Rollo May, the great philosopher, spoke about the cowardice of conformity.
As a young man determined to make an unforgettable and measurable contribution to the world, albeit perhaps naively and vainly, I have always sought to read every biography within my grasp.
Why? To build a vocabulary to overcome great odds. Do you dream about it? I do.
Biographies are never written about those that deliberately opted for the safe option or actively chose to color between the lines. And so it is with Margaret Thatcher. A lady for whom I had enormous admiration for from a young man. I was, after all, a Thatcher baby. Even conceived in London, I reliably suspect and the mathematics suggest.
Margaret Thatcher overcame enormous odds, inspiring from beginning to end. The daughter of a grocer. A chemist from Oxford. An attorney. Then she turned to politics. And what a providential purpose she served there. An iconic lady with an iron will. An indomitable spirit. One who could never be called cowardly or conformist.
Charles Powell, one of her closest aids, explains it eloquently:
“She changed us all. We went from being a people who saw ourselves as eternally on the downward slide to a nation that was proud to be British again. On the world stage too, she made Britain count once more. She was a startling presence who brought a strong and controversial style to our diplomacy after years of Foreign Office blandness.”
She understood that peace came through strength, not accommodation. That you can’t lead from behind. That free markets and free people were the best defense to tyranny. She stood shoulder to shoulder with President Ronald Reagan to defeat communism; to challenge the Soviet Empire. A lady so committed to liberty, she rolled back “the frontiers of the state”, promoting substantial reform and privatization, often unpopular but invariably needed.
She never lost an election to the left. She rescued her country, seemingly in irreversible decline, and made it proud, wealthy and free. It is her stunning success that offends her detractors.
She loved the English-speaking world, or the Anglosphere. She believed that the world’s security and health lay with America, England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and not the United Nations or the European Union. Of the European Union, she presciently remarked: “We haven’t worked all these years to free Britain from the paralysis of socialism only to see it creep in through the back door of central control and bureaucracy from Brussels.” When she and Reagan ran the world, there were adults in charge, and the world was a better place for it. In fact, these two, along with Pope John Paul II, influenced the world for what was good and true and beautiful and just.
In Rocky IV, with a Cold War setting, in a most memorable scene, Russian boxer Ivan Drago complains to his trainer in his native tongue of Rocky’s apparent indestructability: “He’s not human. He’s like a piece of iron.” Clearly, the Russians had an enormous respect for iron, and it was their great nemesis.
But the Argentines had problems with iron, too. In 1982, Thatcher displayed unswerving leadership in reclaiming the Falkland Islands, barely pausing to blink, and in the face of criticism, insistent that she would sink a ship again, to protect “our boys”.
For young conservatives, her resolve and principle is most certainly worth emulating: “We believe that everyone has the right to be unequal but to us every human being is equally important.”
The refreshment was unfailing and ceaseless:
“To me consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus’?”
No conformity; no cowardice. This lady was not for turning. She loved to fight- but always with dignity and class.
“Defeat? I do not recognize the meaning of the word,” she once said.
Winston Churchill is the greatest wartime Prime Minister the United Kingdom has ever had. I have little doubt Margaret Thatcher will go down as the greatest peacetime Prime Minister the United Kingdom will ever have. You were magnificent, Baroness, simply magnificent.
I would give anything to hear the conversation going on in heaven right now between her and her political soul mate, the Gipper.