appropriated in the Facebook biographies of former primary school acquaintances and wheeled out as platitudes so often on occasions like this that they seem to lose all meaning.

As fine a sentiment as that is, it is easy to see why people with first-hand experience of Thatcher's policies are rejoicing. It isn't the inhumanity the right-wing press will no doubt claim it as, however insensitive: it is a response to the human cost of Thatcherism that is far greater than the death of one woman, however unpalatable that sounds. She set about the systematic dismantling the welfare state, dismissed feminism as a poison and labelled Nelson Mandela a terrorist; there are enough eloquent accounts of the victims of the 1980's to fill countless libraries, if you can find any that haven't yet been closed down.

I saw the excellent This House at the National Theatre recently, a play dealing with the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament, and it reminded me of how farcical politics can be, and, conversely, how touching human decency can be in an area where it is all too often sorely lacking. Understandable as the joy at Thatcher's passing is, I hope the left wing response in particular isn't defined by hatred: the left is the side of the spectrum that deals in humanity, in picking up the pieces of the lives her policies broke apart, as the brilliant response 'Don't hate, donate'http://http://donthatedonate.com/ illustrates.

Her legacy is a poisonous one, but for me, and, I'll wager, for many others in my generation, the main impact she has is in her echoes. Still, the political figure I was filled with the most hatred for today was David Cameron, standing firmly in Thatcher's footprints and relishing the media attention, trotting out smug eulogies to a woman whose influence remains in the very core of his policy, on the same day his government scrapped the Disability Living Allowance.