My grandfather was an achingly intelligent man who died at the age of 85 after a long period of medically-induced dementia. Nearly 15 years later, I still feel the effects of his death profoundly.
You wouldn’t have liked my grandfather – not if you occupy what is, in something of a misnomer*, known as the political left.
Despite the background he came from (he was a farmer), he was a product of his time. His views on social issues in particular are completely at odds with everything I hold dear today; gay rights, reproductive freedom, co-habitation, defence of the vulnerable and ill, the right not to be persecuted for not being religious, yadda blahdeblah.
You would not have liked him if you knew him only for these issues. Neither would I.
But despite this, had you chosen to celebrate his death, I would consider you to be beneath contempt. I don’t particularly give a fuck if he wasn’t the single most influential person in the United Kingdom during some formative years of his life or not. If he had been, his convictions – however misguided they may have appeared to you and I – would still have guided how he conducted the power afforded him.
My view is that conviction, however perverse it is to those of conflicting convictions, is still preferable to sycophancy, fakery and false promise, things that are so abundant in public life today. It’s okay to disagree with that, but it’s steadfastness that makes waves in public life. My grandfather would have been steadfast, and he would, justly I believe, have made enemies. You – and I for that matter – would probably have been one of them.
I would still be outraged and repelled – on both the macro (societal) and micro (personal) levels – if you were gleeful in the wake of my his death.
That is not to say that there is any defence of the tired doctrine of ‘not speaking ill of the dead’. It is a stupid, illogical trope; if my grandfather screwed you over, then he screwed you over; his status as a member of this mortal plane is irrelevant. It is right and proper that you are able to voice the injustice and horror of what he may have done to you.
But actively rejoicing in his demise? That is an entirely different phenomenon, and the two do not go hand in hand.
As a good friend of mine has also observed, when the celebrant turns into the celebrants – especially if they have an open and free forum to joke and bitch about my grandfather’s demise – a mob mentality reigns supreme. In this environment, my grandfather would have been reduced to a redundant piece of computer binary, a hateful nothing to be derided across an anonymous bandwidth, with literally no way to defend himself. (Thanks, Jo.)
It is not big nor clever not honourable, and it has knock-on effects. Laughing about my grandfather’s passing is contemptible enough itself, but ultimately he’s not going to care. He’s fucking dead.
But my grandfather had friends, he had children, grand-children, great-grandchildren. He had nieces and nephews and cousins and in-laws and more besides. And however much my grandfather would have been insufferable had he been a public figure, he was a person, a person who loved us and who was loved by us. We suffered when he died. As I noted previously, I still suffer now.
Celebrating his death, especially in a public and in unison with a large garrison of other celebrants, would have increased that agony in ways I cannot even imagine.
I would not expect you to be sad. I would not expect you to mourn. I would merely expect you to behave like a decent human being. Celebrating my grandfather’s death – the death of a frail, mentally degraded, defenceless old person – is a grotesque aberration of that basic humanity, however much you may have abhorred him and what he stood for. It says much more about the perversion of the celebrant’s personality than it does of my grandfather’s – and it achieves the sum total of nothing. For anyone, including those he hurt.
I mentioned in my previous post that I have a (proud) history of cynicism and misanthropy. Today, I see that what I thought incapable of topping can be topped – and by a considerable margin.
Today, I am ashamed to be a member of the internet age, a fan of Twitter. Today, I am ashamed to consider myself a woman of the “left” – a part of the political spectrum that I’ve always felt should be primarily about humanity, about standing up for the vulnerable and ill, rather than preaching hate about such people, regardless of what they may have done at some points in their lives.
Today, I am – not for the first time – ashamed to be a member of the human race.
I will not mourn Margaret Thatcher, who did wrong to many, many people in the United Kingdom. (Actually, I’m of the view that she got a few things right, mostly relating to Northern Ireland [and remember kids, it’s not like I’m some die-hard unionist here; not at all] – but that does not negate the massive wrongs that she did do.) I am old enough to remember a lot of the shit in the ’80s, some of which is still felt now, and I have known people directly negatively affected by some of the terrible things she stood for.
But I will mourn the simple fact that many people do not find it distasteful to laugh at and delight in the fatal stroke of an old, infirm woman.
*I hate the term “the left” and do not consider it to be properly reflective of the politics of which I speak. As I said, it’s not even accurate; it’s an economic term, not a social one. By the same token, I won’t use the term “liberalism”; that’s a right-wing economic doctrine (***cough cough Thatcher’s cough cough***). “The left” is much wider than just “socialism” or “communism”, so “the left” it has to be.
And the left has acquitted itself poorly today. It has played straight into the hands of the right, who for once in their lives appear to have greater integrity than those they oppose.
I mentioned this on Twitter (and Facebook), but for those who didn’t see it: I apply all of this even to the current shower of cunts in Westminster. I despise them all – especially the heinous triumvirate of Cameron, Gideon and IDS – and I don’t care who knows it. However, I would not wish death on them, nor would I be bragging about getting out a bottle of champagne on the day on which it befell them. Call that self-righteous if you will. I call it not bringing myself down to their level.
Comments are closed. It’s not because I’m incapable of upholding my argument, but because I’ve been so horrified (and, frankly, triggered) by things I’ve seen today that I refuse to read more, especially on a site for which I am responsible. And don’t bitch at me on Twitter either, please. I won’t be checking it for the foreseeable future.