There are two prompts for this particular post. The first is the genuinely serendipitous and slightly spooky events of Wednesday afternoon (which I shall come to later and which relate to the picture above ). The second is a conversation that was sparked by the inescapable news this week of Margaret Thatcher's death.
I am not a child of Thatcher. I was born too late for that. I was four when she left office, and really can only just remember John Major's premiership. I am a post-Thatcherite child. This is not a label that has ever occurred to be before. Until this week I am not even sure I would have be able to articulate what it meant.
But, as I said, her death led to a conversation. It was with two members of my family - one an adult during Thatcher's years, the other a child of the Thatcher era. I asked the question, 'Was it really better in the 70s, before Thatcher, than it is now?' 'Yes' was the answer I got. According to this small and biased survey, Thatcher destroyed the cohesion of community and the assumption and expectation that people would be nice to each other. She created the mentality of competition, striving and a willingness to trample on people to get to the top.
Now, I remain skeptical that life was quite so rose-tinted such a short time ago. I mean, humans and money and industry and war and whatever else you want to list have not all suddenly come about in the last 40 years. But I accept there may have been a shift in cultural consciousness caused by a long-reigning and ideologically resolute prime minister.
Which brings me back to my label as a post-Thatcherite child. Society, culture, business and community, as it is now, is to me, the norm. I do not look around, saddened that I am living in a worsened environment. I know no different, and find a lot that is wonderful now. And I wonder if the dramatic change that Thatcher seems to have brought about, blinds some people to what is good about now.
I would like to state categorically at this point, that there is also a lot now that is bad. Some people do trample on others to get to the top. There is a culture of over-working, striving to always have more and an anti-collaborative individualism (which I have to say I think has also permeated from across the Atlantic - Thatcher was only one person after all, an influential one, but still only one considering the size of the cultural shifts we are talking about.)
So yes, I do not say 'look on the bright of life', but I do say, life now is what it is, and there is more of merit than is sometimes given credit for, and perhaps not so much was killed off, but rather altered, shifted and refigured. Which is where my meta Wednesday comes in.
The post hit the mat. One of my favourite events of the day. I have never lost the excitement of running to get the post. Two things, both for me! The first was a piece of direct marketing from Symantec. Not so exciting right? Well I have written for them for work, so have an interest in how they market themselves and went ahead and started scanning the leaflet....
Something slowly started feeling oddly familiar about what they were talking about. GadgetWorld, the fictional subject of the white paper they were promoting rang a bell. Then it hit me - my boss had written that white paper! He had sent it to me so I could gen up on their website security products and I knew all about it. I write things on my computer, I get sent files on my computer. This was the first piece of real-world, direct marketing that had ended up looping back to me as the consumer that I had encountered.
Not so amazing, some of you might think. Maybe not, you could explain that away, the link, the loop and the neat encompassing of people at all ends and middles of business. Then I opened the next piece of post.
It was my Bean and Ground coffee, which I have written about before, and which comes with a little piece of card telling you all about the brews. This time they were talking about a little bit more. The London Coffee Festival (which I caved and bought a ticket for this week), a cafe review and some tweets from their customers. And the top one...did you spot in the picture at the top of this post?...scroll...look again....
Yup! IT WAS ME! They liked what I had to tweet. I like engaging with some brands on Twitter, because they aren't just brands, there are people sitting at those computers responding to my tweets. And some of those humans are friendly, responsive and put a smile on my face. I never imagined that I would see my tweet printed out and sent back to me as evidence of their customer community.
Once again, business and marketing making a human, collaborative and friendly community. I was so excited and happy. I thought it was completely and utterly lovely.
Not every company wants to be part of community, I know. There lots of ruthless, unpleasant people and businesses, perhaps more than there would have been than if Thatcher had not reigned as she did.
But the what, of what is now? It's so exciting. It's in print, it's online. It's social media and blogs and meeting up and goodness knows what else.
Thatcher didn't kill community, or hope or collaboration. She may have threatened it, and maybe it retreated a little for a while. But it has evolved, mutated, expanded and created the cultural consciousness that we live in now. I may not have the memory of the 70s to compare it with, but I think I'm glad I don't, because I think it would be sad to risk missing out on what is so good about now.