Russell Brand’s public persona has gone through a very radical shift over the past few years – from bad boy celebrity to heavyweight intellectual/political agitator. A working class lad from Essex, England, Brand has brought his wit, insight and loquaciousness to the upper classes and is challenging them in ways the public have rarely seen. While Brand maintains his cultural roots, he speaks the same language as the elites. He has read their books and mixed in their circles, making him a dangerous adversary and genuine threat to the status quo. Why? Because people are listening to him. After going toe to toe with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman and calling for a ‘spiritual revolution’, Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman wrote, “The revolution itself may not be televised, but on last night’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight, viewers may have witnessed the start of one.”
Hyperbole aside, Brand really may be tapping into something. In a brilliant piece in the New Statesman (a mag he is now editing), the ex drug addict talks about voter apathy, a disease he believes is an inevitable reaction to a system that has little regard for the majority of the people it is supposed to serve. “There’s little point bemoaning this apathy,” writes Brand. “Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve.”
“To me a potent and triumphant leftist movement, aside from the glorious Occupy rumble, is a faint, idealistic whisper from sepia rebels,” he continues. “The formation of the NHS, holiday pay, sick pay, the weekend – achievements of peaceful trade union action were not achieved in the lifetime of the directionless London rioters. They are uninformed of the left’s great legacy as it is dismantled around them.”
Brand’s call to reinvigorate socialism, an ideology he says has deep “historical connection with spiritual principles”, won’t come from voting in the party opposed to the conservatives. “To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift,” he writes. “Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power. Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster.”
“We should include everyone, judging no one, without harming anyone,” he continues. “The Agricultural Revolution took thousands of years, the Industrial Revolution took hundreds of years, the Technological Revolution took tens, the Spiritual Revolution has come and we have only an instant to act.”
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.