Regardless of your personal feelings toward Russell Brand, I urge you to place any preconditioned feelings aside, because Revolution raises some important questions. How does it do this? Simple: by highlighting the obvious amount of inequality and bullshit that makes up the vast bulk of our society.
Now, I’m going to comment upon the virtue of the book as a whole rather than get bogged down in the detail, the essence of which is, why should we settle for anything less than the best society available? Why shouldn’t we ask questions when we know something is wrong? Why shouldn’t we push for improvement?
At some point in all this someone will ask the inevitable, what is the alternative? This is the easiest attack to make on the book because shockingly, Russell Brand isn’t an expert. His answers lie in community, both global and local. That collectively we need to start basing our decisions toward a more important goal than profit: the collective wellbeing of people and the planet. Any solution to the world’s problems, and no one can deny that it has them, will be difficult to achieve: but a difficult answer is absolutely no justification for dismissing the question. This is the most significant message of the book. A realignment of our basic morality and a refusal to actively participate in any system which is in conflict to these ideals is the basic idea.
First and foremost, I am not a wishy-washy, hippy love-in type: I am not a communist, and I don’t think communism works. Certain professions require a higher level of skill, and wages should reflect that. But equally, I don’t subscribe to those like Blackadder, who would ‘mud-wrestle [their] own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing alarm clock, and a stack of French porn.’ The principle of profit before everything is a notion which is contemptible and should have no place in society, let alone be at its very core. I merely accept that there are problems with the world and that they need solving.
If we could have quick solutions using that rarest of entities, common sense, for the far more obvious and easier issues which are still rife things would be much easier. Take sexism for example: are we all equal? Yes. Should we therefore all be treated equally? Yes. “Now, wait a minute my dear fellow, do not be so rash: surely such a radical senitment would result in women being paid the same amount as men, you cannot possibly want that?” YES! Next ridiculous problem please.
We all know that certain brands use sweatshops and that this is basically modern slavery. A telling statistic from a recent survey calculated 36 million people live as slaves. And we all know that there are huge corporations that pay bugger all tax. Yet we do pretty much nothing. And this is what Brand highlights throughout: the only way these corporations can continue to exist is through the active participation of the wider public. We don’t need the amount of clothes we buy: it’s just a vanity thing. The reality is if there was a widespread effort to stop purchasing items from such corporations, they could not survive and would have to change. Revolution by non-violent action and morally responsible solutions. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?
To make this easier on those who get easily caught up in the emotion of such arguments and completely miss the point, let’s cut through any potential rhetorical issues. Brand uses the phrase ‘Revolution’ which instantly conjures images of mindless bloodshed and let’s guillotine the aristocracy type scenarios: so instead let’s use ‘improvement’, which is far more palatable. ‘Revolution’ or ‘improvement’ should be used to rid the world of the corrupt and inequality. Because let’s face it, no one is in favour of inequality, unless you are a Nazi: which I certainly hope that you are not.
One of the big issues raised is politics, so let’s give that a crack.
Recently Russell Brand has been criticised for publicly stating that he does not vote: his reason, there is no one worth voting for. This is a typical example which Revolution raises, and just like the book, you must evaluate the essence of the argument. If you vote, that is active participation and validation of the current political system; but if you genuinely believe that the system is a load of bollocks, why should you be expected to actively participate in it?
The argument that people died for the vote is just a way of wrapping the issue in something evocative and it doesn’t work. Most of those who fought in World War I did not do so thinking that they would get the vote if they signed up: the reality is, most didn’t know the real reasons why they were fighting at all. Universal male suffrage was a result of the extraordinary sacrifice, not the motivation behind the sacrifice in the first place. It was much more basic than that: they fought for our freedom, not a specific political system. We should draw lessons from history, not manipulate it. If you feel that voting for a political party will make a change, then vote. But if you are like Russell Brand who doesn’t think that will make a difference, then don’t. Widespread change is exceedingly unlikely to come from within. There is no disputing this: assimilation has been the core of staving off revolution in this country for hundreds of years.
Just look at the Monarchy, who changed their name to Windsor so that people would forget that they’re German. It’s like a cartoon where Bugs Bunny puts on a false moustache to evade Elmer Fudd.
Ask yourself this: do you believe in divine right? The answer is probably no. Yet the monarchy is still incredibly popular. Why? Tradition. Does it not bother people that they have absolutely no justification for still being there? If they weren’t appointed by some bearded chap, floating around in the sky, then surely they are obsolete? (This was before they were imported from Prussia of course.) It is not a question of whether they are good for the country or not. Yes, they are good ambassadors, but the overriding factor at the very heart of the problem, is that they have no right to be there. People like to point to tourism, which is another way of saying money. But look at France: they didn’t forget about their monarchy once it went, and I’m pretty sure quite a few people still go to Versailles. We have a rich heritage which we are all proud of (well, parts of it anyway), but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to improve our future. I would like to think that we’ve moved on from this ridiculous, medieval concept. And no matter what you’re thinking is on this subject, there is no arguing that a monarchy reinforces the belief that you can be born better than others. All they are now is a novelty item, and I think we would cope alright without them.
