Archive for April, 2013

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“… the vain pomp of proud prosperity!”

April 13, 2013

A direct quotation from the libretto of Handel’s oratorio of 1749, Theodora, sums up for me the triumphalism of the planned ‘ceremonial funeral’ of a particularly despised and hated individual, Margaret Thatcher. There has been much talk – from her braying, besuited supporters and from her cringingly deferential political opponents alike – of the need to ‘respect’ her in death. This is a bit rich, to say the least. She was no respecter of the lives and communities she oversaw the destruction of in her lifetime. If anything, she only appeared to have respect for the most rapacious individuals – mass murderers like Pinochet, ‘go-getters’ like Rupert Murdoch. Granted, Thatcher was but the surface scum on the crest of a tsunami of capitalist development which required the destruction of the post-war settlement between capital and labour and the dissolution of whatever shreds of social security the working class could cling to. No, she was  not the architect of the complex process which has ensured that human life has become ever more commodified and anti-social, but she was one of its loudest cheerleaders and facilitated the progress of its destruction of human life and sociality.

If anything, the  eruption of the  ‘distasteful’ death parties to celebrate the demise of this symbol of the most abject, commodified, individually-isolated aspects of human existence within capitalism is evidence of the true vitality of the human spirit, an affirmation that there is such a thing as society, contrary to the dog-eat-dog, knowing-the-price-of-everything-and-the-value-of-nothing ethos we’re expected to ‘live’ by. It is perhaps ironic that Thatcher saw the true success of her dark dream in her own individual life, ending her days in a luxury hotel, surrounded by paid flunkies, with her ‘beloved’ family hundreds of miles away… There’s no such thing as society, indeed.

Every tank, rifle and gun carriage that accompanies her lifeless body on its journey to St Paul’s is a negation of the bonds of love which ultimately hold human society together against the imperatives of profit and hierarchical power. Such ‘vain pomp’ would seem a fitting send-off for her. Here’s what that ‘prophet against Empire’, William Blake wrote on London’s charter’d streets in the 1790s:

Blake London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every black’ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

 

 

 

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