I’m a Baby Boomer, born in June 1948. I could be described as “middle class, middle aged, middle income, middle England”, except I’m probably pushing it a bit on the middle aged bit!
My generation has lived through one of the fastest periods of change throughout the history of mankind. Technological change, cultural change, social change, educational change, medical advances, political change towards the liberal order, the advancement of human rights and globalisation have all combined to create a very different world from the one, into which I was born just after the second world war.
There have been huge benefits, particularly to those of us in the Western democracies. We live longer healthier lives. We are much wealthier. We have more time for leisure and recreation. We can travel the world and communicate across the world. But are we happier?
The United Kingdom seems more divided today than I can ever remember. During my lifetime, we have seen the loss of an empire and the diminution of Britain’s role in the world. Consequently, we seem to have been struggling to find our way forward, ever since. We’ve flirted with Europe, which has been a controversial issue for us since General de Gaulle vetoed our entry into the then Common Market, in 1963; and it remains a controversial issue to this day.
The Scottish independence issue has divided Scotland and is dividing Scotland from England. Globalisation has changed the landscape of British industry from manufacturing to services, leaving many communities isolated and impoverished. Immigration divides us too. Some of us welcome immigrants for the skills and diversity they bring. Others resent them because of the perceived treat to jobs, healthcare, education and welfare.
In addition to all this, we are seeing the polarisation of British politics towards the far left and the far right, with vitriol and hatred emanating from both extremes. And this is in a country, whose natural instincts have always been in the centre of politics, oscillating between centre left and centre right.
And so I’m writing this blog to try and communicate the feelings of a fairly ordinary Brit, who’s been around the block a few times and who sees the despair and damage being caused by division and ideology. There is a desperate need for much more pragmatism and empathy across all these issues that divide us. None of us will ever have everything we want. But with more understanding and more give and take, we can all have enough to live fulfilled lives. It’s time for us to change.