//Is Thatcher a good role model for young girls?//

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This weekend I have been studying Thatcher’s 11 years in power in considerable detail, as I came to the realisation that my teacher hadn’t actually taught us the whole of the Thatcher unit in our course book and so set about teaching it to myself. For those of you who don’t know Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative party member who became the first female Prime Minister of Britain in 1979. As a woman myself and a strong believer in the importance of politics in the empowerment of young people, women, and other misrepresented and minority groups, I was keen to investigate Thatcher’s impact as a role model for young women like me and why perhaps she is still viewed negatively by British society nowadays. Was she really as bad as people make out?

So I started with learning about what Thatcherism actually meant, as despite studying politics last year and learning about Thatcherism as an ideology, I feel like I never fully understood it.  Thatcherism is basically the key political ideas that Thatcher stood by and from what I can tell, they were given their own ideological term as at the time, they were considered to be radical compared to the traditional Conservative ideas of preserving individual wealth and private ownership. To give you a bit of background, what Thatcher stood for was the rights and interests of individuals over that of the nation as a whole, promoting individual enterprise, rewarding hard work through low taxes, the importance of law and order to maintain a democratic society, that law, freedom and justice was provided for all by British democracy and she was a conviction politician, believing that as prime minister, she should stick to her own principles rather than trying to reach a consensus which always required compromise. Although I pretty much have the opposite political standpoint on most of her key ideas, I could see the logic behind Thatcherism, so at this point had a fairly positive view of Thatcher, although I was a little skeptical as to how she could have transformed her political beliefs into policy that would have benefited the political and social environment at the time.

Then I went on to learn about Thatcher’s economic policy, which I won’t go into detail with as it is quite complex and long-winded, but overall her attempts to lead Britain out of recession – although they broke the trend of past governments – and her way of economic thinking interested me, despite their limited success. Generally though I am quite sympathetic towards economic policy as it must be so difficult to manage such a vast, fluid concept as a countries economy and it’s impossible to benefit everyone at once, so her economic failures in my opinion were no worse than past governments.

After going on to reading about her intentions to “roll back” (reduce) state intervention in the economy and increase the size of the private sector, I started reading into how Thatcher’s policies caused political and social division within Britain. This aspect of analysing her time in office really interested me, because instead of reading all the complex detail of which policies she introduced to do what, I was actually learning about the impact of her policies and how they affected real people living at the time. What stood out to me most, was a statement saying that Thatcher felt “threatened” by diversity within society. This is what got me thinking about if Thatcher really is a role model and an inspiration to young girls like me because even though she managed to fight her way to the top level of politics – something that would have been unheard of 50, 20 or even 10 years before she became Prime Minister – I certainly don’t agree with some of the things she did whilst she was in that position of power.

Firstly, Thatcher’s viewpoint of homosexuality was that it was a symbol of ‘moral decline’ and that heterosexual families and relationships were the norm which should be promoted to young children of the time as the ‘right’ way to live. As a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I was saddened by this. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that discrimination and attitudes towards the LGBT+ community in not-so-distant decades were on a different scale to they are now, but it still upsets me to read about the fact that the government who sets the law and code which the public should abide had a role in stigmatising homosexuality as late as the 1980s. As a result of Thatcher’s beliefs about homosexuality, she introduced a law called the Local Government Act 1988 and in Section 28 of this law, it was stated that discussion and promotion of homosexuality within schools was to be banned. This is something I really disagreed with, because even during my school education I haven’t learnt about homosexuality, in fact i can’t even think of one instance throughout my primary and secondary school education where homosexuality was even mentioned, other than Christian views on homosexuality that we had to study at GCSE, but even then we only briefly touched on it. As a result of this, I didn’t even know that there were other sexualities until about two years ago and only discovered my own sexual identity thanks to the help of my internet and my wonderful blogger friends, so I definitely think education about LGBT+ issues and people is vital in helping the LGBT+ community, especially young people, feel accepted by society and to help others to learn about us and the issues we face. So going back to Thatcher, I an’t imagine what it must have been like for LGBT+ young people back then to live in a society where your sexual identity is repressed in every aspect of society.

