Rod’s Blog 15.04.13
Rods Blog April 15th 2013
We are all in relationship – either with others or with ourselves. The death of Margaret Thatcher last week was challenging for me. My relationship to the entire world has been marked by Mrs Thatcher’s existence in my life. In 1979 when she came to power I was a student and then through the 1980’s I witnessed the direct impact of her policies upon society – which indirectly impacted upon my own life. I moved from the north to live and work in Watford and I was shocked by how working class people in the affluent south welcomed Thatcher’s embrace of Friedman’s neo-liberal free market capitalism. Their attitude seemed to be accurately portrayed by Harry Enfield’s ‘comic’ character called ‘Loadsamoney’. I lived in a council house and the police sergeant next door disappeared regularly to ‘police’ the miner’s strike, returning with wads of cash. His kids had new clothes and new bikes while he wore a new smug smile as he walked his vicious Alsatian every morning. Returning to my home city of Liverpool I was stunned by the massive increase in deprivation and misery – within two years of Thatcher coming to power. I am not overjoyed by her death – her death was inevitable. I am dismayed by the way that the media have ignored the huge split in society which blatantly manifests itself in the strong reactions we have seen – such as a protest in Trafalgar Square attended by over 2000 people. Mrs Thatcher has been lauded as a ‘great statesperson’, a ‘strong leader’ and the first woman prime minister as if that is an achievement. As Glenda Jackson so rightly said, “The first Prime Minister of female gender, OK. But a woman? Not on my terms.” I don’t need to list the reasons why her ‘greatness’ was far from great – it was disastrous for high numbers of the population.
Plenty of people have blogged about their reactions to Thatcher’s death. For me it is an opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of this word ‘relationship’.
To repeat, we live our lives in relationship to the world. Other people are difficult to deal with – we have to be honest about this. Everyone has been trained and programmed by the game of life to see ourselves as naturally flawed and we need ‘fixing’ in order to ‘ok’. This quest for the way to ‘fix’ our lives is a never–ending task and essentially an utterly fruitless and pointless one. As a human society we reflect what we do as individuals. As individuals the bulk of our existence is devoted to the quest for ‘good’ things in life – happiness, safety, friendship, love – and maybe for some people there is an inherent and misguided belief that monetary wealth will bring these ‘good’ things. At an individual level this desire to hold onto the ‘good’ things and push away the ‘bad’ is reflected in the way the human race behaves on a global level: essentially we all want ‘well-being’. If we perceive something or someone is behaving in a negative way and that behaviour will prevent us from achieving and enjoying ‘well being’ then very often our reaction is to attack that threat. At a global level this might result in one country dropping bombs on another country – behaviour which, unsurprisingly doesn’t work. At an individual level people are still battling with depression and dreaming of a better life. The fact that their forces might have killed thousands or tens of thousands of people in another country has not improved their individual lives one tiny bit. We will never eradicate depression, jealousy, anger, or any of these so-called ‘negative’ responses to the world and our relationship to it. These feelings are spontaneous and constant. If you are looking for a state of mind where none of these feelings rise up in you – then you are looking to exclude yourself from the entire human species. The negative feelings that other peoples’ behaviour generates within you – whether it is the noisy neighbour, the Tory lauding of a dead and wealthy old woman who had such a fanatical belief in the free market that she destroyed whole communities by her actions as Prime Minister – all these feelings cannot be assuaged by voting in another political party, or smashing the windows of the local Conservative Party HQ – even merely turning your back on the passing coffin of the dead old woman and her £8million state funeral. (I apologise for that long ungrammatical sentence).
All of this should be obvious – I am stating the obvious.
And yet we are a mass of critical, negative states – aggression, anger, cynicism, jealousy, spitefulness. Our media is awash with this bile – and we lap it up. We guzzle the vitriol. We slurp the poison.
So what? Am I suggesting we change? I am describing this as a way of making the world a better place? No. What I am suggesting is that we become aware of this – it is as simple as that. We become aware of this negativity and realise that we are all responsible for the well-being of the human species – the negative feelings that we have bubble up as a result of our relationship with others and with ourselves. Relax. Stop. Accept the feelings and step outside of them. Glenda Jackson’s speech in the commons was not an attack on Mrs Thatcher the woman – it was a description of what Thatcherism has created and continues to create. The success of her speech was that it exposed the opposite side of the house as a baying, unintelligent rabble of negative, angry, vicious thugs. Glenda Jackson was not to be intimidated: “I wasn’t intimidated at all,” she said. “I obviously was getting under their skin, so it was okay.”
What do we do next? I don’t know to be honest. If more and more people just change their viewpoint to recognise that we all suffer negative states and that seeking to push these away is pointless – that is a start. Rather than pushing these feelings of negativity away why not just accept them and then step outside of them – observe them in a rational; and separate way. In the time it has taken us to stop and analyse negative feelings – they will have dissipated and we will have a more objective understanding of our place in the world. This objectivity might leave room for intelligent solutions to the pain that we as humans struggle with.
The month of May brings the final few weeks of the ‘Psycho’s ‘ tour and the beginning of rehearsals for ‘Wrong’Un’ – the one woman musical about a working class Suffragette which Boff is writing for us. Ella Harris will be performing this new piece and as she is my partner this means I will be offline and at home with the children. More about ‘Wrong ‘Un’ in my next blog!
About Rod: Rod became Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company in 2006, following his role as associate director at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth. He has also ran The Hub Theatre School in Cornwall and been an actor with several companies including Kneehigh Theatre. Directing credits for Red Ladder include Where’s Vietnam?, Forgotten Things, Riot, Rebellion & Bloody Insurrection, Ugly, Sex & Docks & Rock ‘N’ Roll, Big Society! and Promised Land. Rod is both a life-long Liverpool supporter and a believer in Proudhon’s principles of anarchy – the two might be connected.