THE BLOG
07/11/2013 06:51 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution - In Defence of Russell Brand

Unless you've been on a media blackout/spent the last week arranging rocks in a Himalayan cave, you've probably heard about cheeky old Russell Brand's latest japes.

Calling for nothing less than a revolution whilst having a chat with his favourite beard-brother Jeremy Paxman, Brand has caused quite the stir. There's a split developing between those that think he might just be on to something and those that think he's talking out of his 'arris.

I'm solidly in the former camp. Strip away the bouffant, the guyliner, the mesmerising verbosity and the sexualised energy (I don't have a man-crush, honest) and here's a man that is saying what so many have been thinking.

Many don't see it this way.

To some, Russell Brand's a bit of a wally, spouting nonsense about things he knows little about; to others he's a threat to democracy and civilised society.

Brand has recently come out in defence of his position, but inevitably even this has been attacked as a smug, self-serving publicity grab.

As an average bloke; one who doesn't have backcombed hair, eye makeup or the sex drive of a Bonobo (I'll let you decide on the mesmerising verbosity), I'm here to defend Brand in ways he both has and hasn't been able to himself.

So here are the most often churned out arguments against Brand and why they are just complete and utter nonsense.

He's a Hypocrite

A candy-land of logical fallacy, this argument.

The suggestion is that because of Brand's position, status and wealth, he has no right to comment on the corruption and dysfunction of the system with which we abide. He has directly benefited from said system and therefore any criticism he has of it is essentially just kicking the ladder away for anyone else who may also benefit.

Absurd.

This argument is entirely constructed as a deflection tactic. It's obfuscation used to deny the validity of the points being made.

Brand puts it excellently himself - if he talks from a position of poverty, he's bitter; from a position of wealth, a hypocrite.

It's a lose-lose situation.

Some will respond like Quagmire from Family Guy, "What have you done to help? I work down at the soup kitchen..., never seen you down there! You want to help? Grab a ladle!"

At first that view might seem justified. The thing is though, as worthy and helpful as that may be, it's important to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Brand giving up his wealth, or volunteering at a soup kitchen would not be anywhere near as worthy or useful as Brand using his position to make the populace sincerely question why corporations and governments don't give up their wealth or volunteer at soup kitchens (figuratively speaking of course... sort of).

Brand is having his turn on the megaphone and has made people talk about these things. That's a success of sorts, in and of itself.

Give a man some soup and he'll eat for a day; give the populace a rhetorical framework within which to conceive policies of fair wealth distribution, and he may just eat, reasonably well, for the rest of his life.

Democracy Does Work

"Vote someone else in."

"Spoil your ballot paper instead."

These are lovely suggestions but they'd make not a jot of difference.

The problem is that when the issues concerned are systemic, perpetuating the system as a means to facilitate change from within is not going to help.

The point being, we are entrenched in the 21st century neo-liberal view that democracy and capitalism are the only ways forward. They aren't; human kind has survived and in countless cases flourished without such systems.

I am not for one moment suggesting we give up on either.

They just need an update. Western values 2.0.

An update that fixes that annoying bug where wealth only rises and sticks like a magnet to the upper echelons of society.

An update that blocks the malicious malware of divide and rule politics.

An update that is open source, made by the people, for the people, rather than by 'the corporation' (yes, my tin-foil hat's very comfortable thank you).

Representative democracy only works when it does what it's intended to; represent the people. Right now, it only represents itself.

He Hasn't Provided an Alternative

No he hasn't. Not really.

He touched on it in the Paxman interview and expanded on it a bit in his 'manifesto'. Some kind of mass redistribution of wealth, based upon socialist and egalitarian values, with a sprinkling of good old human compassion and a stepping up consciously or spiritually.

It's up to us to join the dots and to be fair, I'd have been rather uncomfortable had he gone beyond these vague idealistic assertions.

Brand has opened the forum. He now gracefully bows out; deferring to the people. That's true democracy.

He knows too that greater minds than his have deliberated over these issues for centuries; the likes of Rawls, Marx, Socrates et al.

I think Brand's point is, surely we can draw on these political powerhouses and come up with something that's a bit, well, fairer for everyone?

Go Live in Saudi Arabia

The worst and most fallacious argument of them all.

Usually formed along the lines of "if you don't like it, go live in Saudi Arabia/North Korea/China etcetera, then you'll see how good you have it; how well that democracy stuff treats you."

It was one of the main arguments put forth by Robert Webb in his response to Brand - "What were the chances, in the course of human history, that you and I should be born into an advanced liberal democracy?" - the implication being that we are the luckiest chappies and chappettes the world has ever known, so stop the moaning and be thankful you need not fear child-catchers, untreatable gingivitis and gout or something.

Why?

Why should I be happy with the way things are just because they aren't as bad as somewhere else or as they were at another point in history?

If things could be better, shouldn't we strive to make them so?

"Well, you know the government spies on me, the energy companies have an effective hegemonic monopoly and so can literally charge me whatever they like for essential utilities, the mass media is either state owned or run by a dictatorial uber-capitalist and so fabricates or pushes stories that perpetuate a singularly neo-lib agenda, the neediest and poorest in society are scapegoated as the cause of an economic crisis which was actually caused by a group of wealthy, overreaching greedy f*****s who still receive millions in pay-outs, bailouts and bonuses despite what was indisputably their major balls-up (and in any other industry would have resulted in a bit more than a slap on the wrist and a golden handshake), I'm plied with 'on-all-the-time' media featuring semi-nude American teens, hashtags and cats, a whole load of cats, which is complicit in the desensitising and numbing of any individuality, personality or creativity and instead urges me to consume, consume, consume, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who live without the basic human need of shelter. Nationalised services which were once considered essential for the public have been sold to the highest bidder(s) to make a profit, workers' groups have been entirely pushed to the margins and branded as taboo, leaving little to no rights for the average man or woman in the workplace and no one to fight for them thus zero hours' contracts, there's an education system that champions social mobility but results in 22 year olds starting their working lives with £30,000 of debt...but hey... at least I don't live in China."

Viva Revolution?

I don't like some things the way they are. Neither does Russell Brand. Neither do a lot of people.

To try and change these things, I could stroll down to put my little x in the box when 2015 comes calling, like a good little boy.

Or maybe instead, I could think outside the xs in boxes; think beyond first past the post, Westminster and the rigid structure of this current version of democracy entirely.

More than anything, politics needs to return to the people. It needs to engage them. Within the current confines of our centuries-old system, this just won't happen.

As my old Politics lecturer, Gerry Stoker (perhaps Britain's leading thinker on political engagement), used to say (and probably still does) - engaging the populace is the biggest challenge politics faces in the modern era.

One way to get people engaged might just be to change everything; to start over from behind a Rawlsian 'veil of ignorance'.

It may not come today. It may not come tomorrow. But if things stay the way they are, it will come.

Brand knows what some others seem to deny or ignore: you won't fool the children of the revolution.