While the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words; they are perspectives
For a long time I ignored Russell Brand. Living on an island in the middle of an ocean allows you such luxuries. It took a long time for me to give him a shot and, when I finally caved, he was exactly as I thought he’d be: loud, uncouth, erratic, uncensored. And surprisingly, almost disgustingly, eloquent. The words that rapid-fire out of his mouth can be delightfully spun – an absolute joy to the ears. More enjoyable than the finest of drugs, or is that just me who enjoys such soundsex? I’ve always been a sucker for eloquence.
Recently, he wrote a piece for the New Statesman and participated in an interview with Jeremy Paxton regarding the state of democracy. The interview was typical of Brand, caught between making a funny and making a point. Initially awkward, he eventually started bouncing around like a Beyoncé backup dancer with a vocabulary the size of a small nebula. As a voice of his generation, Brand is an unreserved force, not held back by social convention or fear of offending. He has the capacity to initiate a change in mindset in the common person.
While some may watch the interview and think little of his emotional, arm flailing speeches, I hope that his words make some sort of impact that calls for further thought. He won’t have the answers; dammit Jim, he’s a comedian, not a policy maker! What I gleaned was not that all governments need to be abolished – our shoes and bras and cars and mortgages needn’t burn for us to live free. What I got was that current policies lean towards benefitting wealthier members of society, which I agree with. By now we should be starting to move away from the desire for power and things and move towards creating an equalised society where all people have access to the basic needs set down by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This could lead to a society that works together for the betterment of each other and no longer fears or judges due to differing beliefs and opinions regarding sexuality, religion and optimal nose hair length. Perhaps I’ve grown up watching a little too much Star Trek, but the idea seems sound enough to me. The battle is getting it working in practice in a world where, traditionally, the greedy, affluent and dominating tread on and exploit to get what they think they need. People are taught to aim for mile stones, many of which are governed by the acquisition of possessions: the house, the car, the nest egg, the holiday home, the fancy clothes. Less encouraged is a life of fulfilment, of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
The ever delightful Robert Webb replied to Brand’s opinion piece with a piece of his own explaining that the system can be made to work for the common person if enough people take interest. I agree with this; many tiny voices create big songs. Apathy towards governments in a sort of ‘I can’t change anything, so why bother’ sort of manner is detrimental and dangerous. But in a world where ‘protester’ and ‘activist’ are dirty words, it’s understandable why the public (particularly the younger public) are more apathetic than they should be.
Both Brand and Webb make viable points that should be considered. So despite any negativity that might be thrown in either of their directions, I think that the positives to be taken from bringing up this topic are huge. Perhaps that change will come with time as younger people grow older and fill leadership roles. Perhaps it will come sooner than that and I hope it does. You’re not going to be able to please everyone all the time but if the majority of people call for change then change will be seen despite external party funding.
A good way to initiate discussion on what you think is important it to use the guidelines of the system, rather than fighting it. Speak up, be heard, cast your vote, be involved. For example, there are enough people in the USA who agree in marriage equality that American states are moving with popular consensus. I wonder if this is the type of longitudinal shift Brand was looking for. It’s worth taking interest in the system that governs you and it’s also worth taking productive action if that system starts to decay. As V from the wonderful movie V for Vendetta stated: People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.