|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.