Romola Garai is used to rebellious women having played Belle in BBC Two's The Hour; a career focused TV producer in 1950s Britain who fights against, and sometimes with, the patriarchal environment in which she finds herself. In her recent article (31 May) for the Guardian she celebrates Pussy Riot and examines the demise of the 'fuck you' generation in Western society. She bemoans that the language of protest has been lost. It has not only been lost, but in this country it is frowned up, obstructed and occasionally heavily punished.
And this why when Garai lambasts this generation for its silence, she must remember that every effort is now made to silence them and to make sure they do not learn the language of protest. She, herself, as already been censored for the very article I am mentioning. The article now has a different headline with 'fuck you' replaced by 'defiance'. This from The Guardian. The Manchester Guardian. The original liberal publication at the front, fighting for British democracy. Those two words (fuck you) had apparently contravened the newspaper's guidelines, despite being a considered use of an expletive. It is a minor incident, but it is a small step in the wrong direction. As Lenny Bruce said, "if you take away the right to say fuck, you take away the right to say fuck the government."
Of course we are not at the point of Orwell's 1984 but it is worrying that my generation wouldn't know what to do if we suddenly got very close. However, with the NSA/GCHQ data dump revelations we are clearly getting closer. We need to arm this generation with the language of protest. The response to this has been muted at best, because most people are programmed to accept it. They have rioted in the name of nothing. They have sent offensive tweets behind a veil of anonymity. An online presence is important but a presence on the streets is much more important. The power of people online worries people in power. It is people on the streets that forces them to act or into a positive change, in my opinion. It is the later that my generation has never really experienced and everything is geared to make sure they do not. There are those who still march - for instance UK Uncut have forced tax evasion to the top of the political agenda.
We inhabit an odd country. A country happy to embrace people who strive for freedom and democracy abroad, even if they employ violent methods as well as peaceful ones. Britain has gleefully supported the Arab spring, the protests in Iran, Pussy Riot in Russia and detained Ukrainian ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko; are at the front of the queue to arm Syrian rebels so they can fight President Assad and Hezbollah even though the result may be an Islamist government. This is because all the countries who have held elections since the Arab Spring have elected such governments, rather than a secular government as is the preference of the West.
However, look at Pussy Riot and the protest art collective Voina. Pussy Riot gate crashed a church to sing anti-Puntin songs. Voina is famed for tipping over police cars and painting a giant penis on a draw bridge. Members of both groups have been persecuted and subjected to show trials.
Back in Britain with UK Uncut, who have been heavily criticised for their tactics despite them being vaguely similar to those of Pussy Riot, who have the UK's government's full support. The most illuminating case is after the group peacefully held a sit in at Fortnum and Mason. Although the judge recognised that civil disobedience was a long-standing British tradition, they were still charged with aggravated trespass while others were completely cleared. The media completely smeared the group, focusing on the £54,000 lost in trade rather than the millions avoided in tax, by those who the protest was held against.
There are always people who are willing to stand up for what is right, but we must make sure there are enough of them to make sure those in charge do what is right.