This is a damn good book. In fact a great book. Great in the sense that it is a great read, and great also in that it is of great importance. It is an intelligent book and in places touches the sublime, almost poetic level. Not bad for a recovering junkie. If you start the book and find yourself getting irritated and a tad frustrated in places, don't give up on it. Complete the book and your efforts will be handsomely rewarded. Sure, Brand drifts in and out of incoherent, metaphysical ramblings. All that stuff about transcendental meditation changing the world and other obscurantist nonsense can definitely irritate. This is its central flaw, yet paradoxically, it is precisely because it is flawed that it is so engaging. Brand has not produced some dry political Marxist text preaching a didactic blueprint for revolution. And Brand would be the first to admit this. On the contrary, what Brand has produced is a loveable and rambling stream of consciousness, part autobiographical, part pub philosophy and part impassioned but reasoned plea for us to collectively create something better, something more rational, something more humane. And the end result is a thousand times more persuasive than any dry academic Marxist text could ever hope to be.

Notwithstanding the metaphysical stuff of higher planes and universal consciousness, Brand has cobbled together a searing critique of finance capitalism, corporatism and the attendant mindless consumerism that has got us all by the throat. He also presents the case for something less alienating, something more spiritual. And in the end, it really doesn't matter which bits you relate to and which bits you would rather jettison. The point is, his Revolution is inviting us to imagine something better, and swathes of disorientated and disaffected youth are connecting with his ideas and finding a resonance in this invitation. So in that respect, Brand can sit back and say job done. Some of the disconnected are starting to get connected again.

Brand draws on a wide range of writers and thinkers; Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Thomas Piketty and a host of Occupy activists. Leaving aside his declarations for God and a higher realm, Brand offers his readers a sharp and coherent denunciation of the criminal madness that is 21st century capitalism. To hammer home his case, which in reality is the very same case that socialists and the Occupy Movement have been hammering away at for years, he makes creative use of Oxfam's much publicised statistic that a mere 85 of the world's richest billionaires own as much as the world's poorest 3.5 billion citizens. It's a damning statistic and Brand makes damn sure his readers don't forget it. If we grasp the significance of no more than this one appalling statistic we ought to be able to motivate ourselves in believing we can create something a whole lot better. And Brand is certain about one thing; unless we have that dream, unless we actually believe in something more rational than what we've got now, then nothing will ever change, no meaningful revolution will ever take place. On this I'm one hundred percent with Mr Brand.

 

It would be unfair to claim that Russell Brand does not understand the dialectic. He does. His work is infused with it. But what I might dare proffer is that he places a little too much emphasis on a voluntary change of consciousness and a too little emphasis on the material conditions required to create that change. Having said this, I do firmly believe that the next wave of revolutionary activity needs to be more conscious of its purpose than at any preceding time. A mere hatred of oppression, inequality and impoverishment will not be enough. A storming of the Bastille or the White House or the Houses of Parliament only to have the old regime replaced with another elite is pointless. Unless we are going to construct something qualitatively different from all the crap that has gone before, it really won't be a revolutionary change at all. Just a changing of the guard. Brand gets this completely and makes no compromise on the demand for a qualitative change in consciousness. But the dialectic between our material conditions and our consciousness cannot be denied. But I suspect Brand, at times, loses sight of this complex connection. 

The essence of capitalism is commodity production for private profit. Little wonder that virtually everything about our culture, including of course our consciousness, both individual and collective, has been commoditised. It sounds like a tediously determinist argument but we simply cannot wish away the economic base that ultimately determines consciousness. To do so is to lapse into a form of metaphysical wishful thinking, precisely what Brand is guilty of from time to time. Of course an astute counter ideology, be it from a Marx or a Chomsky or a Klein is essential in eroding the hegemony underpinning the prevailing economic base. But the grim reality is that the economic base of capitalism reproduces the ideology of egoistic individualism and mindless consumerism every second of every day. Wishing capitalism away with mass transcendental meditation simply won't do.

Russell Brand is more than capable of articulating the negative features of capitalism. He does it so much better than most professional left wing scribes  myself included. He repeatedly insists on the need for local collective ownership, control and accountability of the means of production. And he gets completely the connection between a sustainable ecology and a sustainable economy. He grasps completely the alienation that our current system of commodity production engenders. Everywhere in his Revolution he teases out the cause and effect of things. Without specifically citing the dialectical nature of all phenomena, from the humble sub-atomic particle to the universe itself, Brand offers his readers a theory of universal unity. We are all stardust is the essence of Brand's spirituality. If Brand was to drop the god bit and replace it with scientific terminology his Revolution would have even greater resonance, but taken overall and given his past predilection for various addictive opiates, it is a small fault.

