What do you experience when looking into someone”s eyes? Do you just see irises and pupils amidst a white, gel-like mass … or do you see something beyond the physical? A spark of the soul, or the divine?
Russell Brand has written a book that is both political and more important than that. It’s political, because it addresses the pressing questions of our time: environmental destruction, disillusion with the political establishment in Western democracies, increasing inequality and the destruction of the middle class. And it transcends political in that it explores the nature of human beings itself. Are we compassionate manifestations of an all-encompassing energy or are we the separate, shut-off entities which economics christens “homo oeconomicus”?
The main achievement of the book, which – and he doesn’t pretend otherwise – is not exactly a scholarly work, but factors in a wide array of learned opinions, is the marriage of the political and the metaphysical. Does the current world order of corporatocracy reflect our inner yearning for togetherness and unity? Are our democratically elected leaders acting on our behalf or is Big Money pulling the strings? In short, thematically themed chapters, Brand makes a strong case for why he thinks a non-violent revolution needs to overthrow our current way of life and replace it with a system of fairness for all.
This new system, though, is where he kind of loses me. He’d probably respond to me that this skepticism is exactly the sentiment the elite wants me to have, but it doesn’t chance that I believe there will always be inequality and unfairness in one way or another because of human nature. True, the current levels of it could well be reduced, but the way Brand talks about self-governing, autonomous, leaderless communities seems to me very far removed from human nature. He talks loosely about rules – the word he favors is traditions to restrain the negative impulses of the individual. When he says “Hand over your power; trust the common consciousness, guided by consensual, trusted principles to be the authority.”, I can’t help but frown. What is consensual? How do you get 100% approval? Who defines the trusted principles? It all sounds very shaky to me. As if the minority, the out-voted wouldn’t hold a grudge.
This vagueness on the feasibility of this new society could be a weakness of the book if Brand had intended it as a blueprint for a new world. But that’s not what this is. Neither is it a revolutionary manifesto, as he himself ironically comments. It’s more like a starting shot for a debate that has burned for a while a few years ago with Occupy Wall Street, but has kind of fallen asleep again. It’s a waking call to citizens of all nations to act like citizens and demand accountability and responsibility of their elected leaders. It’s an appeal to step out of the consumerist, passive bubble we are being cradled into and PARTICIPATE:
Thank you for this, Russell Brand. And I forgive your being rich. (And having married Katy Perry.)
Bottom Line: It’s a funny, witty, intelligent and deeply troubling analysis of the many shadows capitalism casts over the world. While I don’t completely agree with everything in the book, I feel lightened by its central, unshaking belief in humanity. Russell Brand reveals himself as an incredibly intelligent person and more than just a pop intellectual. READ!
BTW – RB has a YouTube show that is well worth watching – the Trews.