Philosophy Weekend: Why Russell Brand is Right

Big Thinking British Comedy Ecology Economics Existential Memes Politics Religion

The pointing finger in this photo belongs to Jeremy Paxman, a British journalist. The pointee is Russell Brand, a brash and popular comedian who has guest-edited a new "Revolution" issue of the New Statesman, in which he says things like this:

Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people … Along with the absolute, all-encompassing total corruption of our political agencies by big business, this apathy is the biggest obstacle to change.

And this:

I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance … Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot. Is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Buckminster Fuller said humanity now faces a choice: oblivion or utopia. We’re inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?

And ...

Now there is an opportunity for the left to return to its vital, virile, vigorous origins. A movement for the people, by the people, in the service of the land. Socialism’s historical connection with spiritual principles is deep. Sharing is a spiritual principle, respecting our land is a spiritual principle.

This BBC interview got a ton of press, both from outlets that thought Russell Brand preached the truth and others that found him ridicuous. Brand is not a comedian I usually pay attention to, but the publicity attracted me and I watched the whole 8 and a half-minute interview.

I am pretty impressed. I agree with virtually every single thing Russell Brand said, and I think he handles the interrogation of a professional tough-guy interviewer extremely well.

The standoff between Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand is a case study in rhetoric. They take opposite strategies: Paxman attempts to befuddle Brand into incoherence, and Brand attempts to disarm Paxman into friendly acceptance. In fact, this reflects the opposite sides of the great cosmic political argument they are acting out: Paxman's hostile questions demonstrate the harsh edge of pessimistic realism, while Brand's amusing banter demonstrates the gentle power of optimistic generosity. I suppose it's because I prefer the latter that I think Brand walks away with the prize.

I bet Jeremy Paxman thinks he won this debate -- in fact, I bet he thinks it was barely a competition. "You're a very trivial man", he tells Russell Brand. I may have thought Russell Brand was trivial before I saw this interview, but I don't think he's trivial now.

One of the first hazards that any idealistic political activist faces is laughter. It's easy to embarrass a person who is expressing a sense of spiritual connectedness with the world and a general hope for humanity -- and yet it's essential for our public voices to remind us that we all are spiritually connected (whether we like to admit it or not) and that we do have a reasonable hope for a better and fairer world, a world that avoids war and vast economic injustice, a world that finds a way to sustain a healthy and natural environment.

"You're a very trivial man", Paxman says to Russell Brand. I think we need a few more clowns like him.

This article is part of the series Philosophy Weekend. The next post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Alienation in America. The previous post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.
9 Responses to "Philosophy Weekend: Why Russell Brand is Right"

by TKG on

What did Miley Cyrus say?

I really find it hard to take seriously some fellow who is a multi millionaire, who made all his money working for the biggest businesses in the world spewing such nonsense.

It's big time cognitive dissonance, with more than whiff of totalitarianism thrown in.

I agree more with Johnny Rotten: England's Dreaming. No future.

He is a humorous likable character. Anyone taking him seriously in any thing other than empty entertainment needs to get a grip.

by David on

I've been a huge fan of Brand since we kept crossing paths on a Kerouac tour of San Francisco. His eloquence on political matters is startling.

by hypcollector on

Buffoons will save this world. A reformation is in order. Until voting is done on the internet, we are stuck with the muck. Think if the spectacle as 80% of eligible citizens will vote. Maybe more. We would have a proper dog and pony show then. They'd make a movie about it. It's the bribery that had to go. Open and for all to see. Shame, a relic emotion. Do you really need a congressman or senator? The voting is now open on bill number 763986..go to blahblahblah.com and indicate your decision. Tallies by 4pm est. A billion bucks to Egypt. Hell no. Borrow more Chinese cash?....well, maybe at 2%. That would be some politics. What we have now is rigged. The blind, deaf, and dumb know in their hearts. But its only for awhile. Apathy is tied to peace. A revolution in the streets seems so, so, so middle east. A revolution of the live wire. A glowface revolution. Oh the possibilities of fiction, for we know the truth of this world. Oblivion is right. Likely by asteroid. This is the new intellectual. Observing from high above. Eternal thinking and unaware of time. Optimistic that we are going somewhere fast. And politics is only about money. Only, I said. The greasers and the pleasers.

by Wojciech on

I gotta check out that video, thanks for bringing this up!

Personally, I feel that one can work for positive change and feel spiritually connected to fellow humans and to this earth without hope. But when you say things like this:

"One of the first hazards that any idealistic political activist faces is laughter. It's easy to embarrass a person who is expressing a sense of spiritual connectedness with the world and a general hope for humanity -- and yet it's essential for our public voices to remind us that we all are spiritually connected (whether we like to admit it or not) and that we do have a reasonable hope for a better and fairer world, a world that avoids war and vast economic injustice, a world that finds a way to sustain a healthy and natural environment."

I'm with you. Bravo, Levi!

by Estela on

I agree with Brand. I am a fan, and became an instant fan from the time I first saw him on Letterman, because I noticed that he is incredibly articulate and brilliant. What in the world makes him trivial? Because he has a sense of humor? He is right. He is absolutely right.

by Eamon on

I've been impressed with Brand for a while now. Yes I think he enjoys the spotlight and has done quite a few questionable things to get there, whatever. Can't hold that against someone forever. The guy is quick on his feet. Articulate as hell and gets it from his brain to his mouth with incredible speed. With that cockney, East London accent (I think that's what it is), he is doing us a favor and making revolt, socialism, alternative thinking and rationalism cool again. It takes an entertainer with a quick mind to do something like this. Instead of shoving him aside, I say give him the mic, he speaks well… Eamon

by Slack on

Brand is right in many if not most of his observations, but his refusal to do anything about it makes him irrelevant.

by Wojciech on

Slack, that was my original observation as well.

However, being as famous as he is, isn't using his platform/reach to start a conversation about these issues doing something about it? It's not an end in itself, but it's a pretty good start, imo.

by Levi Asher on

Yeah, Slack, I don't get it. By editing a guest issue of the New Statesman and giving interviews like this, Russell Brand certainly is "doing something". More than most people I know are doing!

Add new comment