The 2010s: A Decade of Tainted Progress

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Joe McElderry topped the charts at the beginning of 2010 with his version of Miley Cyrus’ (Hannah Montana’s actually) The Climb. This song speaks of the upcoming struggle and challenges that lie in the future. There’s always gonna be another mountain, they harmoniously inform us. Not only was this a certified humdinger, I have no doubt that this song resonated with a lot of people at the time. Many of us may have been starting our secondary school journeys and the path ahead did resemble an uphill battle. Fast forward nine years, we must look back and assess whether this country has overcome ‘the climb’. After all, it was the dream we were dreamin’. You can say that again, Ms Cyrus.

The start of the decade saw a number of nations recognise same sex marriages and civil partnerships, including Britain as of 2014. Mexico, Portugal and Iceland had led the way in the years prior. This has proven to be possibly the last remaining positive aspect of David Cameron’s Premiership, with that referendum in 2016 staining our consciences more prominently. Official legislations allowing same sex marriages stood as the culmination of progressive campaigns dating back more than half a century. However, as the years have passed, there is a rising fear that 2013 may well remain a mere culmination, rather than a catalyst for further progress.

A 2017 government survey revealed the troubling times that still face members of the LGBT community today. Almost half of respondents had experienced an incident of hate, whether physical or verbal, due to their orientation. This has led to over a quarter of respondents relying on mental health services as a response to the conditions they face over their identity. The practice of conversion therapy, commonly known as ‘cure therapy’, is also still legal in the UK today. The ban is reportedly being discussed, yet the legality of the abhorrent practice shows that there is clearly more to do for LGBT community, perhaps one of the most scrutinised groups in the UK.

The #MeToo movement gained mainstream Western media attention as of 2017, starting in the US but also having a significant effect on UK society. Departures from Theresa May’s cabinet as a result of the movement aided a belief that no one is above the law when it comes to sexual assault. Economically speaking, women appear to better placed than ever before. The difference between male and female pay for under-40s, in full time work, is close to zero.

Yet, that is only one side of a rather depressing looking coin. Approximately a fifth of women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives in the UK, with half a million women affected this year. Worse still, it is estimated that only 15% of such offences are reported. Additionally, the gender pay gap for employees of all ages remains at nearly 20%, declining by a minuscule amount across the past decade. Clearly, Britain suffers from a deeply engendered society. There is no doubting the significance of large, highlight-reel movements such as #MeToo, yet women are still suffering on the ground on a day-to-day basis.

In 2009, a charity campaign called Time to Change launched with the objective of ending discrimination towards mental health and changing the attitudes around the subject. Throughout the decade this campaign has continued, with a growing recognition and understanding of mental health in the UK. Mental health days off work are increasingly frequent and people’s mental wellness is commonly becoming people’s number one priority.

With the increasing awareness of mental health comes the rising identification of those affected, to near epidemic levels. Up to a quarter of the UK population experience negative mental health symptoms on a weekly basis, according to government surveys. The NHS has also seen up to a quarter of its activity now involved with mental health, yet only 11% of its budget is allocated to this sector due to increasing cuts. Most worryingly is the overwhelming proportion of male suicides, standing as the biggest killer of men under 49. The money pot seems to shrink whilst people’s mental issues swell.

Sport often stands as people’s escape from the troubles of daily life. Black sportspeople such as Lewis Hamilton and Dina Asher-Smith lead the way in being truly remarkable, with worldwide titles frequently achieved this decade. Women’s football and hockey has captivated audiences on a global scale, with equally widespread success. Again, the glory must not overshadow underlying issues regarding equal pay and competition prize money. The female English cricketers and rugby players could tell you a thing or two about that. Sadly, there is an increasing occurrence of racial abuse from the spectators lucky enough to see these athletes in action, most recently within high level football. It is high time people are simply lauded for what they achieve rather than targeted for who they are, in sport and in wider society.

At the end of this decade we find ourselves on top of the mountain Miley described over ten years ago, looking back on the climb it took to get here. We also are left with Ellie Goulding topping the final charts of this ten-year period. However, there are no relatable quotes from that song so I shall instead reference Coldplay’s Everyday Life. Look at what everybody’s going through, Chris Martin tells us. Indeed, we have gone through a lot. So has Britain, with significant divisions visible across society. Quite often we seem to take one, possibly two, tentative steps forward. This combination is often followed with a rather large step back. 2020 represents a new year, a new decade and a fresh opportunity to simply be better. Time is inevitable yet what happens in each day, in our everyday lives, is completely up to us. There is no better opportunity to educate ourselves, to open our minds and to keep climbing – for Miley, if no one else.

We must simply ask one another, as Coldplay insist, what kind of world do we want it to be?

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Final year History student, stuck in the past.

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