Russell Brand found a willing audience in Cambridge earlier this week as students turned out in their hundreds to hear him muse upon subjects as diverse as One Direction (Harry Styles is "apparently a bit of a character"), recreational drugs (Brand would have them fully legalised and regulated) and, of course, his much fêted revolution.
Brand's rhetoric is loquacious and verbose but using big words doesn't make you clever and it certainly doesn't make you right. Almost Dickensian in its chewiness, his performance of the intellectual is a good one, but that's all he is- an actor. Brand may like to think of himself as one of the great minds of our times -and don't kid yourself, all this faux modest "don't listen to me, I'm an idiot" is posturing of the most ridiculous and patronising kind- but regurgitating select cuts of your pick-and-mix theology/philosophy/political tract doesn't make you a genius. If he wasn't famous, we would ignore him.
Brand claims that he's "not talking about apathy" when he encourages people not to vote, but his "politicians are all mean and why can't we just love each other?" line is nothing more than the sulky whining of a teenage anarchist writ large. If Brand was seriously trying to get people to engage politically, he wouldn't be calling them to unite over ideas so ephemeral and vague that they are essentially meaningless. "Find your inner truth" is a nice mantra for a yoga retreat, but it's hardly a slogan by which to run the NHS.
The problem is that 'revolution' is sexy. That's why we name bars after it and get damp-eyed over Che Guevra despite not being entirely confident of where Argentina is on the world map. The mere notion of change is an easy thing to get excited about. "(The revolution) will happen instantaneously, it's happening now!" Brand told the feverish crowd, none of who seemed to have noticed that they were in the midst of Brand's dream of "absolute non-compliance" and "mass civil disobedience" against the shadowy "they" whom "we" are against. In the honourable words of Chazz Michael Michaels "nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative, it gets the people going".
The ludicrousness of Brand's X Factor style direct democracy dream was summed up by no one better than the audience member who shouted "I've got shit to do". The reality is that we don't really care about the nitty gritty of governmental decision making. I wouldn't wake up every morning and read through all the documents necessary to make an informed decision about policy. Neither would you. We've got friends to see and Candy Crush levels to ace and sinks to unblock. Brand says the way to engage people in politics is to "make it sexy, make it fun, make it enjoyable" but governmental decision making is none of those things. It's boring. Revolution may be sexy but deciding fishing quota for the North East of England sure isn't.
The problem is not that Brand's proposals are ridiculous, because if they were merely ridiculous we could laugh at them and move on. The problem is that they are so attractive to a disenfranchised youth. Brand addressed the Cambridge Union, we turned out in our droves to see him and it wasn't to tell him to go home.
Brand's witterings are wildly socially irresponsible as he encourages an already politically disengaged generation to feel further alienated from the democratic system. When people feel they have no vested interest in the system it doesn't lead to Brand's spiritual and social awakening or the search for "inner truth", whatever that means. It just leads to rioting.