Russell Brand’s “Let’s Eat Cake” Revolution

Posted on October 31, 2013


Picture 12Russell Brand, nowadays’ Rasputin-lite, delights ladies of tsarist first-world comforts because he is a king of hypnotic elegies!  Whatever he has to spill on about is so goldenly woven compared to the dry, flavourless thatch of overused subject-verb-objects that we’re accustomed to, from the lazy media.  It’s as if Rumplestiltskin has been lovingly swallowed whole and enslaved in Brand’s larynx.  The result is that he’s always worth listening to.

But not always to be agreed with.

Brand’s recent stint as Guest Editor of the NewStatesman was a novel approach to open-up interest and dialogue about our shared problematic political economy.  Perhaps Brand’s extreeeeme unofficialdom in this field and his legion of “new statesmen”–7.1 million followers on Twitter, made for a fresh perspective.  His dexterity at being able to articulate seemingly meaningful ideas in interviews off-the-cuff, is all the more heightened when he’s actually given the chance to think an issue through and then write about it.  Thus, his 4,500-word editorial was a juicier treatment of his rebel-flag speech to Jeremy Paxman, and so much more than what we would ever get from the celebimboes of our time.

Though, I don’t want to judge his ideas against such easy yardsticks.  I want to judge them against the hugeness that they very nearly inspired, but didn’t.

His main point was that he’s never voted in UK’s disappointingly rigged system.  His abstinence (from the ballot), is explained as such:

“I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”

He speaks as the voice of “most people”, but what does he mean?  I wanted to check.  According to the Guardian, a paper for which Brand sometimes does op-eds, “the average turnout for general elections between 1918 and 2010 is a respectable 73.3%” .  So, evidently, “most people” in the UK express their disenchantment quite differently than Brand.

Despite the word count and the sponsored medium, the veneer of Brand’s eloquence wasn’t enough to disguise that his position probably more reflected his personal lack of attention to politics throughout his voting-age life, than any legitimate observation of mass disenchantment.  Thus, his suggestion of spiritual and political revolution through abandoning the current system isn’t something that most people want.

Yes, politics stinks in many ways, but for voters who turn out, the stakes for elections couldn’t be higher.  In the US, Barack Obama’s election was an organized, concerted effort to redeem the country from the George W. Bush administration.  The highly disputed razor-thin voter margin in 2000, favouring the Republican Party, was what ushered in two massive wars, record debt, a near decade of failed educational policy and contempt for international climate control efforts and gay rights.  In 2008, voting was the only way to change the tide of the country—and indeed at 57.1%, although not amazing, voter turnout was at its highest, since 1968.  Again in 2012, if Democrat constituents didn’t wait in Florida voter line-ups for hours, or didn’t challenge ID bylaws that Republican states ushered in to encourage disenfranchisement, then the leader of the largest economy and military in the world right now could be Mitt Romney, former CEO of Bain Capital, who challenged the weak economic growth of Obama’s first term.  These are just examples of people in the first world struggling with bullshit, just to vote for who they want.

Brand is not wrong about “disenchantment”, especially when we’ve only ever got clowns to the left and jokers to the right on offer, but if that’s all that’s taking first world people like him to be turned off voting, what about people in the third world who are willing to risk imprisonment, persecution or death just to vote?  The act itself of voting is sacred.

Vietnam jails bloggers, Chinese authorities jail Tibetans for carrying around a picture of the Dalai Lama , in Uganda, thugs beat and lynch opposition party leaders.    Said beating victim Dr. Besigye, leader of the opposition in 2011: “Beating me means nothing because I am ready to die if that is the only way of saving this country.  We shall die rather than live under a terrorist regime.”  He lost to the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni three times, despite courts finding evidence of widespread election rigging and mass disenfranchisement.  Museveni’s government is known for a violent occupation in the Congo, which has a death count of  5.4 million people since 1998 and for mass corruption, which the World Bank values at nearly $300 million dollars.

