Spirit Quest on Margaret Thatcher

Spirit Quest

Lest we forget Margaret Thatcher

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

  Would He have been welcomed at Thatcher's funeral?

26 April 2013 — There was a time when I loved to fly, unfortunately not so much any more. I well remember my first venture into the air on a flight from Toronto to New York (1947) on Trans Canada Airlines. I felt like a highly privileged person, aged 18, as I boarded the 21 passenger DC 3. Indeed, I was treated as a guest rather than a necessary nuisance as on today’s Air Steerage.

Nowadays I recall those early flights whenever I use Porter Air, a company very much in the news these days. Some years ago on a flight to Halifax I encountered Robert Deluce, the president of the company. I told him how much I enjoyed the spacious seats, the food and drink, the staff on ground and in the air wearing pillbox hats, the less polluting aircraft of their fleet. He listened appreciatively and then told me of his plans to expand into the United States . We had a very pleasant conversation. Before taking my leave I offered him a bit of advice: ”Don’t get too big.” He gave me a strange look which quickly melded into a wry smile which seemed to say “try and stop me.”

I could have bolstered my advice with the economic theory of diminishing returns that asserts that after a certain point further investment (or effort) does not increase your expected return, but we were preparing to land.

What is reported in the news today is of course the very opposite of my warning, the acquisition of bigger jet aircraft and the extension of the runway of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (The Island Airport), out into Lake Ontario on the west and Toronto Harbour on the east. Well, only by a little bit.

I guess Mr. Deluce is well prepared to play hardball with the other airlines which will lower the cost of flying but invariably be paid for by poorer service and the inevitable working out of the theory of diminishing returns.

But who in this capitalistic economy can dare to avoid the risk of running off the end of the runway. The Invisible Hand is not one that I trust at the controls of my jet.

Brits — well some, maybe many — and like-minded colonials from stage Right like the Harper gang,  are presently mourning and celebrating the life and death of The Iron Lady. She was a firm believer in the Invisible Hand, indeed, she had her hand on it all the time. She vowed that in all her political actions she would strive to remove restraints  that would interfere with business. The one restraint that she most loathed was the labour unions and she managed to emasculate them, especially in the coal and steel industry causing much unemployment and poverty. There wasn’t anything that she didn’t love to privatize until her own party privatized her.

Early on in her political career  she stated  that “ there is no such thing as society, only individuals...” and throughout her time in power made sure that she was right.

Her funeral with full military honours was matched in pomp and circumstance perhaps only by the funeral of Princess Diana. It was, of course, held at the magnificent St. Paul’s, a national cathedral that managed to survive the mass bombing of London and is a memorial to British resilience.

It was a religious ceremony. All the appropriate lessons sanctimoniously intoned in beautiful Elizabethan English. Some of those words have purportedly been spoken centuries ago by a peasant preacher-healer who had had it with the sacrificial cult celebrated in the Second Temple of Jerusalem, “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21; 13) built with no financial restraints by Herod the Great and the exploitation of the Palestinian peasants.

This “Joshua” predicted to his friends who were enamoured by the big stones of the building, and aren’t we all, that not one of them would be left standing on another.  In the year 70 AD those same Romans who had crucified him proved him true.

Are those worshippers, including our prime minister, understand or be willing to understand the implications of those sacred scriptures?

Kipling (1865 - 1936) in his Recessional written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee warned the departing dignitaries, “the tumult and the shouting dies. The captains and the kings depart. Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, a humble and a contrite heart. Lord God of hosts be with us yet , Lest we forget, lest we forget.”

We are good at forgetting, especially when confronted by the pressure of “progress” to which there must be no obstruction, where the only rationale is “bigger is better” whether that be airlines, or an out of character high-rise on Preston Street in Ottawa. And of course military prowess.

One day that young preacher fed thousands on a Galilean hillside with five loaves and two fish. Undoubtedly there is a rational explanation of the increase of food. For me, however, the miracle is not one of food production but distribution. Laissez faire won’t do it.  

We are facing 7 billion mouths to feed, no simple task, but it is possible if the wealth of the earth is properly distributed, if the richest and most powerful, the .01%, are prevented from garnering the most while the poorest “individuals” are left to grovel for the crumbs under the table.

During the scripture readings heard at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I am reasonably certain that few recalled that they were first spoken by a poor itinerant preacher, who came to an early and cruel demise and who bears no resemblance to the crowds gathered at the Lady’s bier.  They most certainly wouldn’t have let him in.