karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
Karen ([personal profile] karen2205) wrote2005-11-28 09:38 pm
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I keep meaning to write this and never seem to find the right opportunity to do so. This is probably somewhat controversial.

As I see it, there are lots of conventions about 'socially acceptable' behaviour, many of which we follow without realising it (ie. not picking one's nose in public or eating non-fast food with cutlery). (Yes, some of these conventions differ from culture to culture ie. there are places where the custom is to eat with one's hands, but that's not important right now).

There are other conventions that we see as outdated and old fashioned eg. the chaperoning of young women. There are others that have been deprecated ie. the one about men not wearing hats in church isn't very relevant when people wear hats so rarely.

Then there are others again that have been deliberately challenged and have mutated into conventions more appropriate for 2005 ie. it's now conventional to hold doors open for the elderly, those with physical disabilities, those with small children, those carrying heavy objects.

And then there are the ones I see people ignoring without any real thought as to why they're doing so. Where I come from it is disrespectful to start tearing into someone's reputation on the day of his/her death and for a couple of months afterwards. I'm willing to have the argument if anyone considers this convention outdated or old fashioned. My point of view is that the convention is intended not to protect the dead from criticism permanently (ie. I'm quite happy to listen to people insulting Hitler and Stalin) but to avoid adding unnecssarily to the grief of the living. Why should the relatives and friends of people who have died have to listen to insults directed at their dead friend/relative when they are in the throes of intense grief? And no, I don't accept 'I'm writing in a newspaper they don't have to read' or 'I'm writing on the internet so they shouldn't go looking for it' as acceptable reasons for insulting someone in the immediate aftermath of their death. As far as I'm concerned there's a time and a place for dissecting someone's life and immediately after his/her death isn't it. Have some respect. The other side to this is 'well, if she'll say that about him today, what on earth would she say about me if I drop dead tomorrow?'.

And I'll give you all fair warning now - if I see anyone dissecting Baroness Thatcher's politics when she dies, I am likely to let rip. I won't say she doesn't have faults - we all have faults, but she *is* someone I admire a lot.

[identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't say anything about anyone that I wouldn't say to their face - and that includes the dead.

(And you're not Margaret Thatcher's only admirer. I may sing "Markham Main", but I grew up under her politics and can appreciate all that she did.)
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[identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 10:35 pm (UTC)(link)
How far does this convention extend? If on March 6, 1953 I'd said that Stalin was an arbitrary and vicious mass-murderer and that the world would have been significantly better off had he been strangled at birth, would that be alright or would that be disrespectful? (Supposing I'd been around at the time.)
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[identity profile] jiggery-pokery.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Or for that matter, why is it (would it be?) more respectful to start dissecting her politics when she was merely very, very ill and expected to have hours-to-days to live? I'm thinking of a protracted situation like George Best here.

[identity profile] hsenag.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
For me, criticism is a reaction to the general tide of *public* adulation that seems to follow the death of someone notable. In the case of George Best, who I guess is who has prompted this, people only started lining up to praise him once he was dead/about to die. He was a convicted criminal and wife beater (not sure if he was ever convicted of domestic violence), yet he's getting a funeral service in Stormont Castle - a very important public building - thanks to the wave of positive sentiments that followed his death.

When Thatcher dies, we will inevitable see a similar outpouring of praise for all the things she achieved - why should all the people who hated what she did or what she stood for have to sit there and listen to it in silence?

[identity profile] hsenag.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 12:24 am (UTC)(link)
The problem with news is that it becomes stale and then the responses are pointless.

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I have to say, I think truth comes first, but again, it's all relative. Some might consider Thatcher to be on the level of Stalin or Hitler (support for oppressive regimes which might have equated to either of those being an argument to that effect) and so therefore why not say what one thinks? A public figure has to be open to criticism, or where is personal freedom to be found? Sentimentality shouldn't prevent it - after all, they at least are dead and don't have to hear it! And really, most public figures, and their friends and families, have heard as bad or worse during their lifetime, or I would jolly well hope so. The well-made point above re Stalin is that it may take some time for a person's foibles to come to light, particularly if they were trying to hide them. So in that case, it will be after death if at all.