Brand’s “disenchantment” is thus, a comparatively pussy-ass reason not to vote and not to be involved in one’s country’s politics, in the grand scheme of things.

Where would we be in the “developed world” if we succumbed to apathy and disenchantment by not voting?  What if citizens, to councillors, to congress people, to senators, to Supreme Court justices, to UN members didn’t bother to vote?  Where would the US be on Civil Rights and gay rights?  South Africa on Apartheid?  The UN on a nuclear ban?  The current Catholic Church leadership on gays?  Ireland and Britain on reconciliation?  Poland on democracy?  It is far from a perfect system anywhere in the world, but the alternative of not voting (i.e. doing nothing), is what allows nefarious forces to take over, under the guise of legitimacy, if not force.

Brand’s spiritual and political revolution may make sense in our hearts and our individual endeavor to think more deeply and broadly about who we elect.  But any kind of revolution that doesn’t require voting necessarily precludes organization en masse of any sort, or any need for debate or consensus finding.  Decision-making for millions would be impossible without elected representation.  Without representation, government, or systems that need to take care of us all would breakdown: all public works, water systems, law enforcement, judicial systems, logistics of food and necessities, health and safety regulations etc.  The aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrowing in Egypt is an important case study on what happens in the vacuum of a real, even needed, revolution: the most armed and organized parties rose to power first.  When their megalomania was soon laid bare, it took more months of protests and raging by the people to demand their removal—and there is still no clear, corrective alternative.  During this time, there has been no real governance; incidences of mass blackouts, food and fuel shortage, and persecution of minority voices is continuing, if not growing.  These were sadly and ironically, similar complaints under Mubarak.

Maybe Katy is really behind the cake revolution?

Brand does seem to like cake.

Perhaps Brand with his millions and comfort might actually survive a revolution relatively un-touched—so his, “let’s eat cake!!” battle cry makes sense from where he sits.  But a real revolution either in the UK or in the US where he lives would necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater and be catastrophic for the average person who would immediately see the basics of life vanish and no good alternative materialize for years.  People living in the third world or under dictatorships already suffer because of generations of disenfranchisement– it’s the hell they want to escape, and many would die before tolerating another term.

Brand also needs to evaluate his sphere of influence—few conservatives would be interested in what he has to say; it’s the already apathetic or non-voting crowd who would find his arguments defensible (in the UK, that’s roughly 26.7%); and perhaps at most, some lefties or libertarians have a new excuse not to bother on election day.  Should Brand “succeed” in his revolution to Not Vote, the most that will happen is the chipping away of the undecided or social-democrat crowd, leaving loyal conservatives and neo-conservatives a comparatively larger voter base.  The consequences of Brand’s ideas, at least in the short term, would mean that elected governments represent an even smaller fraction of society.  And if their agendas favour economic growth at all costs, privatization and things like austerity measures, Brand will have undermined all the social ideals that that he lists in his post-revolution utopia: just treatment of the disadvantaged, ecological sensitivity and economic equality.

In essence, Brand is suggesting a weak, but hopeful homeopathic solution to something that requires prevention or serious anti-biotic prescription.  Dedicated voters who have been active and organizing around elections need all the help they can get to enact the social-economic policies Brand dreams of.  Any weakening of their numbers is the weakening of their effect, and even brings about a resurgence of the economic-industrial complex scourge.  Like the recent admonishment to the bratty Republican Congress using the shutdown of the US government because they didn’t like Obamacare: You want change?  Then win an election.  Then vote in an election.

Brand, the 3-time Shagger of the Year winner, seems to have handily avoided STIs (STDs, VDs…) despite his prolific nature.  Good for him.  But he, more than anyone, should know the benefits of a prophylactic, or if all else fails, an anti-biotic.  In a time where drug-resistance is becoming a reality (i.e. irreversible damage), this is no time to do nothing.  If anything, it’s time to BE the candidate you wish to change the world or AT LEAST vote for him or her.  Brand for Essex County Mayor!!

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