“Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher forced Britain, kicking and screaming, to abandon its tired and tattered security blanket of a class-ridden and hierarchical society,” reads the caption below a picture of the baroness on the front page of the April 9 Vancouver Sun. The same edition notes the death of famous stage magician Reveen, and I thought the caption below his picture — “famed illusionist dies” — was better suited to the former politician.
Thatcher’s passing certainly cast a spell on the Canadian press, with tributes pouring from periodicals across the country in an adjectival torrent of twaddle. So for the sake of history, let’s try to recall just a few things she actually did and didn’t do.
She supported the South African apartheid regime as well as the junta of the murderous Augusto Pinochet, even describing the Chilean dictator as Britain’s “staunch, true friend,” during his indictment for human rights violations. She famously claimed, “there is no such thing as society,” and tried to prove just that by wrecking the British manufacturing industry and smashing the public sector into privatized pieces. She also leveraged the U.S.-U.K. “special relationship” to wage war in the Falkland Islands and petition for the installation of short-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
In a speech last week in British parliament, Labour MP Glenda Jackson declared that Thatcher had wreaked “the most heinous, social, economic and spiritual damage upon this country.” Describing the explosion of poverty and homelessness she saw first-hand, Jackson discovered “that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice — and I still regard them as vices — under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees. They were the way forward.”
“Iron Lady,” a disparaging term that Thatcher embraced, came by way of a Russian propagandist who likely drew upon a Daily Mirror journalist’s 1976 description of the up-and-coming Tory as an “Iron Maiden,” a medieval torture device.
The steely coiffure wasn’t the only suspect thing about her. It took strenuous elocution lessons to banish her East End diction, resulting in a lower-register, sing-song approximation of an Oxbridge accent. Her 1979 election win was a triumph for another brand of artifice; the “Austrian School” championed by economist Friedrich Von Hayek. Over the same time period in the U.S. the “Chicago School” led by economist Milton Friedman had piggybacked on the 1980 election of the dimwitted Ronald Reagan. The 1984 Canadian election of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Tory buddy-in-arms with The Iron Lady and The Great Communicator, made for a hat trick by the Anglo-American elite.
In the Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney years, just as now, the rubes were told about the blessings of small government, competitiveness and individualism. Insiders soon learned this meant socialism for the rich and laissez-faire for everyone else. And now, in a fit of historical revisionism, mainstream pundits are trying to retrofit Margaret Thatcher of No. 10 Downing Street as the avenging angel of conservatism, rather than the public face of scorched earth, economic radicalism.
In their view, Maggie thrust her sword into the nanny-state serpent while resuscitating Britain, “the sick man of Europe,” with the beat of her powerful wings (well, a right wing at least).
Roger Ebert, film critic with the Chicago Sun Times, died a few days prior to the former prime minister. A good writer and a principled person, he knew that the human heart doesn’t sit well with ideologies of any stripe. As the chill of bankster-engineered austerity descends on the western world, it might be worthwhile for the powerful and powerless alike to count his humble words like prayer beads:
“Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
The Vancouver Courier, Apr. 17
The VanPacRim Courier, 2275: Archaeologists recently unearthed a cache of ancient flash drives from a twenty-first century site in Ottawa. In an exclusive to this noosphere-paper, we present scripture from “The Greatest Tory Ever Told,” the sacred e-book of paleoconservatism, the state religion.
1.1 In the beginning was The Almighty Buck. Yet the New World was without form or formal business contracts. In the absence of perfectly efficient markets, indigenous people did unsustainable things like trade their firstborn for button blankets and moose-antler shelving units. Verily, they didn’t have a clue without the Buck to assign values to things.
1.2 It came to pass that white people in starched collars and buckled shoes arrived in the New World bearing promissory notes, bills of exchange, and mercantile script. But the indigenous people mistook the money for leaves, and pounded it into a pemmican-mixed paste. The authorities had no choice but to separate the malnourished tribal children from their parents and stick them into residential schools, where pious men instructed them in reading, writing, and oaths of silence.
1.3 Yea, purveyors of the Almighty Buck looked upon Canada’s abundance and saw that it was Good. Gleaming schools of fish leapt merrily into fishermen’s’ nets. Towering trees leaned eagerly into loggers’ chainsaws. Guided by The Invisible Hand of the market, The Almighty Buck began to exercise its grace. Wise men from the East cleaved unto trade agreements that ensured commodities traders in Washington, London and other fleshpots would keep winning, in the manner of Jimmy the Greek or Charlie the Sheen.
THE STRIFE OF BRIAN
6.4 After the defeat of Brian the Lantern-Jawed and the anointing of Jean the Sentence Slayer as king, the Progressive Conservative Pharisees wandered the political wilderness like concussed hockey players. A simple carpenter named Preston the Reformer saw the darkening clouds on the horizon and gathered up his tools. He built a huge ark into which he put two of every kind of creature begat by his Reform Party: sun-baked prairie farmers, snowmobile-riding speculators, polyester-wearing housewives, reactionary Albertan economists, and Tory apostates.
6.5 In time the Reform ark ran aground, and Manning’s disciple Stephen the Good hammered the wreckage together into a new ark, called The Alliance. After an extensive period of naval gazing, this unwieldy vessel was spot-welded to the newly rebranded Conservative Party, with Stephen at its helm. Yea, the Almighty Dollar looked down upon the ship of state and saw that it was Damn Fine for the investment class. And verily, David the Frum wet himself in joyousness.