Furthermore, as Thatcher was in favour of advancing individual rights over collective rights, she was also against feminist movements of the time. Feminism is also something I am passionate about as a young women, because I believe that nothing: race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity etc should stop anyone from being treated with equal respect and having equal opportunities in life, so naturally feminism is a cause that I am in support of. It sort of shocked me a bit to hear that Thatcher was against feminism, to the extent that she stated that a group of women campaigning against the positioning of American cruise missiles on British territory should be ‘eradicated’, because as  the first female Prime Minister, she was in a position to empower young women and make a step forward for the rights and attitudes towards women within British society at the time. Those women that she said needed to be ‘eradicated’ had every right to campaign and what sort of message would Thatcher’s attitude towards them have sent to young girls at the time? That they should remain passive and that their opinions aren’t worthy of expressing?

Honestly, although I could accept some of Thatcher’s early beliefs and policies, I struggle to accept her attitudes towards homosexuality and women. I know I must take into consideration the context of the time in which she was Prime Minister when attitudes towards same-sex relationships and the roles of women were still very traditional, but form the viewpoint of a young 21st century LGBT+ girl, I can’t really see Thatcher as an ideal role model for people like me to look up to. I mean yes, it is inspiring that a woman managed to achieve such power in a time where women were very much expected to be wives and home-makers instead of pursuing careers for themselves, but I think there is so much more that Thatcher could have done as Prime Minister to inspire more young girls to take up careers in politics. Of course, I still think it is important for young girls and women to learn about Thatcher but I hope that one day the stereotype of female politicians and Prime Ministers as being ‘just another Thatcher’ will disappear and the new generation of female politicians will forge their own identities and success stories that will act as a better inspiration for young women of the future.

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//Is violence ever ok?//

So today I was revising for my RE exams, more specifically the topic of peace and justice within Christianity and, as per usual when it comes to RE, it got me thinking. Although RE is supposed to help us gain an understanding of beliefs and views within religion, which of course is important, I also think RE helps us to develop our own beliefs and views on the world around us.

So, when I was reading about pacifism today and how most Christian’s believe that violence is never acceptable, I started to think about my views on violence. Am I a pacifist? Could I ever condone violence?

At first glance, my brain was telling me no. No, violence can’t ever be acceptable. It is not right to use violence to terrorise people, seek revenge, solve ‘conflicts’ using violence. It is never, ever right.

But then I started thinking about the Nazi’s and Hitler (as you do, you found out yesterday that I am really interested in this era of history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Was it acceptable for Britain to declare war on Germany? Was it right for our, innocent soldiers to kill many innocent (well, they were practically forced to fight for Hitler, whether they agreed with it or not) German soldiers when in reality it was a war between Hitler and Churchill and the other allied world leaders?

But then I realised that although Britain had fought violence with violence and that this may be considered unacceptable by some people, what would have happened if we hadn’t declared war would be 1000x worse. I mean, reading Wolf by Wolf proved that.

Although in my opinion pacifism is the ideal, sometimes we have to stand up and not be pacifists, sometimes using violence is for the best.

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pacifist during Nazi Germany. He decided to become involved in the bomb plot to assassinate Hitler as killing Hitler would have been the ‘lesser of two evils’ in this situation. I deeply admire Bonhoffer for this, for going against not just his religion, but his core values and morals. He knew when violence was acceptable and necessary and I think society as a whole could all learn something from him.

Although the bomb plot failed and Bonhoeffer, along with others involved in the plot, were imprisoned and eventually sent to concentration camps (Bonhoeffer was sent to Buchenwald then Flossenbürg concentration camp) his defiance of the Nazi’s was truly inspirational. Not only did Bonhoeffer become involved in the bomb plot, he also fought the Nazi in many ways, for example he publically spoke out against Hitler in radio broadcasts, he worked for the German intelligence agency Abwehr and helped German jews escape to Switzerland, he was invloved in the Confessional Church which in it’s self was an act of defiance against the Nazification of Christianity in Germany.

I think it’s awful how such an inspirational man died such an awful, undignified death at the age of 39 in a concentration camp, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by the American’s.

When I went to Berlin last year, I learnt about Martin Niemöller, who also founded the Confessional Church and was known as an anti-Nazi theoligan. I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp during my trip and saw for myself the prison cell where Martin – and others like him- had been imprisoned for his acts of defiance. It really put into perspective just how terrifying life in Nazi Germany must have been and now I find myself wondering would I have been a pacifist and stood by and let Hitler’s mass genocide and persecution of innocent people happen? And I honestly have no idea.

Although I’d like to think that I would stand up and fight back just as Dietrich and Martin and many, many others did, I have no idea whether in the circumstanves I would have been able to surpress my inner pacifist inclinations.

