I haven’t yet read Russell Brand’s book and I probably won’t get around to it – unless maybe I do it retrospectively, that is, AFTER the revolution. But I have read excerpts from it, I follow the Trews, I have seen most of his promotional interviews here and in the States, read copious criticisms of his views and actions and a few supportive ones. Personally, I love him for what he is trying to do. But I can see he is an easy figure to hate. He is a loud mouth (good!). He has a messiah complex (suspect?). He mixes politics with spirituality (confusing but I try to understand – sort of like Gandhi maybe?). Some critics accuse him of being a narcissistic religious maniac which he doesn’t seem too eager to refute. And then it’s hard to get over the fact that he used to be such an idiot! I think the first time I noticed he had a brain (and a heart!) was a Guardian article he wrote in the wake of the brutal murder of the soldier outside the Woolwich barracks. His writing stunned me in it’s accuracy, it’s understanding, it’s sensitivity. Amongst the shock and horror and Islamophobia, it was what I needed to read to make sense of a senseless situation. I was so touched I shared the article on Facebook. One friend commented with words to the effect that ‘I can’t take seriously ANYTHING this guy says’. So I knew he was up against it.
Media Lens (http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2014/781-russell-brand-s-revolution-part-2-the-backlash.html) helps explain the link with spirituality :-
“As we saw in the first part of this alert, there is a strong case for arguing that mindfulness – awareness of how we actually feel, as opposed to how corporate advertising tells us we should feel – can help deliver us from the shiny cage of passive consumerism to progressive activism.”
As I understand it, religion is supposed to be about teaching us right from wrong. And Russell has definitely got right on his side. He is hammering on incessantly about the ludicrous way we have arrived at running this world. Even those pundits who criticise him for lack of solutions must surely agree with the diagnosis that Capitalism has had its day. But deciding on the treatment is a much harder and seemingly impossible task.
This particular Political Vegetable admits to being stumped. But the will is there to try anything to speed things up as long as it doesn’t involve standing on a street corner in the rain with a placard saying “NO”. I have tried this along with 50,000 others and it appeared to achieve zilch! Maybe if the sun is shining and the placard says “YES”, I might reconsider. Oh no – a fair weather revolutionary!
However, I CAN still be arsed to vote (that’s Paxo lingo, not mine) My grandmother, my great grandmother and three great aunts were all imprisoned and force fed as suffragettes in order to secure the vote for women so I can hardly not use mine. But it does a feel pretty useless exercise given our current system. Somehow the whole Westminster charade and it’s political partner, the BBC, seem SO irrelevant. Tinkering around the edges. Totally ignoring the elephant in the room. But I’m willing to concede that IF the silent millions wake up we could conceivably have a significant Green contingent in Parliament that would force Labour to rethink its neoliberal stance. OR we could have a new left party sweeping the floor as happened with Podemos in Spain (“We need to redefine politics from Left vs Right to Us vs Them, creating a new discourse that exposes the privilege of those who hold power in society”). OR …. we could have a Tory/UKIP coalition or….or…..if……but…… Ultimately, it is unlikely ANY significant change will come about this way. But however uninspiring, least worst is probably better than most worst.
So back to the Revolution. Starting from the premise that we want to avoid the violent overthrow of anybody or anything, no Molotov cocktails, no suicide bombers, no guillotines, no charging police horses, no tear gas or tazer guns – how on earth will it happen? Can we even begin to imagine? Russell thinks we can co-operate our way to a better world. Some of us can. But what about the 1% who are quite likely to be sociopaths and therefore fundamentally unable to have any empathy for us mere suckers. How on earth are we going to rehabilitate them?
History tells us that Revolutions come about when a particular set of circumstances converge like kindling wood in a campfire and someone or something applies the spark. The Industrial Revolution happened not just because Britons had brains but because Britain had COAL! The spark for the French Revolution was in fact an Icelandic volcano eruption which wiped out the grain production in Northern France which caused widespread bread shortages and BINGO!! Just how tenuous is our link with everything we take for granted? Will the next eruption ground the planes bringing in green beans from Kenya or flowers from Florida causing Waitrose customers to have their own mini revolution before Christmas?
I hold out a secret hope for social media being either the kindling or the spark. Maybe we will have an internet mediated revolution? Is it only me who finds information on line so much more interesting and to the point these days than anything the Today programme has to offer. So much mis information padded out with interminable conjecture about trivia. So from the self confessed political exhibitionist with the massive ego that gives us The Trews (https://m.youtube.com/user/russellbrand) to the self effacing, self confessed social anxiety sufferer who is Another Angry Voice (http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/) I worship at your alter of enlightenment.
I take heart too from Naomi Klein (http://books.simonandschuster.com/This-Changes-Everything/Naomi-Klein/9781451697384) talking about the ‘next economy’, the post-growth economy, the redistribution economy, the environment preserving economy, the caring, sharing economy. She has done the research, understands how it must happen and gives us hope from her world that it IS happening while the rest of us can only sit back and groan that Fracking is probably a bad idea ………
Then I’ve come across this Jeremy Rifkind guy who predicts The Third Industrial Revolution http://www.thethirdindustrialrevolution.com/
“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.
Hmmm – the collaborative commons?
This brings me neatly to my own contribution to ‘the collaborative commons’ – VEGETABLES! Local, seasonal, affordable, organic, healthy, beautiful, scrumptious, challenging, baffling and definitely deserving of time and effort. I don’t know what particular vegetables RB favours but I did read an article that said he had a penchant for Avocado with Himalayan Pink Sea Salt! Blimey!! Well Russell I hope you paid the environmental cost of these ingredients reaching our shores!! And I hope you subscribe to a community veg box scheme to support local producers who are fighting against the odds to produce food sustainably, where the money you spend stays in the local community and people aren’t enticed and bamboozled into buying trash with BOGOFS when all they need is carrots. But somehow I can’t imagine Russell has much time for cooking – he is too busy being everywhere, doing everything, getting this Revolution thing rolling.
At the risk of seeming like I’ve got a massive crush on Him (I haven’t), in my eyes, Russell Brand has redeemed himself a million fold. With true religious fervour, I even forgive him the sins of rampant sexism and disgustingly groping behaviour still embarrassingly preserved on YouTube which should in theory make him want to hide under a stone. Of course he hasn’t got all the answers. Of course there is no blueprint for the Revolution we so badly need. The script cannot be written in advance and there will undoubtedly be unintended and unforeseen consequences. But he has succeeded in putting Revolution on our lips. We can now say the word, it can roll off our tongues and we dare believe it can be peaceful. Bring it on!