Russell Brand has been labelled a false prophet and chastised for his celebrity status while encouraging people not to vote in order to change the political and socio-economic system. But should he be condemned as nothing more than a waffling narcissistic socialist celeb?
Critics rebuke Brand for ‘only’ being well read rather than intelligent but this does not make him misinformed nor dismissable. His theory on a cultural, economic and spiritual revolution may be extremely limited in its explanation as to how to implement such ideals and govern this dreamy utopia once it has been reached but that does not mean the idea itself is irrelevant or useless. He never claims to know how to reach these goals other than through rhetoric and the mobilisation of the ‘underclass’ and, as helpful as more insight would be, can we scrutinise him for not being able to provide all the answers? He is not a politician, nor world leader and as many have pointed out he is not educated in leadership nor governance but then neither am I nor, maybe, you and I still feel I have the right to talk about how I would like to live and what I think the reasons are for not being able to live that way. Why are people demanding the whole story from Brand, just one person, especially, as his most feverent haters have asked, who does he think he is?
I read his essay in New Statesman and amongst the waffle and name dropping were some fair observations; we should look after our planet better, we should not let ourselves become alienated from politics by politicians, we should act to prevent those less fortunate than ourselves (and it is pure fortune to happen to be born in a place where the water doesn’t kill you) from suffering for our own comfort and wealth. And, like all good ideas, we should talk about it until we think of a good way to do it. None of what Brand says is original content, yet he is bringing the popular to the political and vice versa, and there can be no harm in that at least only for those sitting on piles of power and money that are too high for them to see how the rest of humanity is doing. Whether he’s a reputable spokesperson for the everday person or not at least he’s speaking about it and on massive media platforms, not on just another wannabe social commentator blog…
Like most revolutions Brand calls on the young adult populace to make things change. (Conveniently this is also where most of his fanbase can be found). This is important. If this young populace is a ‘lost generation’ without career prospects, money, cultural identity or opportutunities to try and fail then thought is all that is left. Thought is free. A new thought must occur. Apathy is costly when you can’t afford to heat your rented flat.
I can see the irony people have pointed out in how Brand is more Hollywood hugging than tree hugging these days but I think his point could go further if we stop getting distracted with shooting the messenger. If he is not the right medium through which to voice the revolution then let’s continue the discourse ourselves. Let’s take it beyond his rantings of unfair distribution of money and property, government subsidised private schools (which have produced 51 of our 53 Prime Ministers if you include grammar schools) and stop it becoming just a general loathing for those with more. Brand not being a politician may be handy as he does not need our vote, he doesn’t vote for anyone himself he says. Though he does need our ticket sales and I hear his DVDs are a great gift for Christmas. His power comes not from a cabinet seat but celebrity status and to many younger adults the latter holds greater currency than any place in parliament. Is this as bad or the better of two evils? If it does lead to change then does that make it ok and can we soundly forgive Brand’s egotism and shameless self-promotion? Has there ever been a leader who doesn’t like the sound of their own voice and public following (be it Twitter followers or electoral votes)? Or is this type of leadership that got us here in the first place? Also isn’t it apt that a TV/film personality should be the one to rejuvenate and lead a disenfranchised youth, it sounds like something straight out of Black Mirror.
Yes, Brand loves an unecessary synonym, maybe he is just well read and witty with a splash of disarming Essex twang. But so what if he doesn’t have the plans to back up the theories. Are we actually looking to him to solve all our problems or is a revolution not a movement of the masses for the masses? Should we all not put our heads together and talk it out? I studied political theory and sociology as part of massively interesting and thus far unused degree and learnt lots of ideological theories, all of which spun great hope for what change could bring yet all had massive flaws and needed more talking about before trying. Most required unrealistic selfless leaders as if multiple Ghandis come on a conveyor belt and the world population would be happy to listen and follow them. And this sounds like what Brand’s utopian BFG-style-led society relies on. The best worlds call for selfless leaders acting in direct opposition to human nature. Or am I being too cynical? I have no doubt that such leaders do exist the problem is the majority of them loose that sacred quality the more powerful they come. Whether that is due to the temptation to give in to human selfishness or the conditions of the system I’m not sure. Also, to make a selfless leader successful there needs to be a selfless electorate. Brand states this can be achievable if we remove the negative tones of the media that keep us all hating each other and wipe out the self-interested, you scratch my back etc. government and the ‘democratic’ system that legitimises such behaviour. Such a task seems unfathomable as we are talking about taking on the two biggest conglomerates of our world who reinforce each other’s power to keep themselves at the top, and a smooth tongued Edward Scissorhands mascquerading as Jack the Lad is going to lead this mutiny…
Yet is that to say we should not try? Is it better to live under a flawed system then try a potentially freeing yet unknown new one? Brand may not be our best hope but give him credit, there’s few else loud enough to have their say on Newsnight for the sake of the underclass (whether he has a new film upcoming or not).