Personally, I loathe the mawkish twaddle which is spouted on the death of a public fgure. I feel exactly the opposite way, that their lives are retrospectively whitewashed and often the comments which would have been made, ought to have been made, are not, because of all those 'conventions' surrounding death. As has already been said re: George Best, he was no angel, but on talk shows and in papers, there was little but praise for "football's first star". What is needed, perhaps, is calm, honest reporting somewhere in the middle, neither lionising nor demonising.

If only people's unpleasant policies could die with them, but "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones". Unfortunately.
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[identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com 2005-11-28 11:16 pm (UTC)(link)
People who actually equate Hitler or Stalin with Thatcher just need to get a grip; I think they are primarily useful here as edge cases.

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 02:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Although I am greatly in favour of politeness and consideration for others, the difficulty with this one is that conventions are very specific to a particular group. One person may consider a year appropriate, one a month, one a day, and one may think that 5 minutes of piece is all the deceased deserves! So then you will find people complaining about the length of time for which reasoning was suspended, and STILL thinking people are being rude because they didn't adhere to the convention that they were following.

This is just one reason why I think truth, or an attempt at the truth, has to come before anything and everything. Another, as I kinda mentioned before, is that if the person in question was in a position of power, it may be imperative to publish immediately if one is trying to discover the truth about their actions - it is not unknown for documents to 'disappear' upon the death of the person ostensibly responsible for overseeing them. For example, publishing an expose on the day of a person's death may bring forward essential information from other sources, which delaying might cause to be lost.
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[personal profile] lovingboth 2005-11-29 06:20 pm (UTC)(link)
It depends - sometimes waiting until someone's died has been the only time people have been able to tell the truth about someone, thanks to the libel laws. Think of Robert Maxwell and George Carmen for two examples.

I was really disappointed to have missed the Outrage demonstration at the memorial service for David English, the person who gave the world the front page headline "Gay Gene Abortion Hope" - the idea that parents who discovered that they were expecting a child with the 'gay gene' could (and in the Mail's view, should) have it aborted.
(Mrs Thatcher knighted him and gave a peerage to the religious leader who was quoted supporting the idea.)

George Best - I think I'm too young to understand all the fuss about him

Probably. At his playing peak, he was bigger than Beckham, Owen and Rooney combined.

[personal profile] rho 2005-11-28 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
In theory, I agree with you, but in practice, there are difficulties. Things have to work both ways. Just as those who want to grieve shouldn't be subjected to ill-wil directed against the deceased, so those whose lives were affected negatively by the deceased shouldn't have to be subjected to people saying how wonderful that person was, with no right to reply.

To use your example of Baroness Thatcher, there are, undoubtedly, people whose lives were made worse by her policies (there were also people whose lives were made better; how these two aspects balance against each other is a different debate). If I were a miner who had lost his livelihood during the 80s, I'd certainly not be impressed by seeing news story after news story of how wonderful and brilliant she was.

The problem is, the media circus we have makes it impossible to get away from these sorts of stories. I don't understand a lot of the sentiment that gets whipped up around the deaths of public figures. I didn't know (for instance) George Best or Princess Diana personally; neither of them had any particular noticable impact on my life. I felt no particular grief at their passing, beyond the sort of general sadness that I have when anyone dies. When Thatcher dies, I'm sure I'll feel the same (although her past actions have impacted my life, at present, my life would go on as is even if she died tomorrow). I'm certainly not going to pretend to feel grief when I really don't, since I think that's hugely disrespectful, to both the dead and the living.

So in an ideal world, those who wanted to grieve could go and do so quietly, those who don't care either way can get on with their lives, and those who never liked the person in the first place can go off and be quietly glad. But that often can't happen any more, because everything has become far too public, and far too drawn out. And in those circumstances, I do think it's reasonable for people to be given the opportunity to speak their minds.

