British celebrity Russell Brand caused quite a stir recently by taking on the mantel of guest editor for the late October edition of political magazine The New Statesman. The actor and comedian described the October issue as calling for “a revolution in consciousness, a revolution in truth, and a revolution in the way we see information.” He also penned an essay entitled “Before We Can Change The World, We Need To Change The Way We Think.”
The topic was volatile enough, however, further controversy stemmed from the magazine’s particular choice in Brand as the guest editor. From the American perspective, we are used to our celebrities waxing philosophic on everything from politics to dieting and everything in-between. But Brand still seemed an odd choice as editor for a political magazine. Perhaps it is because of his storied past—he is a recovering drug addict, who got into such antics as showing up for work at MTV dressed up as Osama Bin Ladin the day after 9/11 (for which he was terminated); or perhaps it is that he is best known in the States for his short-lived marriage to pop singer Katy Perry.
Needless to say, many in Europe as well as the States needed convincing. Thus British journalist Jeremy Paxman interviewed Brand for the Television show Newsnight on BBC Two. He grilled Brand on the fact that he has never voted. Brand said the believes voting won’t make any difference, that it is tacit complicity with this broken political system. “Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?” Paxman tried to get the details on this proposed political revolution. Brand was light on specifics, but did offer a compelling philosophy that exposed a broken system, stating that the pre-existing paradigm is too narrow and only serves too few people. He’s calling for change, and calling for genuine alternatives. Brand wants an alternate political system, one that:
“Shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.”
When asked why he has any authority on the matter, Brand responded by saying the burden of proof is on the people with the power, not the people doing a magazine. He expressed the weariness and exhaustion shared by so many, which has “reached fever pitch where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system.”
Admirable is the fact that Brand did not shy away from his past, but embraced it and used it to his advantage. Coming from a poor background, he explained that the social conditions he was mired in were exacerbated by a government that mainly just caters to the elite and large corporations.
“I was part of a social and economic class that is underserved by the current political system and drug addition is one of the problems it creates when you have huge under-served impoverished populations. People see that the current system doesn’t work for them. Political apathy comes from the top down, since the powers that be aren’t interested in servicing our needs. The legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.”
But maybe the most interesting part of the interview is the fact that Brand does not care what you or I think about him. He is not waiting for permission, and is instead pushing his vision forward without the need for any validation. It appears his greatest strength is the strength of his own convictions.
“I don’t mind if you take me seriously, I’m here just to draw attention to a few ideas … I’ve taken the right. I don’t need the right from you. I don’t need the right from anybody. I’m taking it.”
Say what you want about his political philosophy, but the man’s passion cannot be denied. Maybe if we were all so self-actualized the world would be a better place already.