Imagine living in a time of ongoing economic hardship, with social fragmentation, an economy struggling to recover from a stock market crash, housing problems and increasing unemployment. Imagine the clash of expectations as both the economy and society struggle to cope with the dramatic pace of change, and the sense of being left behind in the global marketplace—as the rose-tinted nostalgia of the past collides with a seemingly out-of-control vision of the future. This is life in the UK in 1976, the year that Punk explodes into existence.
Punk is a rebellion against all of this. But it isn’t about retweeting or sharing posts on social media, or buying into the post-factual meme of the moment. It certainly isn’t about sticking our heads in the sand as we keep calm and carry on.
Punk is a DIY movement, it is about getting off our arses and literally doing it ourselves. It’s about not buying into the propaganda of any of the newspapers, not automatically believing the newspeak of the politicians, not just picking one side and shouting at the other, not waiting for a superhero to swoop in and save the day. Punk is about individually doing something with the intention of changing the status quo for the better.
Now it’s time for all of us to be more Punk. And I don’t mean by joining one of the tribes that are currently polarising the UK and the US. I mean by finding our own do-it-ourself way not to take the crap and to create the decent society we want to live in from the ground up. Each one of us can make a difference, small and positive things have a cumulative effect and combine to create change. We have to do this in real life, not in our blinkered social media bubbles. This involves reaching a hand outside the bubble in service of something we care about. It doesn’t matter how small our actions are, when we do something positive with genuine motives we inspire others to join our cause, and together our humble ideas can become a revolution.
I care about creativity. For a decade now I’ve been creating mass participation events in my spare time designed to undo the damage done at school when an art teacher told someone they weren’t good enough, after which they never picked up a pencil again. These events are free and open to everybody to come to, and those who participated in the last one went home proudly wearing a small sticker that said “I’m an artist, my work is on display at the V&A”. (Victoria and Albert Museum in London).
Currently in the UK, while we’re all being distracted by the major political issues shouting outrage from the headlines, fundamental changes are being made to things we value.
For example, creative subjects are being removed from the school curriculum. Does this make you angry? If it does you could sit at home reposting your frustration on social media, or you can take this as a call to action: roll up your sleeves and do something to encourage creativity beyond your immediate peer group. I promise you that doing this will inspire people and inspiration is infectious. I know this from experience, but go and find out for yourself. What is the thing you care about, the thing that makes you angry, the thing that you could actively do something to change, no matter how seemingly small?
Team GB athletes are trained to focus on the things they have the power to change, and not to be distracted by the things that they can’t. Team GB has transformed from winning just 13 medals in 1976 (the year of Punk) to 67 in 2016, and on the Olympic stage Britain is now a small country that punches seriously above its weight.
This is how we rebel. This is how we create a revolution today. We get more Punk and do-it-ourselves by each taking positive action over something that we care about and have the power to change, and collectively our actions will combine and gather momentum.