There’s been a lot of talk of revolution lately.
Whether you care for the romanticised spiritualism of Russell Brand (#ReLOVEution), feel inspired by the occupation of Parliament Square or look out further to the democratic protests in Hong Kong, it’s difficult to escape the reverberating demands for change.
Before the last minute surge of engagement in the Scottish Referendum came to fruition, there was a phrase muttered by many a no voter: ‘why fix something which isn’t broken?’ As time pushed us closer to the polling day this rhetoric transformed. Even Better Together, a campaign founded upon the principle of remaining as we are, was forced to acknowledge our broken democracy and the necessity of reform. It seemed that no one, regardless of where their pen marked on X on 18th September, stood in favour of an unaltered continuation from the British establishment. The referendum became (and perhaps has remained) synonymous with revolution and the appetite for it is far from dead.
However, less than two months on and one would be forgiven for assuming that revolution – as utopian and transformative as its sentiments may appear – is inevitably doomed to deflate into a simmer of the boiling passion it once induced. David Cameron is yet to bat an eyelid at those immediate powers he promised and this week saw the resignation of the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont for reasons previously equated with the arguments for a yes vote (I don’t think the irony was lost on many). We need revolution, we want revolution, but prior events could suggest that its manifestation is far from likely.
Indeed, when police surrounded Parliament Square earlier this week in a bid to shatter the efforts of the Occupy Democracy campaign, it felt as though political protest – that long admired British tradition – was a thing of the past. As writer and activist David Graeber commented: ‘Metropolitan police regularly react with a wink and a smile if citizens camp on the street while queuing overnight for the latest iPhone. But to do it in furtherance of democratic expression is absolutely forbidden.’ Yet, the occupation proceeded and the media were forced to react. Occupy Democracy should, therefore, be held as a hopeful example to those desiring revolution.
I also hold a sympathy with Russell Brand. That self-righteous annoyance which many feel towards his, admittedly slightly naive, call to arms is riddled with hypocrisy. If celebrities indulge in the narcissistic falsehood or Kardashian-esque Hollywood we condemn them as a wasted endorsement. Yet, if they decide to use their platform to derail the status quo (a normality which in all likelihood – and certainly in Brand’s case – they are a benefactor of) we mock them as exemplary of an egotistical wash-out on the quest for martyrdom. They’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t; frankly, I’m impressed Brand has even bothered trying.
Of course he is not the only figure exposing the absurdity of the way our global economic system is run, but I don’t believe Brand has ever claimed to be a solitary voice. Last week I attended a live screening of The Guardian’s conversation event in which journalist Owen Jones interviewed the comedian-turned-political commentator about the ideas surrounding his new book. As theatrical and charismatic as his character may be, Brand was consistently attempting to divert the conversation away from himself, pointing to the importance of the works of Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky amongst others.
Whilst his acknowledgment of these political figures is highly necessary, Brand shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss his own relevance. A call for revolution which sparks in the ears of the otherwise disengaged requires a glittery celebrity figure who people can laugh along with whilst they plot for worldwide reformation (I don’t think Klein or Chomsky are up to that task).
As our media continues to ignore the fight of people demanding real democracy, Brand’s highly weighted support can be one of the only mass exposures which campaigns ever receive, for example the Focus E15 Mums, who occupied a council estate they were set to be evicted from, welcomed the help of Brand in getting their voices heard.
Regardless of how you plan to vote next May, the outcome looks bleak. Or rather, the outcome looks bleak for those of us who aren’t multi-millionaires with shares in tax dodging entities. Our ever-dwindling public resources – resiliently fought for and won by our ancestors – are continuously dismantled by our ‘we’re all in this together’ joke of a government. Misdirected anger shielding the misdeeds of the people in power and pointing a finger at poverty earning immigrants has resulted in the rise of a bigoted, far-right, nightmare of a political party (incidentally, if you’re looking for a scare on All Hallows’ Eve, I would recommend a listen to the ‘UKIP Calypso’ song…) And, our pulverising environment continues to have the life drained from it by money-sucking, vampiric corporations (well, it is Halloween).
Russell Brand is right. A democratic revolution is, indeed, called for. I only hope that the message is being heard.
This article originally appeared in Qmunicate magazine