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2) The Conception Of The "Enterprise Culture"
3) Stay Tuned To Our Program For Much More Rubbish To Come...
4) Great Expectations
THE MORAL REVOLUTION OF THE 1980s IN BRITAIN
HOW FAR HAS THATCHERISM SUCCEEDED IN CHANGING SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ATTITUDES AMONG THE BRITISH?
This essay should be seen as an attempt to give an admittedly uncomplete impression of the moral values having developed in Great Britain by the direct or indirect influence of ´Thatcherism´ in the 1980s. Moreover, it was my intention to analyze the effects of that decade of change with regard to general patterns of human behaviour within a society based on a free enterprise economy.
Thus starting with a short retrospective look on postwar-Britain and especially on the special situation of the 1970s I pass on to describe the quite different subjective effects the introduction of the ´enterprise culture´ has caused among the British.
The differences among the labouring classes and social groups in general I have not always stated as sharp as necessary for I was more interested in the comparable behaviour of an acting people which forms the face of its nation.
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DANCING WITH THE MOONLIT KNIGHT1
"Can you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love´s eyes. "It lies with me!" cried the Queen of Maybe - for her merchandise, he traded in his prize.
"Paper late!" cried a voice in the crowd. "Old man dies!" The note he left was signed ´Old Father Thames´ - it seems he´s drowned; selling England by the pound.
Citizens of Hope & Glory, Time goes by - it´s ´the time of your life´. Easy now, sit you down. Chewing through your Wimpey dreams, they eat without a sound; digesting England by the pound.
Young man says "you are what you eat" - eat well. Old man says "you are what you wear" - wear well. You know what you are, you don´t give a damn; bursting your belt that is your homemade sham.
The Captain leads his dance right on through the night
- join the dance...
Follow on! Till the Grail sun sets in the mould.
Follow on! Till the gold is cold.
Dancing out with the moonlit knight,
Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout.
There´s a fat old lady outside the saloon; laying out the credit cards she plays Fortune. The deck is uneven right from the start; all of their hands are playing apart.
The Captain leads his dance right on through the night
- join the dance...
Follow on! A Round Table-talking down we go.
You´re the show!
Off we go with.
- You play the hobbyhorse, I´ll play the fool.
We´ll tease the bull ringing round & loud, loud & round.
Follow on! With a twist of the world we go.
Follow on! Till the gold is cold.
Dancing out with the moonlit knight,
Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"I don´t belong here", said old Tessa out loud.
"Easy, love, there´s the Safe Way Home."
- and, thankful for her Fine Fair discount, Tessa Co-operates
Still alone in o-hell-o
- see the deadly nightshade grow:
ENGLISH RIBS OF BEEF CUT DOWN TO 47p LB
PEEK FREANS FAMILY ASSORTED FROM 17 1/2 to 12
FAIRY LIQUID GIANT - SLASHED FROM 20p to 17 1/2
TABLE JELLYS AT 4p EACH
ANCHOR BUTTER DOWN TO 11p FOR A 1/2
BIRDS EYE DAIRY CREAM SPONGE ON OFFER THIS WEEK.
It´s Scrambled Eggs.
1) INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
What has become of Madame Sosostris ("famous clairvoyante"2 )? With a "wicked pack of cards" it was her turn to foresee the spiritual and physical emptiness of the modern culture of the 1920s. While the last passages of T.S. Eliot´s "The Waste Land" suggest that the spring of man´s rescue has not completely run dry there is "a fat old lady laying out the credit cards" at the beginning of the 1970s who states the same emptiness for our "postmodern" culture without leaving any hope at all. The helplessly astrayed "Green Knights" of the Grail´s legend furthermore have mutated to "Knights of the Green Shield Stamps" who digest their own country at a bargain sale. "Fast Food Land" can be said to be the current metaphor of nowaday´s supermarket life ("Fine Fair",Safe Way", "Co-op", as quoted at the end of Genesis´ song, are allusions to existent shopping centers in Britain ). The City of London remains an "Unreal City"3 but it does not have to hide this reputation anymore since the values of the Western culture itself have begun to act according to the rules of the free market (thus art became like advertising and advertising became like art, e.g.). With the exception of some intellectuals (dissatisfied with what they foresaw) nobody would have cared about these tendencies if there were no further obvious restrictions of life-quality to come.
