I went to see a Pieter Dirk Uys live performance last night. Pieter Dirk Uys is a brilliant South African performer who uses satire to comment on current social and political issues. He is greatly loved by South Africans because of his brilliant humour and the fact that he’s never shied away from pointing out injustice, hipocrisy and incompetence, no matter who the target is. He was openly critical of the Apartheid government, which was known for silencing critics through any means, and he is openly critical of the incompetencies and corruption in the current government. He is well known for his impersonations of politicians and other dignitaries, including PW Botha, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
In last night’s show he brought back many favourite characters, including Margaret Thatcher. His impersonation of her is splendid; he gets the voice and accent just right. To introduce the character, he sang “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” This is a song we’ve been hearing a lot lately in connection with her passing. There has even been a campaign to push it to the top of the music charts.
I confess that I am a little taken aback by all this vitriol being aimed at a dead woman. I understand that many people don’t agree with what she said and did, and that some of her policies were very controversial. But she was not an evil, malicious or selfish person. She didn’t become a politician because she wanted to be rich and famous, and she didn’t use her office to enrich or in other ways benefit herself, as so many other politicians seem to do. She was an honest, hardworking individual who loved her country and dedicated her life to making it a better place for everyone.
Not everyone agreed with her policies, but people seem quick to forget that the British economy was basically dying when she took office, and she pretty much saved it. From the way people were dancing in the streets after her death, you could be excused for thinking she was some kind of monster dictator who ruined the country before being overthrown, rather than someone who was elected to her post three times through a transparent democratic process.
This New York Times article does a better job than I could of listing her many accomplishments. I am a Liberal at heart, and don’t agree with many of the things she believed. I certainly don’t approve of everything she did. But I look at her life and I see someone I can admire, someone who lived her life with passion, dignity, courage and honour and who changed the world in many ways, many of them for the better. I would much rather celebrate her life than her death.