THE BOOK OF EZRA LEVANT
1.1 It came to pass there was a great disaster at the heart of Empire, with temples collapsing from an attack of airborne heathen. A furious, burning Bush spake unto Jean the Sentence Slayer, demanding he join Operation Enduring Freedom. “General Dynamics and Raytheon have a whole lot of new stuff to test out, and I need thy help in pounding evil-doers into the dust,” Bush junior explained.
1.2 Jean agreed, but refused to join a crusade against Babylon called Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL). “Where was dis evidence of da weapons of mass destruction?” he later asked Bush the Shrub. “We’re talking about a desert,” exclaimed the C-minus Yalie. “ Hast thou never ever heard of a mirage, smart guy?!”
THE BOOK OF BITUMEN
3.1 And verily, things were looking up in The Garden of Edmonton, with its massive reserves of sacred bitumen. A prayer moved across Albertan lips like wind rustling through prairie wheat: “Oh, great hydrocarbon compounds, we give thanks for thy abundance. We seek thee out in sand and shale. Thou art dark and viscous, yet can appear light and gaseous. Thou art heat and flame, controlled combustion and disastrous explosion, and the quickening motion of wheels and gears. But verily, oh hydrocarbons, thou doth have us over a barrel, what with the Dutch disease and all. What part of the nation’s surface should be ravished next for thee?”
3.13 With much coaxing from pressurized, superheated water, the blessed oil oozed from sand in The Garden of Edmonton, to profiteth thickset men who ate steak breakfasts served by Botox-anointed, arugula-nibbling Trophy Wives. The Almighty Buck smiled down upon this arrangement – at least until the Asian market collapsed.
THE BOOK OF GABRIEL (THE SEQUEL TO GENESIS)
2.22 There were ditties in the airwaves in those days, tunes most pleasing to the ear. “I will rock harder than any other leader,” pronounced Stephen the Good, who gathered unto himself a band of disciples with middling musical chops. Verily, the leader phoned in Guess Who songs at a Tory convention, and used the blessed Internet to perform a ballad about world peace written by a discarnate beetle.
2.34 Yea, across the land, the writers, artists and performers wisely put a sock in it, stifling criticism of Stephen the Good in print, play, song, and film, lest their sacred Canada Council grants seize up like Lance Armstrong’s derailleur.
THE BOOK OF SNOW JOB
4.1 Verily, when the Opposition began to mutter about a coalition, Stephen “went prorogue” and turned off the lights in their gothic house of legislation, making it even spookier than before. “Woe unto us!” they cried. “We are plunged into infernal darkness and have no choice but to return to Stornoway and other domestic retreats for an indefinite period of relaxation!”
4.6 The mainstream scribes wisely described these multiple, months-long interruptions as parliamentary glitches. Only Elizabeth the Green railed against the darkness, condemning the leader for his actions. Fortunately, the harlot’s blog was only read by overeducated Cassandras and tree-hugging playa hatas.
5.1 It came to pass, Stephen the Good put the public sector to the sword once he had his sacred majority. And verily, his agenda was no longer hidden. “I will cut funding to Environment Canada and muzzle science-spouting pieholes to ensure my name is not taken in vain,” he tweeted at federal researchers, while parting the waters of the public sector for corporate lobbyists.
5.2 Stephen’s actions were pleasing in the eyes of the The Council of Chief Executives, who worshipped the Almighty Buck. Yea, the names of these patriarchs were spoken only in whispers; with great discipline, the mainstream scribes focused on the dog-and-pony shows of electoral politics, while avoiding investigation of those who worked the gears behind democracy’s curtain like the Great Oz.
THE BOOK OF KINKS
2.1 I am thy Lord, the Almighty Buck. I say this unto my chosen peeps: smite makes right. Thou shalt destroy thine enemies through attack ads. Thou shalt fashion their thighbones into vuvuzelas and dance on the graves of their careers. And thou shalt stuff thine ears with sealing wax and Sun News, to block off-key oracles like Noami the Klein, Linda the MacQuaig, and Maude the Barlow.
2.2 Thou will promote party toadies, cultivate media jackals, gather public relations hyenas, and lionize the fat cats on Bay Street. That said, it’s not a great idea to lie with beasts of the field unless there is a decent offer of a reality TV series. But always keep a goat handy — they’re awesome for cleaning up messes.
THE BOOK OF COOKED NUMBERS
1.1 A great feast was prepared for the bitumen traders and moneylenders in which numbers were cooked. Stephen the Good assured them he would remake the Canadian wilderness in his image: resourceful and well manicured.
1.2 Nature, a bit of a hag at the best of times, was corrupt and fallen. Not only fallen, She couldn’t get back up again. Rather than offer any help that might be interpreted as a come-on, the Tory Pharisees saw an opportunity to drop their drawers and have a go while She was Totally Out Of It.
1.3 It came to pass there was a great heavin’ of the Canadian landscape as pipelines were slapped across the wilderness, and supertankers thrust into inlets and rivers. The people, seeing the landscape blackened with bitumen, gnashed their teeth and wailed unto the firmament, while waving placards like pig-ignorant Philistines. Bloody typical of people still trying to fight the last election, concluded Steven the Good, as his disciples backpedalled furiously on their fire-and-brimstone robocalls.
The Vancouver Courier, Mar. 29 and Apr. 5