Most of the characteristics of British culture at the end of the 1970s I am referring to were to be seen in other capitalist countries as well. The same can be said about the relatively strange relationship between culture and economy, whereas the political background of the social life going on in Great Britain differed nearly completely from that of the other concerned countries. The reason for this goes back to the late 1940s as the idea of the British "welfare- capitalism" had its days which is "that the state attempts an unprecedented pact with the people, almost all the people, to protect (them) from the manifest disadvantages of capital; which are, in brief, cyclical recessions that throw people into poverty and despair, and disregard for poverty and suffering however caused."4
The phrase "welfare state" came into widespread use during the war to point a sharp contrast with Hitler´s "warfare state". For a lot of people this concept led to the erroneous assumption that it tends toward socialism. But it is merely "a kind of corporatism, (...), an attempt to rescue capitalism." 5 "For ´laissez-faire´ capitalism self-destructs, as the attempt to maintain profits leads to merger and monopoly, and hence to the undercutting of the initiative and incentive that made it once effective,(...). State intervention appeared necessary to regulate the terms of trade, facilitate growth and restrain inflation." 6 In order to make it work the orthodoxy of what "The Times" has called "the old clubbable consensus" 7 became a well-fed tradition for at least 30 years. That meant a "high level of agreement between the political parties and governing elites"8 concerning the main stream British politics has to follow and to represent. The uncertainty of the welfare-concept becomes comprehensible by realising that "fears of losses and bankruptcy, and, yes, fears of unemployment and poverty" are necessary for industrial discipline because of the ´human nature´ and international competition (as it was put by the "Banker´s Magazine9 ).
That theory meanwhile can be seen as justified if we take the reasons for the slow decay of the socialist countries at the end of the 1980s into consideration which partly can be traced back to the same misconception of human consciousness. Social security provided by the government soon is taken as a matter of course whereas a society based on the principles of the market never can provide the state of a man´s complete satisfaction, for it is a fundamental rule of the market to produce something further to desire. Thus "the whole project of welfare- capitalism, and hence the stability of the social order, has been made to depend upon economic growth"10. But a stable social security undermines the worker´s interest in taking care of the rules of the enterprise economy. Not only that he becomes aware of his importance for the system and the disproportionately bad working conditions he is often confronted with, he even gets the self-esteem to protest against them. The failure of the welfare-state, as it became obvious in the 1970s, eventually was a result of the increasing influence of the trade unions, too.
"If, in broad outline, the period of ´consensus´ could be seen as containing the story of the detemination to escape for ever from the Depression conditions of the 1930s, the story of the middle and late seventies might well be seen as one of a return to the gloom of that ´devil´s decade´.11
Britain suddenly began to slip rapidly behind its European neighbours economically. Although it is often said that the 1960s have proven the efficiency of the welfare-project, Britain was shaken by inflation, when Edward Heath had taken over the government in 1970. His policy turned out to be a disastrous failure. The fact is that the cost of living rose more and more rapidly. Under Conservative rule ( middle of 1970 to spring 1974 ) the purchasing power of the pound fell by a quarter. Under the new Laboour Government inflation had taken on an even more galopping form. In the spring of 1975 "The Economist" spoke of "symptoms of a germinating hyper-inflation".12 And here unfolds what I meant to be the very thing our "Waste Landers" must have been struck by: restrictions of life quality in nearly all fields of public life:
1. The number of the unemployed reached more than a million in 1975
2. A rapid reduction of expenses for the subvention of foodstuffs, rents, education and health- care
3. a restraint of pay-rises
4. South-North fall of living conditions within the country
The "years of discontent" expressed themselves in alarming tendencies of racism and nationalism on the one hand, while the activities of the trade unions reached a climax and led to more unity among the labouring classes on the other hand. In 1950 Aubrey Jones warned of the influence of the trade unions, which became "infected with the doctrine that the struggle of the classes was something inevitable."13 However, it became obvious that the governing parties and the trade unions could not work hand in hand in order to solve the increasing problems. Instead the old Conservative-Labour agreement on the guiding principles of the welfare state broke down ultimately. In the Conservative Party there had been a strong movement to the right, and in the Labour Party there had been a similarly strong move to the left.
It was Margaret Thatcher who became the leading person of the "New Rights" within the Conservative Party. By the help of a morally questionable rigour she tried to build up a positive image of herself. She used the quite successful strategy of praising such characteristics as personal responsibility, self-initiative, national pride, intact marriage and family as a cure-all for the fight against revolt, demoralisation and crime. Thatcher had been elected in 1979 because she promised a new beginning for Britain, which bases on the need for a break with the past. To an audience in Cardiff in April 1979 she announced:
"I am a conviction politician. The Old Testament prophets did not say ´Brothers, I want a consensus´. They said ´This is my faith. This is what I passionately believe. If you believe it too, then come with me´."14
A new direction of British politics was signalled. This basic change caused a major crisis for the Labour Party, for it, moreover, carried the political responsibility of the so-called "winter of discontent" on its back.
