As we’re all aware, Russell has been getting some right stick of late, with every hack and their auntie urging us to ignore this “excitable comedian” and his incoherent ramblings. This media storm follows the recent publication of his book – provocatively titled ‘Revolution’, and his latest rowdy interview on Newsnight. The main accusations are that it is irresponsible of him to tell the poor, misinformed public that there is no point in voting, with one even going so far as to suggest that “the Beverley Hills Buddhist” might discredit the entire ‘lefty weft’ with his “smug, shallow manifesto.”
This rampant Brand bashing has united voices of the left, right, and right-on in condemnation, with almost everyone eager to portray him as a plonker. They say that we should all “calm down” because ”he’s just a comedian”, but if that’s true: what’s all the fuss about? Could it be that the media furore illustrates that a fair whack of what Russ says is dangerously close to the mark? He and his views might not offer all the answers to life, the universe, and everything, but then, what does?
I can’t help but feel that there are several things that all this Brand-bashing misses, you see.
I was itching to clarify the accusation that Brand is to blame for encouraging apathy with his comments about not voting, but I was pleased to find that someone else got there first. See here for a dose of common sense in the “Brand is right about democracy, but wrong about how to change it” vein , and for a reasonable course of action for those disillusioned with the political system. Headhere to check out your own allegiances with this policy-based bullshit detector. It’s not just Russell Brand that you should be listening to: it’s these folks.
I was also keen to mention that the media mauling should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt, because, “if you think Brand’s book is confused, take a look at what his critics are saying.” With good grace, I sat back in front of my laptop, smiled and took it on the chin when this guy made that very comment for me. It’s an excellent article, highlighting the holes in the many outflanks and manoeuvres offered up against Brand (and we thought Russell was the sensationalist one, eh!).
One of the points raised is what all this Brand-bashing says about our ‘messiah culture’. Whether it’s Russell Brand or Jesus Christ, the people want answers. But fixing all your hopes on one dude is an outdated view of revolution in my opinion. Until we stop making other people, and particularly a single, fallible individual, responsible for our actions, how can real change happen?
That Brand poses questions but no solutions is a common accusation, but only messiah culture gone mad would expect him to single-handedly sort our shit out. Brand has never claimed to have a master plan for changing current political structures from within. It also isn’t Brand’s responsibility to be coherent or likeable. Even his so-called ‘naivety’, simplification of issues and the errors in his book, which are offensive to many, can be seen as refreshing in a mainstream media environment which generally lacks alternative narratives for change. We all make mistakes, after all.
If Brand acquiesced to his haters and fit into a more ‘sensible’ political commentator mould, he simply wouldn’t be saying the things he’s saying. He would be saying what everyone else already is, and we don’t need another one of those.
It may be an obvious statement, but the tide of shit slinging also detracts from the real issues. If Brand-Bashers really want change, how about focusing the anger where it’s appropriate? This is bigger than Brand and his big hair and long words. Let’s look at the cause of his disillusionment, not the expression of it. At least Brand has got everyone riled up, which is more than anyone else has achieved. It’s a good start.
“But where’s the bloody end of it all, messiah”, we cry! Well there isn’t one (sorry) but as a good friend reminded me, change happens through a dialogue – through human communication. Since absolutely everyone has an agenda to further, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to effecting change. Whether it’s the media we listen to, the Facebook algorithms controlling what we see on social media feeds (see here for more on that ), or because we choose our friends, partners and lifestyles based on upholding shared values, it’s no surprise that our tendency is to only see points of view that we already agree with. That’s life, as they say.
All we can really do then, is keep talking and learning using all means possible, with as diverse a range of people and views as possible. It’s imperfect, challenging and can be warped, and it’s becoming infinitely more complex with each new mode of communication invented – but for every negative there’s also a positive. If we do our best to communicate with empathy, perhaps the current surge of interest in politics might actually get us somewhere.
Let’s stay friendly. Concentrate on understanding why and how other’s views were formed, no matter how ‘far out’ they seem, and trying our damnedest to not be tempted into contempt for our fellow human. Whether it’s Brand or Farage or your next-door neighbour, only through radical empathy and understanding will this world change. Otherwise it’s just the schoolyard writ large across the face of an earth that needs evolved adults. That’s why I’m jumping off the bandwagon and starting my own personal revolution, and I suggest you do the same*.
*DISCLAIMER: Just don’t blame me if you find it’s not an easy road to travel. Staying open to opposing viewpoints never has been the popular choice. It’s not as ‘ranty’, doesn’t provide the short-lived feeling of release you get when you slag someone off, and the idea is that it allows far less egoistic one-upmanship (but hell, I’m not promising to always live up to my own standards. Sorry loves, I ain’t perfect, but I try my best).