[identity profile] hilarityallen.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 03:00 am (UTC)(link)
I agree with you, mostly. The thing is, if I were at a funeral of a friend who'd done some stupid and misguided things, I'd keep quiet to the family. This make it difficult when it comes to Lady Thatcher, who did things I disapprove of, but I'd find it very hard to convince someone who approved of her. And I'd feel bad about making someone feel so upset at her funeral, where people are already likely to be upset.

[identity profile] chickenfeet2003.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 01:09 am (UTC)(link)
And I'll give you all fair warning now - if I see anyone dissecting Baroness Thatcher's politics when she dies, I am likely to let rip.

Then I shan't wait. She gave material aid and comfort to governments that murdered, tortured and exiled many of my friends. I just wish I believed in Hell so I could look forward to her burning in it.

[identity profile] beingjdc.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 06:21 am (UTC)(link)
I shall be too busy tap-dancing and singing to dissect her politics.

[identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 11:42 am (UTC)(link)
And you a member of New Labour...

[identity profile] beingjdc.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 03:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Again, no such party exists...

[identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com 2005-11-30 11:08 am (UTC)(link)
The prosecution rests.

[identity profile] hilarityallen.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 02:57 am (UTC)(link)
Mm. I can guess what sparked this entry. It is at least considered polite to confine derogatory comments to an environment where the bereaved are not likely to encounter them.

Though on the Lady Thatcher front I find myself conflicted. I find it a tremendous achievement that she became Prime Minister and managed to rule the country for so many years. I disagree with a significant proportion of her politics. This doesn't make her achievement less; it means that I personally regard her personal achievements [considerable] and her politicial achievements [often misguided] as rather different things.

[identity profile] bitterlight.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 03:55 am (UTC)(link)
It is at least considered polite to confine derogatory comments to an environment where the bereaved are not likely to encounter them.

I concur with this. If you have to criticize somebody who just died, keep it under your hat and discuss only with other people who are likely to share your opinion. That's about all I have to say about that.
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[identity profile] skibbley.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 11:08 am (UTC)(link)
I'm more inclined to respect the mourning of more private people than public political figures with power over many people.

When the last pope died it think it was important to remind people of the evil propagated by the Catholic church under his control since media reporting was biased towards adulation.

I can't imagine the same happening with Thatcher since she was and still is such a widely hated person, particularly amongst communities I am or have been part of and geographic areas where I have lived.
I expect parties, tinged with sad remembrance of the damage she caused. I'd consider that a little unfair since I'm wary of general trends being attributed to small groups or individuals. She didn't do what she did alone.

I'm more inclined to respect the mourning of more private people than public political figures with power over many people.

[identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 11:41 am (UTC)(link)
The disection IME takes place as a response to the excessive adulation and worship given to a newly member of the deceased. Take Princess Diana for example - there were calls to have her beatified. Such calls are far more disrespectful to the memory of the person than pointing out that they were human with problems.

I have respect - but I have respect for people as people. De-humanising them is far worse than pointing out their flaws as well as their virtues IMO (and I won't say after death anything I wouldn't say in life). Mourn honestly and I'll leave you to it. When the hysteria takes hold, I'm going to give you the equivalent of a slap to try and break you out of it.

As for Thatcher, I believe she was a necessary counterbalance to politics that had swung too far - but the person who reintroduced rickets to the inner cities even before she became PM went on for far too long and caused as much damage as she fixed.

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 02:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Do you mean, she was a radical socialist alternative to the business-friendly policies of Callaghan's Labour government? ;¬) Exactly which 'politics which had swung too far' are you talking about?

Other that that, I entirely agree with you, especially about the Diana hysteria, which is distasteful in the extreme. And I don't see why holding back out of a misplaced 'respect for the dead' is right or good. The dead themselves can't be harmed, and their friends and families are not responsible for their actions, so they aren't the targets.

[identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com 2005-11-29 04:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Exactly which 'politics which had swung too far' are you talking about?

The miners being able to hold the country to ransom by striking?

