Russell Brand And The Tooting Popular Front

Over the last couple of days my Facebook page has been plastered with posts and comments about Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman, which has left me a bit perplexed because there was nothing remotely illuminating in Russell’s rant.

His frustration with our dysfunctional political and economic systems is genuine and understandable but if he had anything useful to say it was lost amongst his garbled delivery and peculiar flirtation with Jeremy. He offered nothing that could help us to see a way forward other than a call for revolution, which left me thinking of Wolfie and the Tooting Popular Front in the 1970s comedy Citizen Smith.

I still don’t understand why such a weak performance by Russell Brand has created such a buzz, but my puzzlement led me to read this article in the New Statesman in which he shows himself to be more than capable of delivering a coherent argument about a complex subject in a style that’s entertaining and engaging.

It’s a lengthy piece but it’s worth reading from start to finish because it’s full of good insights. He tells us things about ourselves that we’re not often willing to admit and encourages us to believe that we can change things for the better.

I’m not convinced by his argument that voting is a waste of time and that the only solution is revolution, but I do like the main message. In the end, the revolution that he’s asking for isn’t one of blood and destruction but a revolution of the mind, a change in the way that we think about our lives and how we should live them on a shared planet.

This might seem a bit rich coming from a man whose life is characterised by frivolous excess, all glitter and debauchery, fame and wealth. But he acknowledges the apparent hypocrisy of his position and in doing so we are challenged to look at ourselves, our own selfishness and apathy, and admit that our mindset is the only thing keeping us from making the world a better place.

If a celebrity comedian creature like Russell Brand can be as honest and forthright about the need for serious change – economic, political, spiritual – then we all can.

Once we have admitted that we have the capacity to make changes happen the next step is to identify the priorities. For Russell it appears to be about sharing the resources of the planet in ways that are fair and sustainable.

It’s hard to argue against that as a primary goal but I don’t see how we can get there until we fix our economic and political systems.

People cannot be expected to engage with radical changes while they live in fear of poverty and are ground down by relentless wage slavery. Our economy cannot adapt and thrive while our financial systems are designed to lurch from false unproductive boom to austerian bust.

And the revolution that we need cannot be peaceful and effective while our political system is held to ransom by those who seek to protect wealth, power and privilege.

If you’re like Russell, if you want to see a fairer and more sustainable world then get active. Educate yourself. Have a look at what Positive Money is advocating in terms of banking reform. Get involved in the debate about democracy in an independent Scotland (even if you’re not an enthusiast for independence there are lots of good ideas coming forward). Start demanding better things from your elected representatives and positive thinking from your friends and colleagues.

If you’re reading this you’re already online so all of the world’s wisdom is at your fingertips. There’s no excuse. Get on with it.


3 thoughts on “Russell Brand And The Tooting Popular Front

  1. Very interesting. I agree with you – he didn’t have anything ‘tangible,’ but I like how you put it as ‘if he can talk about this anyone can’ obviously I’m summing that idea up. It was unusual to me that he speaks of sustainability and resource allocation, but there was no deeper discussion about how politics themselves control those systems. We can all wish for a world where our struggling systems some how are fixed outside the mechanisms that control them, but ultimately, participation is necessary. Overall, I think ‘uneducated’ followers of Brand will take away that their dis-association with politics is the right thing to do. Not really the key for change – indifference.

    • I agree that some people will come away with the unhelpful idea that not voting is somehow going to beat the system. Robin Lustig concentrates on the ineffectiveness of such a view in his blog:

      His general dismissal of Brand as a clown, however, is misguided. Russell appears to be articulating frustration and anger that’s felt by many and his primary message is a positive one, which should be promoted and encouraged.

      There is no Messiah. No-one is going to come up with all the right answers. We’re going to have to edit out each others’ rubbish and highlight the good bits.

  2. Pingback: Russell Brand Ate My Hamster! | Views From The Boatshed

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