I think, it is necessary having drawn a picture of the politically and economically demoralised "Citizens of Hope and Glory"15 on the eve of "Thatcherism" in order to be able to distinguish the people´s expectations from the aims of what has become known as "Enterprise Culture".
2) THE CONCEPTION OF THE "ENTERPRISE CULTURE"
Günther Anders writes in "Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen - Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution":
"Prometheus hat gewissermaßen zu triumphal gesiegt, so triumphal, daß er nun konfrontiert mit seinem eigenen Werke, den Stolz, der ihm noch im vorigen Jahrhundert so selbstverständlich gewesen war, abzutun beginnt, um ihn durch das Gefühl eigener Minderwertigkeit und Jämmerlichkeit zu ersetzen. ´Wer bin ich schon?´ fragt der Prometheus von heute, der Hofzwerg seines eigenen Maschinenparks, ´Wer bin ich schon?´."16 Anders describes the man´s respect for his selfmade products (machines, facilities), which, in their complexity, cannot be overseen by a single person anymore. As an example he draws the picture of an old man who stands in an exhibition for modern technology desperately staring at his faulty, unprecise hands. Therefore Anders introduces the phrase "Prometheische Scham". If the fact that ´nobody is perfect´ straightens itself in such an obtrusive way in front of us, it won´t take long until we submit to our own tools.
"Der einzelne Mensch steht [...] hilflos einer chaotischen Masse von Daten gegenüber und wartet mit einer rührenden Geduld darauf, daß die Spezialisten herausfinden, was man zu tun habe und welcher Weg einzuschlagen ist." (Erich Fromm17 )
Such tendencies are to be seen in nearly all countries with a highly developed technology (I am not quite sure about Japan. I think, the mentality of that people tends to a total submission to social, collective conceptions.). The phenomenon of British welfare capitalism led, in its consequences, to a strange combination of reliance and dependence on the governmental competency. In addition to that, the British were mentally not prepared for an economical crisis like that in the 1970s, for they still felt their country to be one of the "Great Powers" with the United States on its side. Although this might sound a bit simple and overdone, it represents the view of the most British workers at that time.
When Margaret Thatcher had taken over the government in 1979 a new political and social course was proclaimed which mainly was prepared by Sir Keith Joseph in the early 1970s. By indirect means the new strategy tried to give an alternative to what Günther Anders used to call "Prometheische Scham". Not that it was an aim to make the worker capable of overlooking the complexity of his products, but he should take part in the process, fixed by the rules of the market, to create wealth out of the result of his work. He should no longer indifferently rely on his superiors to know what to do, when to do and how to do. "Accordingly, steps have been taken to introduce the market to those who have previously considered themselves to be insulated from such forces. The assumption is that those affected will be encouraged to become enterprising. Talk is of the ´unleashed power of motivation by reward´ and of people being ´stimulated by market incentives´."18
Moreover, people should no longer rely on state provision. They were told to take a more active role in all fields of social life. It is hoped "that consumption becomes a business-like activity".19 The old dependency culture had to be replaced by a new enterprise culture. Practically, that meant a political and economic transformation of the country which hardly could be managed within a short passage of time. Moreover, it was the government´s turn to convince the British people of the new course because it proclaimed economic growth as well as social insecurity.
At the end of the "Thatcher-decade" it can be said that the face of its ´Waste Land´ has mainly changed concerning social values whereas Britain´s economic status among its European competitors remained a quiet weak one. The judgement that the government has had some success in improving Britain´s relative growth rate is based on the experience of the whole decade. This growth achievement had its underside in rates of unemployment which remained very high even after the recovery from the 1986 peak. Moreover, if the poor did not become poorer in an absolute sense, there was certainly a relative shift against them in the distribution of income and wealth.
As I already said, the major changes within the "Thatcher-decade" concern social patterns being influenced by the free market strategy, which was strengthened by the new enterprise spirit. The aspect of ´life style´ has become a central point of discussion all through the 1980s. And that again has to do with the growing strange relationship between culture and the market. Every trend provokes its backlash, be it fashion, musik, the arts in general, the feminist movement etc.. Among the Labouring classes that meant some kind of cultural division, too. Via mass media and their tendency to become more interactive (Talk-shows, telephone services, the ´satire´- business, commercials for different kinds of audience, etc.) the values of the family unit (as proclaimed by Margret Thatcher) were split up and replaced by the individualist values (as proclaimed by Mrs. Thatcher, too). Thus, indeed, nearly everyone was concerned to be a part of the market, be it as its victim, its participant, its consumer or its producer.
