By H M Zaheer
Optimism is the first step to changing Britain by 2020
The pessimists among us say Britain is heading towards economic and political decline, in the wake of the credit crunch that brought our financial system to its knees and the growing threat of the far right in recent elections. Nowadays there is a big difference between what people would prefer to see happen in the next ten years and what they feel might actually happen. But unless we are optimistic about the future, we cannot start building a better one. Our hopes are what will make the difference. Here are my hopes for where I want Britain to be by 2020.
Firstly, we must decrease the gap between the rich and the poor, which has continued to grow for decades despite our country having one of the wealthiest economies in the world. It doesn’t matter how many millionaires we have if millions of our people are poor, because we are all worse off as a result. The national minimum wage was a good first step but we need to go further. By 2020 I hope the government will have introduced a national living wage that guarantees everyone a decent standard of living, and increased taxes on those who earn the highest wages so those who earn the lowest wages do not have to pay tax at all.
Secondly, we need to develop a common civic identity based on the principle that we should treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. We must continue to defend racial and religious minorities from discrimination in the media, the workplace and everyday life. But we cannot forget that, whatever our background, we all live in the same country. No society that lets people of different backgrounds live isolated from each other can last long. Part of the reason the far right have been successful is that many feel it no longer means any one thing to be British. By 2020 I hope individuals and community groups will have found a way for people to celebrate their differences and also say, we are British and we are one nation.
Thus, if we aspire to enjoin the good and forbid the evil in our society, we must seek the change, take the lead, and make it happen. It will take compassion for those less fortunate, understanding what unites as well as divides us, and optimism that no matter how bad things may seem right now, there is still time to change our situation.
H M Zaheer read History and Politics at SOAS, University of London and then went on to complete a Masters degree in History at the same institution. His postgraduate research primarily focused upon the Middle East, with specific reference to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of modern day Turkey. He is currently working in an international support role for a Legal Publisher.
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