THE BLOG

If Russell Brand So Hates Inequality, Why Does He Persist In Being So Rich?

23/04/2015 15:21 BST | Updated 22/06/2015 10:59 BST

There is more than a touch of the American television evangelist about multimillionaire charismatic Russell Brand - hypocrisy writ so large that it has become somehow elliptical or, at least, unchallengeable.

I say unchallengeable because the inability of any chatshow host (Brand is always on chatshows) or journalist to ask him the simple question: "If you so hate inequality, why do you persist in being so rich?" is otherwise inexplicable.

Where television evangelists are fond of espousing the ungodliness of materialism from private jets paid for with donations from all too credulous congregations, Brand weekly films himself for his YouTube Trews show bemoaning privilege from the back of a chauffeured limousine - literally broadcasting direct from the lap of luxury.

"What is the function of capitalism, except for self-preservation?" he asks from the car this week. "It's got no real ideals, it's got no social ideals, like to change things and make things better, create new institutions. All it wants to do is protect itself, and the band of privileged at the top."

Leaving aside the vacuity of this statement ("things"), it is interesting to hear Brand - a man believed to be worth some £15million - discussing the privilege capitalism affords the elite. Presumably, he enjoys this privilege hugely.

Did he not, he would divest himself of it.

That he hasn't is his choice, but why then is he so angry with other people who, like him, have accrued wealth sufficiently vast as to be near-unimaginable for 99 percent of the global populace? What have they done wrong that he has not?

In his latest film, The Emperor's New Clothes, Brand takes to the streets of London's financial district with a megaphone, all the better to berate the bankers he blames for complicity in the creation of a global financial system that allows for the existence of inequality.

He is richer, of course, by many multiples, than almost everyone he yells at.

Asked to move on by a security guard while waiting without appointment to speak to the CEO of a bank, Brand says sarcastically: "It's alright. I'll wait around. He must be up there working. Four million a year, he's probably up there grafting."

Watching this interaction, it is hard not to consider that if anyone knows what it takes to earn four million pounds or more in a year, it is Brand. For some reason, he doesn't mention this.

Perhaps in the post-revolution, post-capitalism utopia Brand advocates and so very vaguely describes for us ("things" will be different), only comedians and light entertainers will be permitted to be multimillionaires.

But we are not there yet, and so it is hard to take him seriously when he is richer than almost everyone he criticises so vociferously... for being rich.

If he really is serious about addressing the social problems caused by inequality and the possession of too much wealth by too few people, he could set an excellent example by giving his money away - he could put it where his mouth is. He could give it all to the poor.

This would be a genuinely revolutionary act.

Then, when we saw him on television, attacking the system that has enriched him, we might say: "There is a man who has the courage of his convictions, a man prepared to sacrifice everything he has for his beliefs."

But Brand is not going to give his money away. Because, like virtually everybody else on Earth, he loves being wealthy.

That is why, instead of truly practising what he preaches, he makes himself richer selling revolution-themed merchandise and tour dates. If he wasn't so charming, it might all seem very cynical.

Just as it would be hard to be lectured on pacifism by a thug, or on sobriety by an unreformed drunk, so it is hard to swallow Brands's inequality shtick when he is wealthier than the prime minister, whom he says he despises on account of the privilege he represents.

It rings hollow. How could it not?