A week on since Brand went head to head again with his favourite foe and released his manifesto for revolution, he has well and truly captured our attention with at least 10 million views on youtube and an apparent takeover of my facebook feed. The Brand Wagon is merrily trundling through our town shaking our windows as he honks his quirky yet resonant horn, ringing out like the pied piper's flute into the ears of angsty teenagers and prophetic theologians alike. I would slate them for joining in and sharing Brand's message if it wasn't for the fact that I am first in line :)
I used to see Brand as a sensational and gratuitous comedian, and maybe he was. Now I observe a highly intelligent communicator who knows how to engage the general population with ideas previously limited to the walls of university libraries and laboratories. He has also developed an ability to create a conversational fortress around his position by swinging like tarzan between the the trees named important and ludicrous on a rope of self deprecation whilst beating his chest looking incessantly for Jane.
He is an artist, painting a picture, using all his powers, to signal to something different. As Paxman pushed him in the interview he admitted himself that he doesn't have an answer to the questions he's raising, which is absolutely fine as no-one needs to work alone on stuff like this. In order for his painting to have any real value, I can only hope that of the millions of viewers, some of them architects and engineers, some will use their own tools to flesh out into real alternatives what Brand has painted so eloquently with his broad brushstrokes.
After chuckling away at the interview and being captivated by his manifesto, three themes have resonated with thoughts I've carried for a long time. The first is his focus on political disengagement. The second is his intuitive belief in the spiritual realm. The third, and perhaps the most poignant, is his propensity to combine seriousness and chuckles. I will attempt to explain the ideas and their relevance to me below.
Political Disengagement Despite a different belief that I should have voted, I, along with Brand, am so disenchanted with the system that I seem to perpetuate the apathy rife in my generation. Since a young age I've held a belief that I would at some point, offer myself to some form of public service. The cliché characters like Spiderman and William Wilberforce alike have inspired me to take responsibility for those around me and bring about a change towards a more just and fair world has shaped my thinking for almost 20 years.
Upon receiving advice from a couple of wise old mentors telling me that I would not achieve the results I am looking for within the system, a career in politics was not a move I pursued, as I did not feel that my voice would carry a weight required to contribute to a shift a paradigm from within that archaic institution we call government. Instead, I've been fumbling through a career using the vehicles of business, technology and entrepreneurship, searching for a different kind of space from which to find authority to speak.
Spiritual Realm Recently the topic that has captured my attention more than any other is an understanding of authenticity. Growing up in a Christian home, and enjoying an emphasis on both experiencing God, his unconditional love for us, and his invitation to treat others in the same way, along with the framework of building a life of character and delayed gratification that I have learnt from the Bible, means I oscillate between a left-side and right-side understanding of what this spiritual part of me means for my life and work. My heart resonates deeply with Russell's declaration that the world needs a spiritual revolution. I fundamentally believe that the answers to our problems in this world do not lie solely in the redistribution of wealth, reformation of our government, or in an unbiased media, but also in a spiritual awakening that allows for the idea that what we logically comprehend to be reality is not change itself but a sign that a deeper change of heart and soul has occured.
'Actual Reality' is a weird thing that supersedes all the paradigms and frameworks that we've come to understand as society and begs a bigger question of how we sustain this life we call creation. What I know intuitively to be real, I struggle to articulate out of a fear that the limitation of our words will struggle to capture or incorrectly frame what I believe I've experienced of the Love through Jesus Christ, whom I have spent my years trying (and failing) to model my life on.
For a number of years now I have been wrestling with how to distill these kingdom values and have been exploring a system that can exist in the paradigms of business, charity and social technology that reflects a glimmer of the value and truth that I understand....This, I have learnt is a mugs' game!! :) and has taken the best part of my twenties to distill. I am convinced that now through Givey, we're attempting to build a giving platform that gives people a tool to respond empathetically to the needs they see. I'm convinced that focusing on the fact that somebody has acted in a tangible way, irrespective of the monetary value of their transaction, is the most important part of our system, reflecting the incomprehensible values we've discussed. Our relationships with each other, and the causes that we care most deeply about, and our real action towards changing them is a response to the challenge Brand is throwing out. My life has not been about a political career, the vehicle I have chosen is business and the tool is web technology but the mission is the same as any servant leader responsible to engage, lead and reflect the views of their constituency.
Many have and will continue to question my personal agenda, but this is something that I will happily join the haters too, in questioning openly as, the way I see it, this has been the only route that was easily available to give me a shot at building an institution that reflects a fraction of the values that I believe to be vital to our future. It also comforts me that I believe we all have an agenda but what is important is the self awareness to articulate that agenda to empower those in relationship with you to see it clearly and to ensure we get paid in a way that does not conflict with the agenda we have articulated. I believe a conflict in the projected agenda, real agenda and payment flow is one of the biggest issues with UK politics today.
Seriousness and Entertainment The final major point Brand makes is about the balance between engaging attention grabbing entertainment and valuable content ideas and stories that inform and shape our thinking, systems and behaviour. He embodies this conundrum in an incredible and unparallelled fashion, undulating seamlessly from discussing the world's most elemental and essential ideas, through to persuading Jeremy Paxman that he should be intertwining his beard with his armpit hair. This not only significantly increases the sound of Brands global voice but also makes him almost invulnerable to any opposition, and more deeply engages people with the topics that matter the most, regardless of whether they agree with him or not.
On a micro level I've experienced the same exact conundrum on my YouTube channel. Recognising the higher ratio of entertainment, the more views, and greater engagement, the higher the level of serious, or as Brand would say, solemn content, the lower the engagement and arguably, the less effective the content. This is summed up most appropriately in that my most successful video closing in on 20,000 views is me frolicking around in Waterloo dancing and tearing my trousers, and my least successful video, at least quantitatively, is me interviewing a wonderful and compassionate man, whose son will die within ten years unless he or someone else finds a cure for the disease that's destroying his life. This conundrum between attention and content I have experienced is impossibly difficult without becoming a complete product of the self-obsessed social media culture that prevails in our youth.
Brand is, love him or hate him, an effective vessel to carry and project a message that many voices are speaking and acting on in their own individual ways. Change does not come through one vehicle, voice, system, or act of revolution. It comes through a synergistic swarm of creators coming at the hive from every possible angle. I believe him to be a brave and authentic voice, despite his quirks and sensationalist tendencies, he is one of the few who somehow manages to maintain his role as a crude comedian and equally as a voice of value.
In a world filled with question-dodgers and status-quo protectors, he's leaving quite an impression but needs other voices with different tools to interpret his artwork into systems, innovations and altered expectations.
Lets see what happens next :) Let me know what you are thinking.....