There are so many great stand out quotes in Revolution that I couldn't decide whether to fill the blog with them or offer none at all. In the end I've opted for my top ten which turned out to be eleven. Hopefully they are representative of the work as a whole and will entice more people to engage with Brands Revolution. Whatever its faults, I regard Brand's work as a vital new cog in the Occupy Movement and I fully accord with George Monbiots assessment that Russell Brand is one of the heroes of 2014. 

1.What I believe is that we're only just beginning to understand the incredible capacity of human beings, that we can become something unrecognisable, that we can have true freedom, not some tantalising emblem forever out of reach. P8

2. I mean, if someone said they had a socio-economic system that creates a hugely wealthy elite at the cost of everyone else but it was ecologically sound, we'd tell them to fuck off. What we've got is one that is systematically inflating the wealth of the elite, rapidly suffocating everybody else, and it's destroying the planet that we all live on. I know you already know this. I know. We all know. But it's so absurd  psychopathic, in fact, that we obviously need to reiterate it. P14

3. WE are living in a zoo, or more accurately a farm, our collective consciousness, our individual consciousness has been hijacked by a power structure that needs us to remain atomised and disconnected. WE want union, we want connection, we need it the way we need other forms of nutrition, and denied it, we delve into the lower impulses for sanctuary. WE have been segregated and severed, from each other and even from ourselves. WE have been told that freedom is the ability to pursue petty, trivial desires when true freedom is freedom from these petty, trivial desires. P33

4.I don't feel irresponsible for telling kids note to vote, I feel like I deserve a Blue Peter badge for not telling them to riot. For not telling them that they are entitled to destroy the cathedrals of tyranny ( giant shopping malls), erected to mock them in the heart of their community. That they should rise up and destroy the system that imprisons them, ignores them, condemns them and maligns them. By any means necessary. P78

5.Rupert Murdoch, who owns News UK, of which The Sun is a subsidiary, sits on the board of US giant Genie Oil and Gas, which specialises in shale gas. That's another nicer word for Fracking. Shale gas sounds nice and natural, like a sea breeze, a gale made from shells. Who could object to that? Certainly not a regular reader of Murdoch's New York Post, which has run twenty positive fracking stories since 2011. The relationship between the Sun newspaper and the UK Government is well documented and criminal. P85

6.I understand why people loot shops. I understand why people in Thurrock, where I'm from, vote for knee-jerk berks like UKIP. How the tendency to condemn the vulnerable outsiders flares up. Why should people be claiming benefits? Why should people be coming over here for work, welfare, health care? Whilst behind this concentration of innocents marched out like a veil, lined up to jeer at, in the shadow they cast the real criminals conduct their masquerade. The sneering puppeteers yank the strings and blind us. Immigrants did not cause the financial crisis. Benefit cheats did not get multi-million dollar bonuses. Disability claimants did not knowingly fracture the planet's stability. P88

7.    As bad as unemployment is, even among workers, almost half the working population earns less today than people making minimum wage did in 1968. A stunning 76% of the US population is living paycheck- to-paycheck. While US millionaires have $50 trillion in wealth, an all-time record number of people are toiling in poverty, hunger, prison and severe debt. When you finally grasp the situation, you realise that this is the greatest crime against humanity in the history of civilisation. P173

8.    But if wisdom is acting on knowledge, they (the British monarchy) have to go. This luminous centrepiece of our neon matrix. That class is okay, natural, normal, good. They are a symbol of ideas that do nothing but hurt. Privilege, excess, violence, oppression, nation. The abolition of the monarchy would be a powerful symbolic victory for a new world. A significant and necessary victory, though, would be a demonstrable cowing of our real opponents, the real masters of our universe; global corporations. P226

9.    At the time of the French Revolution the powerful were corrupt and wealthy whilst the poor were becoming more and more disenfranchised, with no legitimate means for creating real change. Well, apparently, that's what's happening now, according to Ol Piketty. Our system, capitalism, is designed to behave like this: it generates wealth for the wealthy and further impoverishes those with nothing. Asking it to behave differently is like asking a microwave to wash your car. P261

10.Capitalism is not the manifestation of our nature. Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all, said economist John Maynard Keynes; we are now witnessing its implosion. What we have to decide is what will follow it, something just, or something more draconian than we ever dared to consider, P270

11. Thanks Noam (Chomsky), I'll take it from here; so we're fucked unless we organise and disobey. They've got this sown up. They own both teams that are competing, the stadium they play in, the grass they play on, and we're the ball they're kicking around. They have removed all possibility of reform or redirection within the system; the change must come from us. Our only hope of survival is to overthrow their structures and take our power back. P317

End JPK copyright 10/1/15

Last Updated ( Monday, 21 May 2018 07:32 )