ARE WE  IN DANGER OF LOSING OUR HUMANITY?

It never occurred to me that it could happen. Not here. Not in my country. Not in the land of the stiff-upper-lip and 'after you' and queueing. But, somewhere along the way, we (or at least some of us), have turned into the type of people we once watched on the news. Who lived in some far-off land and who, having spent decades under a cruel dictator who's just fallen, are joining together on the streets in celebration. 

Except that, in this country at least, no such dictator has fallen. No such dictator, thank God, has existed for centuries.  And yet there they were. On the news. On social media. All around. People celebrating a death like it was New Year's Eve. But it's much worse than that. These are the type of people who dance and party when an old lady dies. An old lady with children and grandchildren and friends who mourn her. Because they didn't like what she stood for. Or at least what they, or the person that informed their opinion, believed she stood for.

Because, it seems to me, many indeed many of those partying as others mourn Margaret Thatcher are too young to have even remembered her. They are certainly too young to have ever voted for, or against, her. I 'came of age' in 1987 - the year Thatcher was elected as PM for the last time. For anyone to have actually participated in that election they would have to be 44 by now. And, to have any real take on her time in office, even the very end of it, they would have to be in their mid-thirties. Which means that most of those we saw on our screens weren't even born during the Thatcher era.  Now, I'm not suggesting that you can't understand something that happened before you were born. Of course you can. But to have so much anger, so much passion and so much feeling? For something you've only been told about? Or read about?

I was a child of the Thatcher era. Ten years old when she was elected, I do remember what it was like. I remember life pre-1979 too. I remember strikes and power cuts and shortages. And yet, to hear some of those celebrating, you'd think life pre-Thatcher was all moonlight and roses. It wasn't. And neither was life 'under' Thatcher. It was a turbulent time.  I left school when the employment levels were even lower than they are today. But I also saw new opportunities that wouldn't have been possible without her intervention. I remember people's anger and approval of Thatcher in just about equal proportions. And, I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that, like much of life, there was good and bad. How the balance of that good and bad weighs up, probably depends on your political leaning. And your personal experience. And it seems there were plenty of people who came out of the Thatcher era so full of anger and resentment that they passed it on to the next generation and the one after that. There's no doubt that for many that era was not kind. And those people may well have understandable reason to  despise the politician who brought that on them. But most of those people who disagreed with what Margaret Thatcher strove to do, did so because they had firmly established political beliefs of their own. 

But what's been happening this week, the thing which has utterly appalled me, is the enthusiasm amongst some for gathering together and celebrating someone's death. And, while it appears on the surface to be a very passionate reaction, it's really quite the opposite, isn't it? Because, surely no-one who has experienced loss could ever really find joy in the passing of someone else's loved one? 

But there's no doubting that this 'movement' has an appeal to many. Perhaps it's like the reverse of hysteria. A sort of mob euphoria to be gained from dancing on someone else's grave. Because I find it hard to believe that so many could have such strong feelings for someone they neither knew, nor experienced. 

But whatever the reason for it, it asks a lot of very uncomfortable questions about our country. About what happened to change things so that even as small a section of society as this would think it was acceptable to rejoice so publicly over a person's death. About what happened to respect for the mourners? Or compassion for loved ones? Or dignity for another person? About just when it became acceptable to react in this way?  And, if we no longer have respect or compassion or dignity, what does this mean for our society? I've tried to understand. I've tried to think of someone, either alive today, or throughout history, whose death I would have cause to celebrate. But I can't. Even allowing for the most wicked war criminals and evil murderers, I cannot. I can muster, perhaps, a sense of great relief, or more often of nothingness, but joy? No.  And I've asked around and I'm not alone in this. So what makes people feel that way?

It's tempting to compare this partying to the unrest of the last few years. But it's not like at all like the demonstrations against austerity measures, or against perceived heavy-handed policing or protests about tuition fee hikes. People protesting is normal. It's our right as citizens of a democratic country. That right often gets hijacked by those who join in just to turn it into a violent clash, but most people protesting and marching have purer intentions. But what's been happening since Baroness Thatcher died goes beyond protest and into the realm of dystopian horror. Do we really want to live in a land where people celebrate death? Where they make coarse comments or tasteless jokes about another human being after they have died? Where it's acceptable to crack open the champagne and dance 'til dawn when we hear the news? I know I don't. And, from some of the debate I've been listening to, neither do many others. But if we don't speak out against such ghastly inhumanity then we'll have more of it to come.

Thankfully, of course, at the moment those that choose to celebrate are only a small proportion of our population. Let's try to keep it that way. For all our sakes.