On the Brandwagon

…come on, what else was this post going to be called?

Just another excuse for me to ogle Paxman’s beard.

I didn’t really want to come in on this one. Enough’s been said about it – either by writers going “oh, he’s so trivial and stupid” but then proceeding to write 1000 words about him anyway, or by other writers going “yeah, you know what? I almost agree“. Everyone else has already been far wiser and more eloquent about it than I have, I’m aware, but still. It’s been nagging at me over the last week or so. Because the more I read about our current government – the more I hear about disadvantaged, sick, underprivileged people in the UK today having support taken from them – the more I think Brand has a bloody good point.

I don’t agree with everything he said/wrote – his New Statesman essay did go on a bit – because for one, I think if you can vote, you should. People have fought bitterly for universal suffrage, so it seems a bit ungrateful to waste it. And what’s more, I’m already looking forward to the next general election – I’ll be bounding down to the polling station just so I can do my tiny little bit to ensure we don’t have to suffer the Conservatives for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. It was telling that following the Newsnight interview with Russell Brand, Jeremy Paxman came out and said that he understood Brand’s unwillingness to vote. And then called the Lib Dems’ tuition fees U-turn “the biggest lie in recent political history”. Mind you, as long as he’s sporting a bit of a beard, Jeremy Paxman can say and do what he likes as far as I’m concerned…

Where was I? Oh yes. In short, voting is good. For now.

It’s easy to knock Russell. In the past, he has been a bit of a knob, and he’s admitted this. It’s also easy to be seduced by him – not literally, though I should imagine that’s quite easy too; as an automatic fan of anyone who can do skilful things with words, I do love the way he talks. He can go from silly and facetious to angry and impassioned in the blink of an eye, and is clearly in a torrid love affair with a very good thesaurus. But the fact that he raised the issue of “revolution” – or at least ripping up the current political rulebook and starting again – isn’t relevant. The real issue is that someone said it, and it was someone “famous”. Because it’s what’s being said everywhere else: what if we could just rip it up and start again? What if we could simply demand more?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat with friends in the pub, or at someone’s kitchen table, and we’ve all agreed that the people in power are not the ones with the smartest ideas. Or, to put it another way, the intelligent people who would make a decent job of doing the nation’s admin wouldn’t touch it with a barge-pole. You have to be a bit odd to want to be in politics.

Brand has managed to plant an idea in the heads of people who might not be that politically engaged, and that idea is simple: what if we didn’t have to put up with this? What if we could say “enough’s enough of this bullshit”? There’s not going to be a revolution; of course there isn’t. We’re British, our upper lips are stiff, we’re not about to kick off and party like it’s 1789.

But if I have to read one more article about people on job seekers’ allowance getting tricked into being sanctioned (quite a way down in that piece, sorry!), or hear one more story about someone too sick to work getting their benefits stopped or reduced to the point where they cannot afford to live, or read one more piece about some ludicrous thing Michael Gove* has dreamt up, then I’m going to lose my mind. And I know I’m not the only one.

*I Googled “Michael Gove sexting” to remind myself of the full story and find a link. You cannot imagine how uneasy that made me.

 So what do we do? I don’t know. I do know that anyone who’s ever brought about real, necessary change was called insane when they started, and a hero when they finished. I also know that the 10-point “Initial Statement” released by the Occupy London group in October 2011 makes an awful lot of sense, and that the Occupy movement was something that Brand praised in his interview. I do know that as long as people go on saying “ah well, nothing’s ever going to change”, nothing will change. Funnily enough.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, and given the haphazard way I’m typing here, I’m sure that’s obvious. I think the reason so many columnists and commentators jumped on this “Russell Brand wants a revolution” thing is because it hit a nerve. It hit the nerve that feels, deep down, so many things are wrong right now. Corporations not paying billions of pounds’ worth of tax, for a start. A generation of well-educated young people looking out on a job market that can best be described as “hideous”. The most disadvantaged people in our society being demonised by the media (stop believing the Daily Mail, Mum!). The cold realisation that the people who are currently doing the nation’s admin are doing it mainly for themselves. Christ, that’s bleak.

How about some music? That usually helps.

These guys are really good.

And the wonderfully sinister-sounding new one from these guys.

One thought on “On the Brandwagon

  1. While I agree completely with the spirit of this article, that things should change, that there is a general need to reconsider and perhaps revolutionise political culture and the demonization of the poor that the present politicians endorse, Russell Brand is not the person to say any of this.

    In fact even the suggestion Russell Brand can bring anything useful to this debate is vomit inducing and I will explain exactly why. There is an old saying about pots and kettles; and Brand could only ever be in that tea-set. Brand, an uneducated former drug addict with no knowledge of anything other than the narrow confines of the acting and PR worlds and no documented achievements, spreads bile across the airwaves as to the incompetence and turpitude of politicians. This is the same Russell Brand who regularly at live-comic shows has been documented as referring to ex-wives and girlfriends as wastes of space, as worthless, and then making jokes about imagining them being other people whilst having sex with them. The same Russell Brand who has been known to make misogynistic and offensive rants at his shows.

    Further reference could be made to a string of controversies, getting fired from FXM for swearing profusely on air, fired from MTV for dressing up as osoma-bin-laden DIRECTLY AFTER 9/11, fired from the BBC for the memorable ‘sachs-gate’ affair having spewed racist abuse in a voicemail to a defenceless pensioner. Further reference also to his continuing history of heroin and substance abuse; history which he has the audacity to use in auto-biographical material as part of a sob-story for self-promotion portraying himself as somehow heroic for facing down self-created demons. All that need be said really is that Russell Brand is clearly a nasty piece of work, facetious, stupid, vein and apparently quite cruel. So when media outlets stop and give this individual a soapbox from which to tell the world about the facetious stupidity of others and preach high-politics and fiery revolution when he knows nothing of what he is talking about, has done little to nothing in his life of any social utility, why should we find it anything other than incredibly irritating.

    It is very easy to get carried away with a valid and noble sentiment like revolution, social equality and ‘fighting the good fight’, but to do so and then give credit to Brand for merely mentioning the whole debate as if he brought it up? This is too far; he obscures the issue in reality, and has not said any of these things out of a genuine desire for change. He has done it as a PR stunt for self-promotion and what is really galling is that it has worked; people have fallen for it because nobody has bothered to critically evaluate who he is and why he is really saying what he is saying. It was bad enough seeing Paxman go dough eyed and cuddly rather than conduct any meaningful interrogation, what’s worse is that everyone with a pen or a voice or a keyboard seems to have done the same thing!

    It is obvious that change is desperately needed; some sort of reform to the crumbling Whitehall/ Westminster edifice, the crazy corporate policy to attract companies by making Britain into a tax haven, the bizarre obsession with closing down legal aid so there is only justice for those who can afford it, the incredulous work policy to punish people for the great crime of being unemployed. But give credit where credit is due. Support the occupy movement for instance who actually do care about this issue and are devoted to it @ http://www.occupytogether.org/. Read the human rights blog and keep track of the injustices by the media and political systems in their smear campaign against justice @ http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/ or perhaps go to a protest or maybe even vote. Just don’t do it because some guy who doesn’t know or do anything said so just to get himself some more public exposure.

    PS really liked the kind of creepy but moving ‘remurdered’ by Mogwai, thanks for the recommendation!


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