Friday, October 25, 2013
More on Russell's Brand of Revolution
earlier on Russell Brand's revolutionary non-programme.
He has edited the New Statesman this week, and written a non-manifesto here. It is long, but worth the time, if only because he writes well. Here are a few excerpts:
For an ideology that is defined by inclusiveness, socialism has become in practice quite exclusive
Profit is the most profane word we have. In its pursuit we have forgotten that while individual interests are being met, we as a whole are being annihilated.
My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”
I did a job with Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard not long ago and the three of us shared a dressing room. Eddie believes in democracy and spoke sincerely of his political ambitions. “One day I’d like to be a politician . . .” he said. I spoke of my belief that change could only come from within. “I’d like to be a spiritual orator . . .” I said grandly. Billy eyed us both, with kindly disapprobation. “I’d like to be a nuisance,” he said. “I want to be a troublemaker, there in the gallery in parliament shouting RUBBISH and PROVE IT.”
Take to the streets, together, with the understanding that the feeling that you aren’t being heard or seen or represented isn’t psychosis; it’s government policy.
Time may only be a human concept and therefore ultimately unreal, but what is irrefutably real is that this is the time for us to wake up.
The revolution of consciousness is a decision, decisions take a moment. In my mind the revolution has already begun.
Let's be clear. This is rhetoric. Russell Brand is intelligent and articulate, but he is not a scholar or a politician. The beauty of what he did with Paxman is that he danced around the ring like Muhammed Ali dancing around Joe Fraser. Russell floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. That he spoke for the many was evidenced on Twitter, with critics vastly outnumbered by supporters.
The crux of Russell Brand was the connection he made between a slum in Nigeria, with starved children crawling like flies over the rubbish collecting valuable bottle tops, and a fashion show in London with half-starved models displaying obscenely expensive gowns.
To have such suffering adjacent to such excess is akin to marvelling at an incomparable beauty, whose face is the radiant epitome of celestial symmetry, and ignoring, half a yard lower down, her abdomen, cancerous, weeping and carbuncled. “Keep looking at the face, put a handbag over those tumours. Strike a pose. Come on, Vogue.”
Robin Lustig criticises Brand. Which is a pity, because I have time for Lustig, maybe because he is off the beaten track as a commentator. But Robin misses the slum-child / fashion model core of Brand's anger at the inequality, the eco-ripping unsustainability of the present system, and comes on with a finger wagging "Now now, if you don't like what is going on then get out there and knock on people's doors".
What is so infuriating about this kind of patronising crap, even for me, as a doorknocker and leafletter, is that Lustig has the privilege of broadcasting the orthodox line to millions as easily as breathing. This is Russells point. Or if it is not his point, it is mine. On the one hand we have the tax-dodging, politician lobbying corporations sitting down at dinner with broadcasters and poisoning their minds with their false matrix of corporate reality, and on the other, we have ordinary mortals stumping around trying to de-brainwash their fellow citizens one by one. That is the system, and Brand rejects it. Not unreasonably.
We in the Green Party on the other hand, against all the odds, continue to do the sodding plodding work, because it is what we do. Because, like Russell, we want Democracy, Equality, Sustainability. Overarching values that the System cannot see. It has pretend democracy (vote once every 5 years, anything else and you're kettled, sonny), it pretends but scorns equality, and pretends but avoids sustainability.
As a journalist Lustig is, and indeed most journalists are, is part of the problem, not part of the solution, because they cannot see the bleeding obvious: the inequality and unsustainability of the system they are part of.
Yes, Russell is wrong to say don't vote. We should vote. Voting is precious, people died and were imprisoned to get the vote. Yes, voting in the UK system is hugely ineffective. Yes, the system is defective. Yes, we should still vote, but voting is the beginning of political action not the end of it.
But Russell Brand has a point. The system that we live in is badly broken. It needs fixing, and the need is greater than a slightly greater turnout at the next election, which seems to be the horzon of Lustig's aspiration.
It needs a solution that brings in real democracy, more equality and serious approach to sustainability.