3) STAY TUNED TO OUR PROGRAM FOR MUCH MORE RUBBISH TO COME...
"Look at them yo-yo´s
That´s the way to do it
Play the guitar on the MTV
That ain´t workin
That´s the way ya do it
Money for nothing
And chicks for free"20
What if you come out on the street shouting the word "anarchy", and the only return you will get is: "Go on if it pays but don´t be so loud anymore!"? Indeed, you could go back home. There is nothing comparable with the free market: It cannot be blamed for anything because there is nobody who could be called to account and no objective thing one could try to get rid of. The market regulates itself as a subjective institution carried by the characteristic pattern of democracy. If there were no moral values in society, any kind of censorship would turn out to be redundant, for a revolution having lost its clear-focused enemy is nothing more than a fashionable romanticism that has to sell itself as a commodity.
And that was the way it went in Britain when the rising generation once more tried to establish what had become known as "counter culture" (in the 1960s). To become a part of it one had to be considered immoral and shocking, a walking scandal for adults, for the establishment. And as well as Jimi Hendrix´s "Star Spangled Banner" -version smelled like "Agent Orange" the Sex Pistols could not have done their "God save the Queen" more hatefully. Obviously, it was not as much a qualitative difference which led to the fact that the "Star Spangled Banner"-version of 1969 had become an event of political evidence whereas "God save the Queen" (released in 1980) was hardly recognised at all. It was rather a change concerning receptional aspects which made nearly all kinds of public criticism irrelevant. That is quiet good to be seen in the development of the British satirical comedy. Terry Jones commented in 1989: "For me ´Python´(comedies by "Monty Python" are meant - H.D.) would have a different line if it started up today under Thatcher."21
"With the accumulated irreverence of ´That was the week that was´(a late night television show first broadcast by the BBC in 1962 - H.D.), ´Private eye´ (magazine composed of cartoons, ´inside stories´and more, founded in 1961 - H.D.) and ´Monty Python´, satire became work, simply. A freer market in comedy had been established and a place in that market identified where an audience was game for jokes at the expense of politicians and famous personalities, risqué sketches about social mores and tongue-in-cheek treatment of current affairs. (...) ´Spitting Image´ was first shown by Central Television and the most significant popular cultural phenomenon to emanate in the 1980s from what was now a thriving cottage industry: the satire business."22
The commercially driven pop music-channel MTV was set up in the early 1980s and caused a "´second British invasion´ of the US charts" (as Dick Hebdige put its relevance compared with the so-called ´American Beatlemania´ in the 1960s23 ). Indeed, the aftermath of this new form of expressing personal attitudes via music-video should not be underestimated. It introduced a further element of interference, a further mechanism of taking control over values transmitted by the contemporary icons of youth-culture, who for that reasons have become "self-righteous rock and roll singers whose nose, they say, has led them straight to God"24.
"This shift is not a matter of another loss of ´authenticity´, [...]. It is a sign that pop has acquired a new populist version of ´authenticity´. Popstars are now supposed to represent the way we all are. [...] ´Live Aid´ ( a concert of successful rock stars to support ´Third Worldcharity organisations´ in 1985 - H.D.) was, in one way, a sym-bol of the commercial importance of rock as a device for delivering consumers to markets. Pepsi sponsored ´Live Aid´, just as in 1988 Reebok sponsored an Amnesty International tour by Bruce Springsteen and others. [...] ´Live Aid´ seemed to confirm that rock´s politics had finally collapsed into style. Politics was just a fashion accessory."25
And once more it was not the explicit intention of the TV´s commissioners to suppress a political counter-movement. On the contrary, one can say that it was even sponsored by the mass media in order to get their proper share of that fat business.
