Russell Brand Ate My Hamster!

Photo  by Red2000A couple of weeks ago, prompted by lots of activity on facebook, I published this article about Russell Brand’s recent interview with Jeremy Paxman.

A few days later I published this one about how our insane system of money-as-debt is slowly driving our economy off a cliff.

The Russell Brand article has been viewed by ten times more people than the article about money, which is disappointing.

Russell’s interview with Jeremy was, frankly, and incoherent rant. His article in the New Statesman on the same subject was much more articulate but told us nothing that we don’t already know.

He’s basically saying that the vast majority of the population is utterly disillusioned with our ruling class, weary of the mendacity and greed of politicians and corporations, and longing for some sort of change that allows us to live free from the fear of poverty and ecological disaster.

Despite all of the opportunities that Russell has had during and since the interview with Jeremy he hasn’t come up with anything that’s of any practical use: nothing that could help us to get us from where we are to where he thinks we should be. He has done nothing to define any of the problems that have made him so angry, let alone identify root causes, or list the requirements for any solutions, or propose solutions, or discuss the things that need to be done to deliver them.

All Russell has done is say what lots of people are thinking, which is a good thing as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really take us very far. If we want to do more than grumble about how bad things are, if we actually want to make things better, we have to start tackling the problems themselves.

My article about money-as-debt tackles the root cause of most of the things that Russell is raging against. Much of the dysfunction in our society – poverty, pollution, war, famine, unsustainability – can be attributed to our abuse of money, and can be solved by changing the ways in which our financial systems work.

So why does my article on a loud-mouthed clown ranting about the evils of the system get ten times the number of views as my article about what’s actually wrong with the system and how we might fix it?

The celebrity factor has, no doubt, a large part to play. Russell Brand is famous, so his name attracts attention. But there’s more to it. Russell is expressing an opinion that’s widely held and we are drawn to people who reinforce our own opinions. We like Russell’s rant because he’s saying what we want to say ourselves and he’s getting heard on our behalf.

And it’s easy. Agreeing with Russell requires no effort on our part. All we have to do is listen to him ranting and say “Yeah. You’re right, Russell. The world’s a mess and it’s all their fault.” We enjoy the warm glow of our collective indignation.

In contrast, digging into our dysfunctional systems to discover the roots of the problems and working out what could be done to fix them is hard labour of the sort that most of us will avoid if we possibly can. My Russell Brand article doesn’t ask much of the reader, whereas the one that discusses money-as-debt is full of unfamiliar ideas that are hard to grasp. I can imaging eyes glazing over and the mouse clicking back to whatever is trending on facebook.

But no matter how much Russell rants and how much you agree with him, the hard fact is that nothing will change for the better unless we work out exactly what’s wrong, what can be done to fix it, and then build consensus to makes change happen.

So how do we proceed from being an amorphous mass of disgruntled individuals to a movement of informed citizens who know where they want to be and how they plan to get there?

Russell is motivated by abstract notions of sustainability and shared prosperity. He wants a revolution of the mind that leads us to a place where everyone is able to thrive in harmony with our island earth. Other people just want a job that offers more than wage-slavery, or an old age without fear of cold and hunger, or healthcare that’s reliable and affordable, or a business environment that allows productive people to be productive, or a way to share resources without resorting to war.

It is very difficult (some would say impossible) to achieve any of these things under our current financial system, which corners most of us into merciless employment or passive acceptance of hand-outs, demands rapacious use of the worlds resources, and is designed (intentionally or otherwise) to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.

Having spent the last few years investigating how our money system works I am now absolutely certain that its dysfunction is at the heart of all that is wrong with our society. Fixing our money system won’t solve all of these problems but it will give us a solid foundation on which we can build a better world for ourselves and future generations.

How do people like me, who have done the hard studying and thinking, convince you that we’re right? Articles like the money-as-debt one clearly aren’t the answer. Too long, too dull, too detailed, too hard to understand.

The nuts and bolts of change, the details of how we get from here to there are important but they’re of little use while most minds are preoccupied with fear and anger and most hearts are heavy with pessimism.

Russell is right: we need a revolution of the mind.

Those of us who can see what a better future might look like and how we can get to it have to take a step back from the nitty-gritty of our ideas and start telling stories, making pictures, describing how the world could be and what sort of journey we will have to go on to get there.

We have to learn how to entertain and engage people with ideas that are easy to grasp and absorb, using language that removes barriers to understanding. We need to distill our ideas into headlines, hooks, catchphrases, and the like that embed the possibility of change for the better into our collective consciousness.

“Russell Brand Ate My Hamster!” might not have anything to do with solving the problem of money-as-debt but it got you to click on the link and you’ve now read to the end of the article. Still far too many words and not enough entertainment, but it’s a start.

5 thoughts on “Russell Brand Ate My Hamster!

  1. Hi Malcolm,

    Thank you for this excellent post. Some of the difficulties in solving the economic problems that you outline in this post are similar or even identical to those concerning environment problems. As such, you will find the six factors quite pertinent in pages 54-55 of the book by John A. Hannigan, Environmental Sociology: A Social Constructionist Perspective, reprinted ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

  2. If the rule makers have the guts to reduce the rule set to a manageable set that we can understand then that’s all we can ask of politicians. If we want Scotland, or any place where we live or care about, to succeed…and if we measure success by increasing the collective smile….then it’s a doddle, but we will all have to get the collective finger pulled out.

    There are cities in the British Isles that are now museums. I cite only 2, Bristol providing historic evidence of Brunel’s toils and providing a rain cover to put a laid-up concorde in and Belfast for marking a shipping tragedy and providing bus rides to educate the visitor about “Troubles”, blah blah…but a museum is a luxury and a bus tour is a way of harvesting tourists, so all not primary sources of wealth creation.

    Take those 2 example cities….In Bristol they are digging up the runway in Filton in order to build houses….the result of a short term get-rich quick policy and the lack of any industrialist to see the South west as an aviation capital, or transport hub. Perhaps the politicians should have put the runway into public ownership using a bit of cash that they were quite happy to save the banks with….but it was the politicians who made the decision to smash up all the newly modified Nimrod MRA4s…so hardly a will there and no collective digit extraction to promote the idea. Runway gone for ever so folk can live next to the out of town shopping malls. Short term stupidity or what but all appeases shareholdes/bankers/accountants etc.

    In Belfast they couldn’t be arsed to lengthen the runway at the City Airport to allow flights to places more than 5-600 miles away….so no expansion possibility there either.

    What attracts industrialists…infrastructure, a willing and skilled work-force and a tax system that is not draconian. So the new choo choo train is a tiny part of the system. Sad that it will only repair a tiny fraction of the damage caused by Lord Beeching’s decision in the 60’s. Get all the lines opened up and take a more German approach to provision of public transport.

    Poor old Grangemouth narrowly avoided becoming the next Refinery museum until the collective fingers were extracted.

    So, doddle…educate the folk to get the skill set, get the message across that work is the route, have a simple law that prevents anyone or corporation from taking the piss, get the transport going without ripping us all off and let’s all go Engineering.

    Until then, the price of museum entrances may go up.

    Keep the faith, keep believing and keep thinking as publicly as you do and providing a forum for us all to crack it.


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