Mark Russel

On Russell Brand’s Revolution

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russell brand new statesman coverIn this edition of Urchins Take Sides, wediscuss Russell Brand’s essay on revolution in the latest edition of the New Statesman. Please feel free to take a side in the comment section below. 

By Margaret Hedderman

I must say, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so happy to be proven wrong about someone. In his forceful, urgent, and absurdly funny essay, Russell Brand has succinctly pinpointed the necessary means to drive the next revolution. It is unbelievably refreshing to read a commentary about politics and the environment that speaks to the true nature of the problem: if we don’t do something, we’re going to make this planet unlivable.

Unfortunately, the people who need to read, comprehend, and apply Brand’s words of revolutionary wisdom, probably won’t. I’m going to guess that most of them have never heard of the New Statesman, and if they have, probably regard it as liberal propaganda. As Brand puts it:

The right has all the advantages, just as the devil has all the best tunes. Conservatism appeals to our selfishness and fear, our desire and self-interest; they neatly nurture and then harvest the inherent and incubating individualism.

I imagine that neurologically the pathway travelled by a fearful or selfish impulse is more expedient and well travelled than the route of the altruistic pang. In simple terms of circuitry I suspect it is easier to connect these selfish inclinations.

Brand asks us to change spiritually, mentally, in the face of consumerism, materialism, and the comforts of a wealthy nation. “The price of this decadence was their (the children of an impoverished nation) degradation,” he says. I believe it is against human nature to change unless our immediate environment forces us to. Photographs of starving children in China digging through our trash for precious metals do nothing to stop our consumerism or instigate legislation against shipping our shit overseas. I would be willing to bet my life savings (ha!) that if those were American children wading through piles of toxic garbage in the Hamptons, we would see the Tea Party up in arms. With muskets.

Brand says we must change our inner-selves before we can change our outer-actions. But can our inner-selves change without outer-influence? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

I’m not saying it’s impossible… just improbable. There is an admirable minority that has willingly changed their mindset and lifestyle. However, as a whole, we have made luxury too easy and affordable, and you would be hard put to convince Bubba to give up his 72″ flat screen because it will make him a better person. I think people will finally change when they pay the real cost of their “decadence” and see, breathe, and drink the effects of their lifestyle. The question is… will it be too late when they do?

Rather than end on a thoroughly depressing note, here’s an idea. This minority I spoke of (The Urchins included) should abandon their highfalutin message of moral superiority and organize with other likeminded people to seek “converts.” There’s nothing more alienating than hearing that your lifestyle is bad and wrong. Forget about the people who aren’t going to change and seek out those with the will but no way. Then with a stronger, more unified, and larger voice, we can seek an “artificial” change in environment – aka tougher water restrictions, higher gas prices (someone might start driving less or stop importing exotic fruits!), and, dare I say it, population restrictions. Essentially, we should make our luxurious lifestyle less cost efficient, therefore “forcing” people to drive less, bike more, consume less, save more, and so on and so forth.

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