Thus any occuring outcry of discontent could be undermined by making it compatible with the market. It took only one step further and the outcry of discontent would be created by the TV stations themselves. Concerning this again MTV can be said to be one of the pioneers. MTV has developed a show ( meanwhile to be seen four times in a week ), namely "The Real World", which is advertised as follows:
"The Real World shows you the real thing...You can eavesdrop on a group of specially selected and widely different young people all living under the same roof and under the gaze of the camera - ever present to film all the likely (and unlikely) goings-on. Tune in and find out how they get on!"26
The ´real thing´ is that all those ´specially selected´ likable people represent an image, which tends to recreate the idea of the young and energetic ´yuppies´, the disciples of Margaret Thatcher´s enterprise culture. And, indeed, who would be the first to throw a stone against pretty Mariah who is engaged in saving the Panda-bears from dying out and having a lot of fun while waterskiing with handsome Peter who is an expert in writing software-programes for IBM-computers (?) At the same time one has to realize that our Peter does not wear the expected jacket at his office but a T-shirt with crazy-coloured patterns by C&A´s "Young Collection", and all his collegues seem to admire him, maybe just for being there.´The Real World´ turns out to be real after having been proclaimed to be ´real´, for nowaday´s youth has become the sponsor of MTV´s creation of nowaday´s youth culture. MTV´s ´real´ world will be the very cultural invasion of every TV-watching nation as long as its competitors are not equipped with the commercial power that it takes to produce a ´realer´ world.
Sumner M. Redstone, the boss of the US-media giant "Viacom" (to which MTV belongs), stated last year that "MTV has made the world having become a village. The kids in the streets of Tokyo have more in common with the kids in the streets of Manhattan than they have with their parents. (...) MTV is irreverent. That´s why those people identify with the program who are against the establishment."27 That sounds quite moving apart from the fact that Mr. M. Redstone´s possessions are reckoned to have gone beyond four thousand millions of Dollars. The fight against the establishment guarantees the survival of the establishment or rather develops a new branch of establishment. MTV, the cable station that supplies a perennial diet of promotional videos, brief ´newsy´ items on the day´s pop stars and the occasional specials about life-style, movies and the awarded prominence can be seen as the most obvious phenomenon which shows the successful interference of the free market with cultural matters.
The worst part of it is that the slogan of the American postmodernists ("Anything goes!") has got its practical proof within an area, to which , ethically spoken, it does not belong. The former head of Britain´s cult band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, emphasized (in an interview with MTV in 1984) the ridiculous element of sitting there between the commercials and talking about his criticism of Mrs. Thatcher´s foreign politics by using the most manipulating means of Thatcher´s domestic politics - the unconspicuous power of colour TV-propaganda.28 Since that Roger Waters was hardly to be seen on MTV anymore, be it on video, in concert or in an interview. Not that it had anything to do with having criticized Margaret Thatcher. He broke the rules by doubting the medium of criticism, the platform, which makes the fight against the establishment rewarding. Thus censorship has lost its close connection with political objections. Moreover, it has become the weapon of the very institution, which formerly had always been most afflicted by censorship: the mass media.
4) GREAT EXPECTATIONS
"To grow up and ´come of age´ in a climate in which the government´s preoccupation is for a ´return to Victorian family values´ is bad enough."29
"Our Star Spangled Union Jack flutters so proud..."30
"What have we done, Maggie, what have we done to England?"31
Mrs. Thatcher was the dominant figure in British politics in the 1980s. She was the first female Prime Minister in any major Western industrial state and, moreover, Prime Minister for the longest uninterrupted time in the 20th century. It is not so easy to find out the reasons for her being the chosen one because the amount of complaints concerning her political course have always been dominating, be it in the press, on T.V. or elsewhere. Not even the British newspapers with the lowest standarts of journalism have found any cause to celebrate her decisions. It seems as if the British had to drag themselves from one disappointment towards another one.
Compressing reponsibilities into one single person can be easily done. Political leaders can be set apart from their party if they are presented as their spokesmen and their appearence can be said to be newsworthy. In the case of Margaret Thatcher the media tended to present government policies more and more as Mrs. Thatcher´s. An important task of leadership, in her view, was to win the battle of ideas, which was done by frequently expressing basic beliefs and principles. Consequently, she was not regarded as a warm or compassionate person, which also can be traced back to her forceful style of speaking and her ´cold´ physiognomy. But she has long scored highly on the qualities of being decisive, resolute, and principled. The Conservative election campaign slogan of "The Resolute Approach" in 1983 leaned heavily on her image.
