Thursday, April 11, 2013

Glenda Jackson (and I) Remember Mrs. Thatcher: A Legacy of Sharp Elbows and Sharp Knees

Chris Morley has kindly posted a link here today to a YouTube clip of Labour MP Glenda Jackson speaking yesterday in the House of Commons about Margaret Thatcher's legacy. Jackson remembers the dramatic increase in homelessness under Thatcher (and the same thing happened in the U.S. under her friend and ally Reagan, it has to be noted). 

And then she says:

As a friend of mine said, "During her era, London became a city Hogarth would have recognized." And, indeed, he would. But the basis to Thatcherism--and this is where I come to the spiritual part of what I regard as a desperately, desperately wrong track that . . . Thatcherism took this country into--is that we were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice (and I still regard them as vices) was, in fact, a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees. They were the way forward."

And these observations make me think of something I wrote on Christmas eve 2010, when Steve and I were in London, and which I've posted at my Never in Paradise blog. I'm posting it here now as my own commentary on the discussion of the legacy that Mrs. Thatcher left England and Mr. Reagan left the U.S. I don't blame contemporary problems on either of these leaders. What I do remember and will not ever choose to forget, however, is the transmutation of vice to virtue in both leaders' ideology, and the terrible legacy of sharp elbows and sharp knees both have left us, from which we continue to suffer in absolutely horrific ways.

Here's what I wrote on Christmas eve 2010 in London:

Our first stop when we exit the Piccadilly Circus tube station: St. James church, a Christopher Wren church.  We hope its little flea market is open, but it's not, on Christmas eve.

We go into the church.  I'm impressed by a welcome sign in the narthex: "A warm welcome from the church community of St. James, Piccadilly.  St. James is part of the Anglican Communion within the world-wide Christian Church.  We understand ourselves to be called: to gather as a body which welcomes and celebrates human diversity--including spirituality, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation . . . ."

And so I feel welcome as I walk into this church.  As I don't in almost any Catholic church today.  Because my church almost never posts such a welcome statement in its entranceways.  And its notion of universality and inclusivity and diversity is now, effectively, to give solace and harbor to homophobes.  While telling me and mine, effectively, that we're unwelcome.

And then we go inside and walk down the north nave of the church, and I see a man bent over in a posture of profound prayer.  I hope I haven't disturbed him.

And then I see one man after another in the pews of that side of the church, lying down, huddled over, sitting.  And I realize they're homeless, and are gathered in that part of the church because its heaters are located there.

And what a novel thing, to find a welcoming Christian church celebrating Christmas by providing homeless people a place to warm themselves and rest on a very cold London Christmas eve.

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