by Hannah Wallace Bowman
Let me begin by saying, I like Russell Brand. A lot. There is actually quite a high chance that I am in love with the rambunctious quipster. That now famous interview with Jeremy Paxman has been viewed worldwide and, quite honestly, I could not be more thrilled that he was able to articulate, in less than 10 minutes, the frustrations of a generation.
The problem is, however, that Jezza the J-ster Paxman, could not get past the fact that Brand himself does not vote. He could not get past Brand as being “facestious”, as Brand being a joker, as Brand being “trivial”; in fact, he could not get past the idea of Brand as an individual at all. And, while this made for scintillating viewing, it is also precisely why we cannot look to Mr RB to lead the revolution.
This has to be about more than just one man. This is about a message.
As we have seen from the responses of his critics over the past week or so, it is all too easy to undermine the need for change, when the impetus for said change becomes the responsibility of a man who also played the lead role in “Get me to The Greek.”
Rather than a deeper engagement with the social and political concerns that have generated such a profound response, the discussion is easily diverted to considerations of Brand’s questionable conduct with women or his former drug addiction.
In a widely circulated article for the Huffington Post, David Lustig accuses the comedian of being “Not just daft, but dangerous,” condemning Brand for suggesting people are justified in bowing out of an electoral system that fails to serve them.
“Voting doesn’t change anything?” asks Lustig in rhetorical disgust.
“Tell all those tens of thousands of British workers on the minimum wage”
A minimum wage in the UK? Really, Señor Lustig? This is one of the best examples you can come up with as to how the electoral system serves the citizenry?
Excuse me if I slip on my skeptical face for a moment.
Surely this demonstration of “voter power” becomes slightly less momentous when we consider the ongoing privitization of the NHS in Britain, or the slashing of public sector budgets as those bankers who gambled away the country’s money enjoy legal impunity, or when we consider how thousands of people were ignored when Blair took the country into Iraq.
Indeed, in labeling Russell Brand as damaging and irresponsible, the only thing this article does succinctly is to miss the point. And here’s why.
Whether he votes or not is irrelevant. Indeed, whether you agree with this Essex hipster on his stance toward formal political participation is moot. The important thing is he is recognized as a legitimate voice who, in a few moments, managed to communicate a sense of disillusionment and despair that many feel.
The steadfast refusal to acknowledge that people are disengaging, are disillusioned, are underserved is itself the embodiment of apathetic sentiment, sweeping hardship and discontent under the silk Esfahan rug.
It is not up to a self-proclaimed “right-arsehole” to come up with a manifesto for change, and neither should it be. As he himself says, he is not looking to front a revolution:
“I’m here just to draw attention to a few ideas, I just want to have a little bit of a laugh. I’m saying there are people with alternative ideas that are far better qualified than I am, and far better qualified, more importantly, than the people that are currently doing that job.”
Having done a great service in bringing this discussion back into the mainstream, a necessary push for widespread political change cannot rely on a “Brand Manifesto” to provide the answers. To do so would be akin to looking for the meaning of life in between the pages of “Green Eggs and Ham”: brightly colored, linguistically accomplished but, fundamentally, just for entertainment.
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