Russell: Right Idea, Wrong Method

Russell Brand’s ”revolutionary” interview on Newsnight caused quite a stir, didn’t it? 

Russell Brand on Newsnight. Not my image.

Russell Brand on Newsnight. Not my image.

First of all, I just have to comment on how pleasantly surprised I am that this man not only has sincere political views, but has sincere political views that are pretty comparable to mine. I would never of guessed. It’s not that I disliked him before, it’s more that I just didn’t particularly like him. I found him kinda funny but also silly and obnoxious which put me off somewhat.

Anyway, that’s all changed now he’s jumped on the revolution bandwagon/unveiled his true feelings.

His article in today’s issue of the Guardian, entitled “A televised beginning to the Russell revolution”, spoke a large portion of sense. I completely agree with him that we’re living in a time of huge economic disparity and that it’s morally unacceptable. I agree with him that politicians are too influenced by Big Money and that this cripples the legitimacy of our democracy. I agree it’s disgraceful that CEOs take home millions in bonuses and avoid paying tax while ordinary people are losing their jobs and struggling to pay their bills. And I agree that our current system is heading for ecological collapse, with no major politician appearing to notice or do anything about it.

But here’s where I don’t agree.

His bizarre idea that refusing to vote will in some way help the situation.
I don’t get this at all.

Russell explains the thinking behind his plan thusly:

The reason not voting could be effective is that if we starve them of our consent we could force them to acknowledge that they operate on behalf of The City and Wall Street; that the financing of political parties and lobbyists is where the true influence lies; not in the ballot box“.
Russell Brand, the Guardian, Wednesday 6th November 2013

I’m sorry Russell but there’s just no way this will work. For a start, you (thankfully) won’t be able to persuade the whole population to give up their vote, so effectively all that would happen is the remaining voters would get more bang for their buck while the non-voters simply wouldn’t be counted; with the general consensus being that they were too damn lazy to tick a box.

That’s not a revolution, that’s just an even weaker democracy.

Also, even if loads of people refuse to vote, the politicians are not going to be ”forced to acknowledge” anything. I’m sure they already know about the issue of corporate influence. Even if they can’t/won’t admit it publicly, I’m sure they’re all fully aware of who lines their pockets and who bullies them away from progressive legislation.

The issue at stake is that we – as ordinary citizens – don’t have enough political power. Giving up the one concrete political power that we do have is not going to be somehow liberating. The idea that we can fight for change by doing nothing is pretty silly, really. I also think it’s a bit childish to propose throwing away our votes in tantrum, when in the past people have literally died for the right to vote. Women and black people gave their lives for this civil right – the least we can do is use it and be grateful for it.

Russell criticizes the political parties for all rubbing shoulders together and being too similar. I have to admit, I used to think the three major parties were all pretty much the same. Then the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition came in and started wreaking havoc with the country and I changed my mind. My family and friends used to complain about the government before that, but now looking back the previous Labour government looks like a teddy bear’s picnic. And if Labour is just another shade of grey to you, what about the smaller parties?

Russell ends his article in the Guardian by saying: “A system that serves the planet and the people. I’d vote for that“.
In that case Russell, why aren’t you voting for the Greens? That’s basically their motto!

My local MP is Caroline Lucas, the first Green politician in the UK parliament. Her speeches resonate deeply with all these questions about inequality, corporate influence, civic rights, public services and environmental sustainability. I think if he heard her speak he’d change his mind about all politicians being the same.

But of course, voting’s only the first (crucial) step. I think our role in democracy extends far beyond a trip to the ballot box every four years. We need to think of ourselves not as passive consumers but as active citizens. For me this means not just voting but also keeping abreast of current affairs, writing letters to my MP, signing petitions and going on demos and marches.

But if you’re too lazy for all this, then for god’s sake at least vote.

4 thoughts on “Russell: Right Idea, Wrong Method

  1. Tegan, I have been wondering where you were and when you would post again. Now that I found your new blog I see I have a lot of reading to catch up on. I love the look of your new blog too.

    As for Russell Brand, I too was surprised by his views and how closely they align with my own. I don’t have a definite answer for how to throw out those in charge in the government, but here in the US we don’t have much choice. We have 2 political parties that control everything even to the extent that independent parties are not permitted to debate and are blatantly ignored by the media.

    Btw, I am starting a new blog, I will keep Living Simply Free going, but wanted one that was solely about green ideas (just in case you were wondering) :-)

    1. Hey, and thank you for coming over and reading! I’m happy with my new domain but the disadvantage is I lost some of my readers/subscribers in the transfer..
      Anyway, that’s terrible that the independents aren’t even given a chance. There’s certainly a lot left to be desired with both our democracies.

      Keep me posted on the new blog – I’m really excited to check it out!

  2. He is quite surprising some times isn’t he? But i think his notion of not voting is that that would be the way of letting politicians no that you were unhappy with government as a whole, by voting for any political party there thoughts move to ‘this person voted for me therefore they believe in what im saying’ rather than the more standardised response of ‘ i picked the one that i thought would screw up the least’ but you are right in the fact of you would never get enough people to not vote to make a noticeable contribution to this revolution of the masses.

    1. He sure is! And thank you for your comment, Tom. (:
      And I do see what you mean. Although to be fair, it’s already been noted that public trust and interest in politics is at an all time low. I have at times thought we should have a ‘none of the above’ option on our ballots – but the issue is, what would happen if that option ‘won’? It’s just not practical.
      I do think we should make it known if we think none of the candidates are up to the job, but we should make it known in an active rather than passive-aggressive (although very English) way. Write to papers, protest, use social media, form marches. The charismatic and thoughtfully fed up among us should be standing as Independent candidates. I think we need more political involvement to show our displeasure, not less. (:

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