All I can say is that these two men are just two of many, but sadly not enough, who stood up to the Nazi’s and were able to figgt against the fear and terror of the Nazi regime to do what was right. And I really do admire them for that.

It makes me wonder, how can such courageous and inspirational people emerge from such darkness?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, the Confessional Church, Anne Frank, the White Rose Group, the Schöll siblings, the Edelweiss Pirates, countless resistance groups…the list could go on.

So many amazing people emerged from a time when people were ruthlessly murdered – their futures and lives snatched away from them – because of their religion, race, sexuality, political and moral beliefs etc.

And that’s why I love this era of history so much. Not because of Hitler and all that he did, but because of the people who fought against him, stood up for themselves and society as a whole, fought through fear and terrorism and opression. Those are the people I am interested in. Every single person who died at Hitler’s hands deserved so much more from life, and I feel like even though we can only give them a fraction of what they deserve by remembering them, we must do this.

Every person who died innocently at Hitler’s hands is a hero, an inspiration to me and although I will never be able to say in words just how incredible those people were, I must keep writing and reading and learning about them, doing something in an attempt to remember and pay my respect to them, and I think we all should too.

Although I can’t ever except that the violent products of Hitler’s greed for power were right (even just writing those words sickens me), I can accept that everyone who fought against him fought with a justifiable violence that I can accept. So, to conclude, I now believe violence can be acceptable in certain, specific circumstances but I will never promote violence because I guess I am truly a pacifist at heart.

//In spite of everything//

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In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank.

How can it be that such a young girl who faced such terrible persecution and violation of her human rights could still find it within her to believe that deep down people are good and have good intentions, however deep those may be hidden. It still puzzles me now even after having known about Anne Frank’s story for years.

She, along with millions of other Jews, suffered immensely during Hitler’s reign of terror yet she could still see the spark of goodness in people.

I wonder why? Was it her faith? Was it her upbringing? Know one will ever know. Anne, unfortuantely, is just one of millions of Jewish youngsters who died too soon. Who were snatched from this world for what? For what reason did they die? Oh, because Hitler said so.

It sickens me to even consider that Hitler had even an ounce of goodness within this, yet Anne Frank could and she was the one who suffered at his command.

Maybe Anne wasn’t including Hitler when she said this. Maybe she just meant humanity as a whole has goodness within them, even though they allowed the Holocaust to go on for way to long (not entirely their fault though, many, many, soldiers from all around the world lost their lives in an attempt to stop Hitler and I am no way devaluing the sacrifice they made). Maybe Anne believed that her and the rest of her race’s suffering would eventually have a good outcome and ensure that something as tragic as the Holocaust never happened again. Maybe she knew that she didn’t deserve to be persecuted. All of these questions will remain unanswered for eternity. We can only imagine what Anne and other Jews had to go through and how that affected them.

None of this should have ever, ever happened but maybe Anne Frank knew that the world would be righted. Her life should never have been taken out of sheer spite along with all other 6 million Jews who died at Hitler’s hand, but maybe Anne’s faith led her to die in hope that future generations would never have to suffer her fate. I hope so, I really do. I hope that every single person who died in concentration camps, death camps or even in hiding or on the run from Hitler, anyone who died because of him, died with hope.

Yes, Hitler could deny them of their dignity and decency, humiliate them, treat them as ‘sub-humans’ but after all he savagely took from them, I hope he never took their faith and their hope. I hope that at least they died with that, even though they deserved so much more.

These people all deserved their lives – who knows who they could have become? What they could of achieve? And now we will never know.

If there is one thing I do know, however, it is that the Frank family and all the other Jewish, communist, homosexual ect people who lost their lives during the Holocaust were and are still an inspiration to us all. They showed us that in all the adversity they faced, they still remained true to themselves, their faiths, their political beliefs, their sexualities and by doing so they died dignified – yet so, so unecessary – deaths.

I will always continue to be inspired by people like Anne and I will never forget the sacrifice they made to ensure our generation will never have to endure such persecution again. Yes, our world is flawed, but because of all of those who lost their lives in this terrible time, there is one less flaw in the world.

No matter what adversity I face, Anne Frank has taught me that staying true to yourself allows you to see the ‘good’ in humamity and allows you to live in hope if a better future for not just you but those generations after you.

As is repeated on 11th November at 11am every year in the UK to remember our fallen soldiers,

For our tomorrow, they gave our today.

Anne and others like her were an ‘army’ of a different kind who we should also remember. Not just on Holocaust Memorial Day, or even Armistace day, but every, single day.