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Russell Brand is No Revolutionary

October 26, 2013

Perhaps you have seen the video below circulating on your preferred social media website:

Russell Brand has a lot of good points to make. The Earth is being poisoned, the poor are getting poorer, and the political systems of the world’s most influential countries are largely at fault. These political systems need a radical overhaul in order for real change to happen, and our current electoral systems make that kind of overhaul seemingly impossible. Brand makes his points with impassioned delivery and engaging wit, and I don’t question the genuine frustration behind his words. He does indeed come across as the fiery revolutionary everyone is making him out to be.

I’m still not, however, buying it.

I might be more inclined to buy it if it weren’t for the fact that an alternative political party, whose platform addresses precisely the issues Brand is decrying, does in fact already exist — a political party that never gets to power because nobody ever votes for them. So either Brand is actually not politically astute enough to have done his homework, or he sincerely believes that the best way to take down the current political hierarchy is to continue to not to support the party that is actually trying to do that.

At the very start of his speech, he admits to not knowing much about politics, and reveals that he agreed to edit a political magazine simply because he was “politely asked by an attractive woman”. When cornered again and again by Jeremy Paxman to elaborate on his ideas about alternative political systems, he hedges and backpedals. This leads me to believe that all of his spirited rhetoric isn’t much more than bluster to cover up his voting apathy — because yes, Mr. Brand, “indifference” and “apathy” mean exactly the same thing.

I would like to be proven wrong. I would like to see Russell Brand, and every single person who shared his video all over the Internet, stand up and take some kind of meaningful action against the political status quo in their respective countries. I would like to hope that this viral video will not, instead, simply give even more people an excuse to disengage completely, and stay inside their warm and comfortable homes on election day. I would like to hope that this viral video doesn’t in fact play into the hands of the current political hierarchy by reinforcing the mistaken impression that all political parties, including the radical outliers fighting for actual change, can be lumped together and ignored. Remember that those at the top are perfectly happy when the disillusioned fail to vote.

So let’s see it, Mr. Brand. Let’s see you put your revolution where your mouth is.

  1. October 26, 2013 8:59 pm

    I’m similarly concerned about Brand becoming a posterboy for revolution, especially when he can’t follow up an easy-to-make destructive critique of this rotten system of political economy with a constructive one that’s not as replete with flaws as any of history’s attempts at socialist revolution. What I like about this, though, besides the rollicking tension between his dirty-boy behaviour and erudite eloquence, is his promotion of the Blakean idea that the only truly successful revolution is one of individual consciousness, of the spirit, and of the imagination. It’s become a bumpersticker cliché that, to change the world, you have to change your mind. Brand doesn’t put it so ham-fistedly, but I think he’s on to something the moment he throws his enthusiasm behind that one brilliant idea.

    After initial enthusiasm for political revolution, William Blake dropped out of it when he saw the French Revolution go south fast, and instead turned on to his own mythology of a revolution of the spirit in the characters of his illuminated books.

    Meanwhile, the arch-conservative Sir Edmund Burke was right when he said in “Reflections on the Revolution in France” that political revolutions inevitably fail and become the very beast they seek to slay if they happen too fast, and every example in history bears this out. After the glory days of overthrow, an even worse regime fills the power vacuum and the body count rises; look at the Arab Spring countries now. Hate to admit it, but Burke was right: progress happens slowly with groundswells of popular support, and only if the young and idealistic retain their values and act on them when they later assume positions of power.

    So when Brand puts his faith in riotous-outburst revolution, History shakes her head at this youthful naïveté.

    • October 26, 2013 9:11 pm

      Excellent insights to add to this discussion. Thanks.

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