Tag Archives: social change

LibLink: Siobhan Benita: We can’t afford to let today’s acts of kindness become tomorrow’s memories

Lib Dem London Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita writes for Mental Health Awareness Week on her website.

As we went into lockdown in March, the UN released its World Happiness Report. It ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.  As in previous years, Nordic countries dominate the top slots, scoring strongly across all six measures: GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, autonomy, generosity and absence of corruption.

Reflecting on the success of the Nordic countries, the report concludes that there is no “secret sauce” to their happiness. Instead, there is a “general recipe” that everyone can follow:  non-corrupt, high-quality state institutions able to deliver what is promised and generous in taking care of citizens.

The Covid19 pandemic is a tragedy.  Families and communities have lost loved ones to the virus and fear of contamination, financial uncertainty and social distancing are having a serious impact on the mental health of the nation. At the same time, the pandemic also creates a unique opportunity for us Brits to consider how we can create a better “recipe” for our citizens in the future.

The togetherness and community spirit we’ve seen during the pandemic must become permanent, she argues:

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The sixties

I just visited an amazing exhibition in Montreal at La Musee de Beaux Arts, entitled ‘Revolution’, all about the sixties, when I was a teenager. The revolution in question was the change in art, ideas, politics, power, dress, music etc etc that occurred in the late 1960s, which culminated in the 1968 student riots, Expo ’67 in Montreal and Woodstock.

Many people today, especially young people it seems, criticise the sixties as a time of fantasy, forgetting what life had been like before the so-called swinging sixties. Before the sixties, (male) homosexuality was illegal, women were second class citizens, treated as appendages of their husbands especially in regard to finance, people were hanged for murder, computers and the internet were non-existent, books, plays and films were rigorously censored and non-white people were subject to overt harassment and discrimination. Who can forget the prosecution of the publishers of Lady Chatterly’s Lover – the book the prosecutor said you would not want your wives or servants to read! Or the shocking Tory campaign in Smethick in 1964, when the Labour MP Patrick Gordon-Walker lost his seat to a campaign of ‘If you want a ******* for a neighbour, vote Labour’.

During the sixties, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were made legal, the Race Relations Act outlawed much discrimination based on colour or race, hanging was abolished, abortion was legalised up to 28 weeks and the voting age was reduced to 18.

The sixties saw an unprecedented revolution in fashion in which the UK through designers like Mary Quant and the Carnaby Street shops changed clothing forever from the somewhat staid post war styles to the modern ever changing fashions of today. The Women’s Liberation Movement started demanding equal rights for women and the end of patriarchy, which, in Britain, eventually led to the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act in 1975.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments
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