Russell Brand has crashed into the political stage in a way that only he can, but his political astuteness has not been embraced by everyone just yet
British politics has just heard from its most recent newly-emerged biggest fan: Russell Brand. After having caused quite a stir standing as guest editor of the New Statesman, being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight about his views on voting and chatting with Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan about spirituality, politics and Philip Green, what do we all think of the Essex born comedian the makers of TOWIE wished they could have had?
No one is quite sure where Russell’s sudden realisation of the world of politics came from; maybe Hollywood got too hot or maybe the bedroom tax just really grinds his gears. Either way, in true Brand-esque style, whatever he is saying, he is saying it nice and loud.
This all started with Russell’s extended (very extended) essay in the New Statesman detailing the current state of our political system that is designed to benefit corporate elites and to create and placate an underclass, how cohesiveness between human beings and the planet have been lost and how we, living in the relative luxury and security of the west, are detached and disengaged from the genuine suffering and degradation of those hidden from us.
Shortly after publication, fellow comedian Robert Webb attacked him for “wilfully talking through [his] arse about something very important” and claimed it made him want to rejoin the Labour party. This was directed mainly at Russell’s call for us to stop voting for a corrupt system.
Now, I’m not claiming to have vast political knowledge or even remotely qualified in any form of social science but, luckily for me, I have a laptop and an internet connection and so I can at least write here about my own opinions and, in the spirit of true freedom of speech, I’m giving you the choice to read on or not (but you should read on).
I think that Russell Brand is being treated unfairly. And, basically, I think he’s right. I’m 23, and so haven’t had too many opportunities to vote but, I’ll confess, when the time does come, I am not sure if I would. Frankly I’ve never seen the point. All I see are a group of old men who don’t really know what it is to live in the real world. Who are they to tell me what is good for me?
Listening to LBC 97.3 last week, participants were discussing the number of MPs who have actually held real jobs outside of politics before starting their political careers. The impression I got was that it was relatively low, which worries me about the leaders of our country. When I was at dental school, we practised injections on each other, our fellow dental students – an important reason for this being that you should feel yourself what it’s like to have an injection before you do it to a patient. Shouldn’t politicians have to work by the same principle?
I am lucky enough to have grown up in a stable home with no financial difficulties, and, being a middle class Brit, I can safely say that I will never be persecuted or hunted down, and I have a good chance of getting home in one piece every day (unless it’s an event day at Wembley Stadium). But in spite of all of the security I can boast, we are still being exploited for the gains of the upper ‘elites’. Coming from an entire family working in the NHS, I can see how my parents have worked harder than anyone I know, after having studied for years, to have their earnings taxed by almost 50 per cent. Which is fine if the taxes didn’t seem to disappear into thin air or get spent on a war that wasn’t really justified, ethical, supported or affordable.
During his interview with Jeremy Paxman, Russell talked about his opinion of the government’s priorities. When he mentioned that the Conservative party are taking the EU to court simply to defend banker’s bonuses, one can’t help but remember that, at the same time, ‘necessary’ cuts are being made to education, healthcare and welfare. His stand, that politicians irrespective of party affiliations, are working for, if not controlled by, the interests of the corporate elites, has some credibility when you consider that Philip Green very openly doesn’t pay income tax, thanks to a not-so-subtle loophole in the system. Compare this against the recent introduction of the bedroom tax, it would seem that being rich has some inherent advantages.
Talking and cracking awkward jokes with Huff Post’s Mehdi Hassan in East London last Monday, Russell – reclining, climbing, lying down…anything but sitting like a normal person on the chair – spoke with raw and brutal honesty. He touched on his past of drink and drugs, his regrets of being part of the ‘charade’ and game being played to placate the masses, and how transcendental meditation has made him a better person. But even though this makes me happy, and gives me the slightest hint of hope that there are some thinking people out there, is he just telling us something we’re craving to hear? That frustrated generation-Y-ers ARE right and that the politicians ARE evil?
The truth is, we love hearing honesty from the mouths of celebrities. It makes us feel like we can identify, that they are human too and that we are all the same. Perhaps it is the over-individualisation of society forcing us to crave some form of equality or connectedness to our fellow humans. Or perhaps it’s just our love of scandal. I don’t know whether Russell has clocked on and decided the public might like a self-confessed “scumbag drug-addict” telling everyone to ditch the ballot boxes and revolt against the corporates, or whether he has a genuine, unselfish cause and is using his notoriety to give it some attention.
Ignoring just for one second all of the miserable pessimists quibbling over practicalities, Russell could have been saying much worse things (for the record, he did clarify that he DIDN’T want death camps, which is always a nice bonus). Essentially, he would like a world where we all respect each other and the planet that we live on, where the poor are helped and the rich are humbled, where there is no wealth and no poverty; only equality. Plato already described something similar in his Republic so what Russell is saying isn’t even anything particularly new – but whether Plato was told to go and “read some [effing] Orwell” is still yet to be ascertained.
Russell Brand isn’t a politician or a leader or an authority, and despite his hunger-games-like stand to boycott the vote, he never actually claimed to be. But he has been there. He’s been a drug addict and part of the pacified “underclass”, but he’s also hosted the MTV awards and seen the other side of Hollywood. When most politicians have barely heard of an oyster card and wonder how light bulbs are changed, a part of me is inclined to give Russell Brand a little bit more attention.
Even if the plethora of rainbows and sunshine in his egalitarian utopia haven’t been completely thought through, at least he’s not twerking.
“I don’t mind giving up some of my baubles and balderdash for a genuinely fair system, so can we create one?” Russell Brand, 2013
Image from: http://www.justforlaughschicago.com/justforlaughschicago/stories/story/0,,266020,00.html
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