"It is reasonable to associate a number of distinctive policies with the presence of Mrs. Thatcher - the economic strategy, attempts to contain the public sector, toleration of high unemployment, reduction in the powers of trade unions, privatization, the vigorous prosecution of the war in the Falklands, the community charge, education reforms, change in the civil service, and Britain´s refusal to join the EMS."32
In a way the spirit of the old dependency culture of the ´welfare state´ has become a part of a typical British mentality (Concerning this, the British and the Germans have much in common.). When Margaret Thatcher stood up proclaiming self-reliance most of the British rather tended to rely on her and the promises she made than on themselves. The dependency on state provision gave way to a dependency on her personality, her leadership. I am aware of the fact that such statements need to be proven. I will give it a try well knowing that it just can be seen as a quite perfunctory approach to my thesis:
There is little doubt that Mrs.Thatcher belongs to the group of mobilizers. She has always been dissatisfied with the traditional style of decision-making by compromising with the major interests. In so far her policy must have led necessarily to divided public opinions. Nobody knew at the time of her election in 1979 in how far the ´end of consensus´ and the beginning of ´individualistic Thatcherite leadership´ were going to be useful in order to get the economy working again. Among the labouring classes nobody really cared about the proclaimed ´New England´, there were too many allday-things out of order which needed to be corrected, which led to a shift of expectations: the needs of a healthy nation, of being a world power again, of strengthening international relationships, etc. have become too theoretical, too far out of sight if we consider the circumstances of more than a million unemployed workers having to manage their lifes with expensive foodstuffs, rents and reduced subventions for social security. Surprisingly, not even in 1986, the year in which the amount of the unemployed reached its sad record, the opposition movement (all opponents of ´Thatcherism´ are meant) could succeed in weakening the majority´s blind trust in Thatcher´s ´enterprising failure´ (taking its social aftermaths into consideration).
"Mrs. Thatcher´s style of leadership has thrived on crises. In such circumstances, the identification of an unpopular target - an Argentine General, Irish hunger strikers, or coal miners´ leader Arthur Scargill - polarizes public opinion. By being clearly against an unpopular figure, Mrs. Thatcher has usually rallied public opinion to her side. [...] The support she may win in the crisis, were minor disagreements are sunk in the face of a much disliked enemy, can evaporate in everyday disputes, where the Prime Minister´s views must compete with many other acceptable views."33
This, I agree, is a very important aspect because it shows the way unpopular politics becomes tolerable for those who tend to choose the minor evil. Furthermore, Mrs. Thatcher profited from the social inequalities within the population, which, in its consequences, led to different political interests and thus to a lack of unity among Thatcher´s opponents.
"It is extraordinary that the first ever British woman Prime Minister should have done so little for other women - should have opposed equality legislation, urged them, ludicrously, back to the kitchen sink, endorsed the abolition of legislation that sought to protect them from exploitatively low wages. Her identification is with the unbending patriarchal systems - the judiciary, the army, the police, the management arm. Her so-called meritocracy is really a power elite for the men who accrue the lost money."34
"The Suspicion Law (1979) - or ´the Sus Law´, as it was mor casually known at the time - was yet another occasion [...] as you might guess, the suspects were usually young Black males, owing to some of the racist images held by the police of both the criminal and the potentially criminal mind."35
"In 1985 the National Children´s home launched the campaign called ´Children in Danger´ to counter what it saw as the effects of rising poverty, increased drug misuse, deteriorating housing, escalating family break-down, a continuing high level of physical and sexual abuse, and cuts in services for children."36
These quotations as well as the ones given at the beginning of this chapter shall serve to give a general idea of how manifold the criticism on Thatcherite policies apart from the main social problems (unemployment, pay rises, etc.) really was. Not that those different approaches of opposition would have excluded each other. The problems has always been that a real interest in cooperation between them never developed. The reason for this can be considered to be the sharp local delimiting from each other, the partly different ethnic background as well as tendencies of radicalisation (within the Black communities of the towns or within the feminist movement, e.g.). I think, that is why most of these quite acceptable coomplaints related with an organised movement remained unpopular or at least ineffective.
The majority of the British felt attracted in an almost masochistic manner to the rigorous personality of Margaret Thatcher (not as much to ´her´ politics).