Top rate of income tax at 83%?

Inflation at 20%?

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-30 12:17 am (UTC)(link)
Are you referring to the stroke of '84? The miners went on strike because they had little choice about it. They weren't actually holding the country to ransom as there were huge stockpiles of coal. She had a deliberate policy of destroying the trades unions, and the miners were not the first to get the treatment. They didn't have many options left to them. If you truly believe the miners were entirely random aggressors, hell bent on causing trouble to ordinary tax-payers, that's not too realistic!

Plus, I've lived in Scandinavia. Income tax at 75%+ is not regarded as amazing at all. Though they do much more with it in terms of decent public services. Here, it would be bad, bcos we get bugger-all back for it.

I do think there were a lot of serious issues of mismanagement under the Callaghan governtment, but that doesn't mean that any change is a good one. Since the numbers of people living on or below the poverty line in this country increased 3-fold (I believe) in the 5 years after she became PM, I don't think the claims of increasing wealth for the country are entirely borne out...

[identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com 2005-11-30 11:24 am (UTC)(link)
Are you referring to the stroke of '84? The miners went on strike because they had little choice about it. They weren't actually holding the country to ransom as there were huge stockpiles of coal. She had a deliberate policy of destroying the trades unions, and the miners were not the first to get the treatment

No. I'm referring to the strikes of the 1970s and events such as the 3 day week which made breaking the Unions a good idea. Thatcher then stockpiled coal in order to be able to prevent the miners striking and forcing another 3 day week.

And no, I don't believe they were random aggressors. I do believe, however, that any organisation that can force the country onto a 3 day week and then throw their weight around (rejecting a 20% pay rise in 1979) and where the leadership is arrogant enough to call a general strike without a ballot (Scargill in 1984) needs breaking. The miners may not have been random aggressors, but they were hardly random victims.

Here, it would be bad, bcos we get bugger-all back for it.

Only because we spend bugger-all on it.

My favourite supporting statistic is that we spend less per head on healthcare than the US Government does before you take private care into account - we probably have the most cost-effective first-world healthcare system in the world.

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-30 03:03 pm (UTC)(link)
That's the reason I asked whether you were referring to 84/85. "Breaking the backs of the unions" has often been cited as a 'good' Thatcher policy, but I simply don't agree. The fact of the matter is that ordinary workers now have fewer protections as a result. However, what people forget is that the Labour government had actively been pursuing policies which were antagonistic to union power. This was already going on before the Conservatives got back into power. The 'energy crisis' made it easy to imply that it was those wicked trade unionists who were to blame and were 'holding the country to ransom', rather than laying the blame at the door of successively incompetent government.

A lot of the problems supposedly 'endemic' to the unions in the 70s were focused around 2 major issues - defective management, and the very time-specific issues of legality. The 70s had seen a string of legal decisions which strongly restricted the rights of workers to protest, particularly with regards to Strikes. Lord Denning was famously antagonistic towards unions and in fact had to be restrained by the House of Lords in this matter. It was hardly surprising that organised workers felt unjustly treated in this atmosphere.

Destruction and dismantling of the rights of workers was the first step in a series of disempowering actions designed to allow business freer reign in what was supposed to be a post-Keynesian economic structure. Doing the same thing to the welfare state was also part and parcel of this.

In my opinion, the power of the unions, as was demonstrated, was nowhere near enough.

There was an undeniable problem of craven and overambitious union leaders who were in the game for their own benefit, but that was hardly the fault of ordinary trade unionist and certainly didn't mean that they should be pnished. The solution would be to turn more attention to the complex position of senior union officials and its potential for abuse, not least in their collusion with politicians and leaders of industry when they are meant to be supporting their members. But that would involve caring about workers having strength to resist unreasonable behaviour form whatever quarter, which is not likely to be what you want when you are attempting to create pliant consumers.

[identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com 2005-11-30 03:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, and I agree about healthcare. The attitude of shame and discomfort towards our welfare state is horrifying. Let's not even start on benefits and housing...