If you’re not convinced, consider this: do you expect politicians to keep their promises? No, of course you don’t; no one other than blind optimists and the sinfully naïve expect this: Nick Clegg and his pledge on tuition fees being the most recent exploitation. Or how about David Cameron’s “big society”, where did that go? If you vote for someone, yet don’t even expect them to follow through, is that not a little bit worrying? You should be voting for a person who will represent you: not just be deciding which of the lying bastards is slightly better than the other.
So, if, IF, there is a better system which isn’t a constitutional monarchy and the current political system does not represent the will of the people (which is what it is supposed to do) why don’t we want a system that does? When did mediocrity become acceptable just because the issue at hand is a daunting one?
And this is what Russell Brand is talking about: he’s making you think about the bigger picture. If the system is flawed, if you don’t believe you are being represented properly, then why accept the system? It hasn’t always been there. If the nation rejected the system it would have to change. And this is where terminology becomes important because politicians, for all their other flaws, are pretty good when it comes to bullshitting. Yes, this would constitute a revolution, but if that change is seen as improvement – the old system isn’t the best so let’s change it type improvement – then why not?
Brand is offering nothing new here. He is simply highlighting the principles of great revolutionaries. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr both utilised non-violence against inequality. Yet, despite offering a respectability which other methods don’t, this is rarely utilised to its full potential. And if other methods were used what would happen? Protestors would be demonised by the tabloids. We now revere the Suffragettes for their courage and representation of women’s rights, yet if anything similar were seen today they’d probably be branded as terrorists. Think this sounds a bit extreme, Margaret Thatcher was all for keeping Nelson Mandela in prison and David Cameron is far from innocent in that small matter of apartheid, funny that wasn’t mentioned too much a year or so ago.
Getting bored of politics? How about sport then.
FIFA (the organisation, not the game), what comes to mind? An out of touch, corrupt, old man’s club by any chance? The governing body of the biggest sport in the world has reduced itself to nothing less than an absolute disgrace. Honestly, who did they think they are kidding? An investigation into the bidding process of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups clears the winning bidders of any wrong doing, and who does it criticise? England, because it was our press who caused this issue in the first place: well there’s a surprise.
Michael Garcia, the man who led the enquiry, not only spoke out against FIFA’s results but didn’t even have the jurisdiction to ensure full cooperation of those involved. So he could only talk to those who wanted to talk to him. Is this supposed to convince us there was no wrong doing? How stupid do FIFA think people are? But don’t worry we still haven’t got to the best part…
Not only did Russia allow Garcia access to only a small portion of their documents, they hired out the computers they used for all their emails, handed them back afterwards, and they’ve since conveniently been destroyed. Right, so essentially they watched The Dark Knight, liked the idea of Lucius Fox blowing up Batman’s sonar device after he was finished with it, and went for something similar. Oh.My.God. If this doesn’t spark a serious backlash and some kind of meaningful action then it’s going to take something ludicrous. Like a film being leaked of Sepp Blatter on a pile of gold second only to Smaug, using Lionel Messi as a dining table as he bends Pele over and forces David Beckham to watch chained up in the corner.
It’s there for us all to see (FIFA not the disturbing image I just conjured) and now David Bernstein has begun calls to boycott the World Cup if all these matters aren’t sorted. This is exactly the kind of situation Brand talks about. There is a system which is clearly rotten, so instead of just accepting it willy-nilly and for the lazy reason that it’s already there, let’s take meaningful action using proven methods of non-participation, and force change.
And if the organisations won’t cooperate, then let the fans take control. Football is a sport of the people after all: you only need a ball, some mates and some makeshift goalposts and you’re ready to go. So why don’t the people take back their sport. If fans refused to go to any qualifiers or tournaments ran by FIFA, they would have to act. Cooperative action on a large-scale would work, because without the fans, the sport is nothing. It is only through continuing loyalty to their countries which prevents people from doing this. Place the overall benefit of the game before your own country and FIFA would have to change.
Football isn’t the only sport with problems of course, just look at F1 in its current crisis. I won’t ramble on about that now, as I already have, which you can read in my F1 rots post.
People might think that Russell Brand is being sensationalist: but the reality is, if you look at these issues with a clear mind, he has a point. Yes there are problems with the book and there will be elements you won’t like or agree with: but that doesn’t matter. It’s the basic message which is important.
The only issue is that the environment, whether that is sport, politics, or global issues, has to reach such high levels of extremes before people will act. No one likes change because it’s uncertain. But if you could choose an ideal world to live in tomorrow, would it not be one which is based upon morally positive principles, with equality and cooperation at the core? Just because this objective will be hard to achieve, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for. Man did get to the moon for f*** sake, we’re not that incapable.
Just look at bank executives getting paid all those bonuses during the recession while interest rates stayed the same; the widening gap between the rich and poor in America. Racism, sexism, they are all tied up in the same issue. So long as profit is at the forefront of thinking, social issues will always be second (if that.) That’s one of the reasons they drag on for so long. And this is what Russell Brand is getting at with ‘Revolution’, we all know the score, so why not act on it.
Improvement doesn’t seem like such a bad goal to me…