Margaret Thatcher died today. Alongside Clement Attlee she was one of the two Prime Ministers who transformed the United Kingdom since the war. She was an extraordinary individual. New Labour, as she claimed, is perhaps her most enduring success.
Reactions to her and death and legacy will be varied – from vitriolic to celebratory. I will not criticise anyone’s response. However, I have two thoughts on this.
1) The desire some have to celebrate the death and pain of others is itself the consequence of our failure to build a fair, civilised & compassionate society since 1979.
2) Compassion matters – in life, in death and in politics.
Alex Salmond channeled Adam Smith in his speech to Princeton University on Saturday and spoke of the need for empathy.
This quote is fitting today:
“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.”
– Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
8th April, 2013