Sales Order Processing; dance of the puppets
Rupert Murdoch once said that, "as the world modernises, it Americanises". Love him or hate him, perhaps you even work for him, but he was right there. As the world modernises - it Americanises. Whether this is because America is dragging us with it, or whether America is simply further along the same path, I do not know. As I grow old I find myself becoming American. My parents are now thoroughly American. 'Last of the Summer Wine', the long-running British sitcom, is now an American sitcom. Stonehenge, the ancient stone tourist attraction, is American. My generation grew up believing that the Vietnam War involved Britain, and that the soldiers in 'Platoon' and 'Full Metal Jacket' were British, although American-British. What does America become as it modernises? Will America one day cease to be modern? Will there one day be no more 'modern'? Kevin Wu, my opposite number in the Chinese furniture manufacturer to whom I send purchase orders, he lives in a hostel provided by his work, and he earns £0.36p per hour. Is this modern? From what I remember of school, mineworkers in Wales in the late Victorian era had a similar arrangement, even to the extent of being paid in 'company tokens', tokens which were only redeemable in company stores. Could the future described in Alan Dean Foster's novelisation of 'Alien' be The Future? Alan Dean Foster has been right before. It is not wise to ignore his words.
There has been much in the newspapers of late, much of Margaret Thatcher. She was not a thatcher; she was a minister, latterly the Prime Minister, the Optimus Prime Minister, although her opponents would be more likely to dub her Megatron Thatcher, for she was made of metal. Her husband was not a thatcher either, he was instead a businessman, a jovial man. It was noticeable, three years ago, that there was nothing in the newspapers of James Callaghan, Thatcher's predecessor as Prime Minister, although he was Prime Minister of another party, a party which no longer exists. I was three years old when Margaret Thatcher became ruler of our nation, four years old when Ronald Reagan became ruler of the nation across the sea, nine years old when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the nation behind the Berlin Wall which Johnny Rotten sang about in 'Holidays in the Sun'. For me, these people are the world's leaders, if not rulers then figureheads. They remain so in my mind, albeit that they remain in my mind in the form of the latex puppets from 'Spitting Image'.
Perhaps uniquely amongst the mid-80s alternative comedy movement, 'Spitting Image' did not portray Thatcher in a negative light. Her puppet was shown as a demonic bully presiding over a cabinet which consisted of a mixture of equally demonic bullies and craven weaklings. That this did not seem a negative portrayal of Thatcher is testament to her appeal. She was hard. Nobody loved her. Very few people liked her. But people voted for her, because her government looked as if it might skin kittens or beat up pensioners on our behalf. People respect strength, even if it is directed against them. People respect the force that kills them. I am loathe to generalise decades or political administrations. Mark Lawson and the people who write for The Guardian tell me that the 1980s was a bastard decade of money-hungry capitalists with filofaxes and mobile telephones, although they seem to base this belief on their own writings, or the writings of their predecessors, or of Martin Amis. And of course I am performing an act of generalisation myself, as I lump Mark Lawson in with the people who write for The Guardian, as if they were all left-leaning. What was so bad about money, in the 1980s? We are told that it was socially divisive, as if a united society was somehow desireable or possible without constant, rigorous enforcement of this unity. As a child of the 1980s I take it for granted that, if I want something, I have to pay for it. If I can pay more, I will get better. Any attempt to tamper with the primal forces of commerce on either my or the government's part is bound to fail, the scorpion will sting itself.
The poor of the world are exploited. They always have been and they always will, until there are no more poor. And when there are no more poor, we will create a new poor so that they can be poor. There is nothing positive in being poor, no reason to glorify poverty. The poor should be ashamed of themselves. I am poor, and I am ashamed of myself. I want everyone to suffer as I suffer, and this is why I view Margaret Thatcher in a positive light, for she made everyone suffer. The rich suffered the guilt and alienation of being rich, the poor suffered because they were not allowed to be poor any more.
Perhaps my inability to understand pre-Thatcher Britain is itself a reason for lamentation. Thatcher so transformed Britain as to make the period before her reign an alien decade, beyond the understanding of my generation. It is the goal of all political movements to erase the opposition. New Labour not only erased the opposition, it erased its previous self. With the exception of Edward Heath's union-crippled, pro-European Conservative administration of 1970-1974, Labour had been in power since 1964. That was enough time to bury the Tories once and for all, surely? New Labour were slick as toast in 1997. After seven years it has taken a failing foreign war - an unusual experience for the people of Britain - and multiple scandals to dent Tony Blair's poll ratings, despite which Labour are going to be in power until the 2010s at least. What was stopping Harold Wilson and James Callaghan from killing the beast?
I deride the anti-Thatcher arguments as sentimental nostalgia for a golden age which never was. Thatcher's government had the bad luck of attaining power at a time of global and local recession, a recession caused by the Iranian revolution, global instability, the failure of state intervention to save Britain's manufacturing industry and competition from the Far East. Britain no longer makes things, but this transformation occurred in the 1970s. During that decade we lost our aerospace industry, our car industry, our ship-building industry, our nuclear missile industry, all swallowed up by each other and dead. Were the Tories expected to use public funds to support these things? It seems to me that, if the money was simply circulated from our pockets to the government to our employers to our pockets again, it would eventually become worn and tarnished. I do not want to live in a country which has dirty money. Instead I want to live in a country which has Dirty Harry, and indeed for that matter Debbie Harry. And as Britain Americanises, my wish will one day be granted.