There is no cause to be surprised about the cynicism and disappointment towards the government and, in a more metaphorical way, the whole country, which marked the artistic (sophisticated) approach to political and social concerns. Overlooking the range of critical essays, poetry and literature in general, published in the ´Thatcher decade´, one hardly discovers anything which all in all is not a refusal to the moral values having developed in Britain in the 1980s. That arises the question, how far the British and their intellectual dignitaries must have come apart to show such differences in judging the way their country goes. How did it come that Margaret Thatcher was chosen to rule the country for ten years despite of the permanent ´writing on the wall´? I tend to say that it is not necessarily a contradiction considering the function of the arts within a society. In an unspoken way the arts have nearly always taken over the task of closing the gap between a society´s rather subjective praisesongs for progress (that means, for itself) and its objectively given circumstances. Thus the arts can be seen as a further subjective element always shifting to the respectively undermined side in order to hold the balance between seeming and being. But this very function also causes the reduction of a certain enlightening element of the arts. In our time it is taken for granted that the arts always have something to deny, to overcome, to fight against. Since culture has to prove its relevance by the ratings on T.V. it is hardly to differentiate from entertainment anymore. The critical approach of the British satirical TV-Show "Spitting Image" suffers exactly from that tendency which makes it nearly impossible for the viewer to tell serious criticism from trivial nonsense.
Despite of a flood of accusations, hostility and warnings the British decided three times in a row to lay political responsibilities into the hands of Margaret Thatcher. Partly this is also owed to the fact that the people were quite susceptible to be called the heroes of the nation: "...it [Consevatism - H.D.] is radical because at the time when I took over we needed to be radical. It is populist ... I would say many of the things I´ve said strike a chord in the hearts of ordinary people. Why? Because they´re British, because their character is independent, because they don´t like to be shoved around, because they are prepared to take responsibility..."37
A strange mixture of flattering and demanding made people believe to be a part of a ´big thing´. Consequently, the war in the Falklands was seen to be an event capable of getting back the lost identity - the rise of the Union Jack. Of course, there is no real evidence for the individual to be proud of belonging to a ´successful´ nation if it is not reflected in personal life, but it works, it always worked. Self esteem arising from being chosen to be a part of a group does not depend on meeting any requirements except for making sure to be part of a successful group. The majority of the Germans were not proud at all to be Germans after having lost World War II not mainly because they were ashamed of having tolerated all these terrible war crimes but rather for simply having lost the war and thus the identity of being part of a successful group or nation. Germany and Great Britain again can be said to be quite similar concerning aspects of mentality. I am deeply convinced that it has nothing to do with the human nature at all. It rather seems to me that there are comparable traditions of a highly developed working class movement.
That means that a tendency of subordinating the own personality to a program or a leader in order to solve a commonly defined task as often shown success and proven power. It would be very necessary to study the mechanisms of groups. The phenomenon of the British and German ´Hooligans´ as well as the occurence of the ´skinheads´ and religious communities is closely connected with the personal search for identity within a promising ´team´, a kind of institution which even has proven success in market strategies.
Admittedly, the drawn image of the ´warriors of the wasteland´ tends to be historically incorrect. It was not my intention to claim that the British ´welfare state´ had turned into a ´warfare state´ because of the very presence of Margaret Thatcher nor did I want to make any allusion to compare her personality with Adolf Hitler´s at all! It is the similar pattern of a morally damaged people trying to compensate the loss of social unity by striking up an artificial ode to exactly that unity which made me think about a social necessity of wars in general more than of a historical one.
"...It´s a miracle, another miracle
By the grace of God Almighty and the pressures of the market place The human race has civilized itself...
It´s a miracle
We cower in our shelters with our hands over our ears Lloyd-Webber´s awful stuff runs for years and years and years An earthquake hits the theatre but the operetta lingers Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his fucking fingers It´s a miracle..."38
HEIKO DÜNNEBIER (1995)
1 "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" - written by Peter Gabriel / performed by Genesis (LP: "Selling England By The Pound" / Virgin Records, 1973)
2 Madame Sosostris is a figure occuring in "The Waste Land" - written by T.S. Elliot in 1922 (edited by Edward Leeson in "The New Golden Treasury of English Verse" in 1980 [Pan Books, London /p.429])
3 term taken from "The Waste Land" · °2
4 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.277)
5 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.278)
6 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.278)
7 quoted from "Thatcherism and British Politics (The End of Consensus?)" - Dennis Kavanagh (Oxford University Press, New York / 2nd edition 1990 / p.5)
8 "Thatcherism and British Politics (The End of Consensus?)" - Dennis Kavanagh (Oxford University Press, New York / 2nd edition 1990 / p.6)
9 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.279)
10 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.280)
11 "British Society since 1945" -Arthur Marwick (Penguin Books / London 1990 / p.184)
12 quoted from: "Aspects of Political and Social Life in Postwar Britain" by Anthony P. Cohen (Routledge / London 1992 /p.4)
13 "Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain" by Alan Sinfield (Basil Blackwell Ltd. / Oxford 1989 / p.278)
14 "The Rise and Fall of Consensus" - David Dutton (?)
15 "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight" - written by Peter Gabriel / performed by Genesis (LP: "Selling England By The Pound" / Virgin Records, 1973)
16 "Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen" (Book 1) - Günther Anders (C.H. Beck´sche Verlagsbuchhandlung / München 1956 /pp.50)
17 "Die Furcht vor der Freiheit" - Erich Fromm (DTV-Verlag GmbH & Co.KG / München 1990 / p.181)
18 "The Values of the Enterprise Culture" - edited by Paul Heelas & Paul Morris (Routledge / London 1992 / p.4)
19 "The Values of the Enterprise Culture" - edited by Paul Heelas & Paul Morris (Routledge / London 1992 / p.6)
20 from: "Money For Nothing" -written by Mark Knopfler / performed by Dire Straits (LP: "Brothers in Arms" / Phonogram Ltd., London 1985)
21 "New Statesman and Society" (Sept.29., 1989) - Terry Jones (see also °22)
22 "You´ve Never Had It So Silly" (essay) - Stephen Wagg [taken from: "Come On Down? - Popular Media Culture in Post-War-Britain" - edited by Dominic Strinati & Stephen Wagg (Routledge / London 1992 /pp.275)]
23 "Digging For Britain" (essay) - Dick Hebdige (taken from "Come On Down..." ·°22, p.347)
24 from: "Strawman" - Lou Reed (LP: "New York" / Sire Records, 1989)
25 "Shock Waves" (essay) - John Street (taken from "Come On Down..." ·°22, p.317)
26 taken from "MTV- Videotext" p.128 (May 1995)
27 quoted from the German TV&News Magazine "TV-Today" (12/94 / p.8)
28 There were only two well-known rocksingers who made their criticism of the war in the Falklands to a part of their work:
1. John Cale, who once worked together with Andy Warhol and the rock group "Velvet Underground": On his album "Words for the dying" (1989) he uses poems by Dylan Thomas in order to put them in this new context (subtitle: The Falkland Suite)
2. Roger Waters: He wrote the songs for the Pink Floyd-album "The Final Cut" (1983) and dedicated it to his father
who died in battle in World War II. In the song "The Fletcher Memorial Home" he sings: "...home for incurable tyrants and kings / and they can appear to themselves every day on closed circuit TV to make sure they´re still real / it´s the only connection they feel / Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Reagan and Haig, Mr. Begin and friends, Mrs. Thatcher and Paisley, Mr. Brezhnev and party, the ghost of Mc Carthy and the memories of Nixon.../ did they expect us to treat them with any respect / they can polish their medals and sharpen their smiles, and amuse themselves playing games for a while / boom boom, bang bang, lie down you´re dead.../ they´ll be good girls and boys / in the Fletcher memorial home for colonial wasters of life and limb / is everyone in? / Are you having a nice time? / Now the final solution can be applied..."·°31
29 "Coming of Age" - Agnes Quashie (taken from: "Surviving the Blues" - edited by Joan Scanlon / Virago Press Ltd.; London, 1990 / p.87)
30 "51st state" (1986) - The New Model Army (LP: "The singles" / EMI Records Ltd.;1992)
31 quoted from "The Postwar Dream" - written by Roger Waters / performed by Pink Floyd (LP: "The Final Cut - Requiem for the postwar dream / EMI records Ltd.; 1983)
32 "Thatcherism and British Politics (The End of Consensus?)" - Dennis Kavanagh (Oxford University Press, New York / 2nd edition 1990 / p.274)
33 "Thatcherism and British Politics (The End of Consensus?)" - Dennis Kavanagh (Oxford University Press, New York / 2nd edition 1990 / p.275)
34 "A Woman´s Place: The changing picture of women in Britain" - Diana Souhami (Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex; England 1986 / p.102)
35 "Coming of Age" - Agnes Quashie (taken from: "Surviving the Blues" - edited by Joan Scanlon / Virago Press Ltd.; London, 1990 / p.85)
36 "British Society since 1945" -Arthur Marwick (Penguin Books / London 1990 / p.367)
37 "Thatcherism and British Politics (The End of Consensus?)" - Dennis Kavanagh (Oxford University Press, New York / 2nd edition 1990 / p.249)
38 from: "It´s A Miracle" - Roger Waters (LP: "Amused To Death" / EMI Records Ltd. 1988- 1991)
- Quote paper
- Heiko Dünnebier (Author), 1994, "Thatcherite Project" - The Enterprise Culture & The Moral Revolution of the 1980s in Britain, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/97938