Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I tried, guys

So I heard this stuff about Russell Brand in the news. About how he hates profit and hates capitalism and is a dangerous man.

And I admit, I've never particularly liked his comedy. I liked Despicable Me, which he did a voice in, but that's about the only thing he's been involved with I cared much for.

So I thought I'd rant about "these celebrity bastids who go around telling the rest of us how it's just dandy for the state to redistribute our money, because they figure that  they will be exempt, being CELEBRITIES!!! and also right-thinkers and all."

But, in the interest of knowing what I was going to be talking about, I went over to the New Statesman and tried to read the article he wrote, so I could see what he was really saying.

Emphasis on TRIED.

It's a big mess, guys. It jumps around a lot. In it, Brand confesses he's never voted (which immediately makes me give a bit of the stink-eye to anyone fomenting big political change. Okay, okay, that's probably a bit harsh. I admit there have been times I've threatened not to vote in state or federal elections because the choices I had were just so damn bad. And most of my adult life now, sadly, I've voted for the "lesser of two evils" than "a candidate I can really support").

I will say Brand really needs an editor. Or perhaps ADHD medication. I found his arguments really hard to follow. And I admit my comments in the next paragraphs jump around a bit, but it's because there's so much in the article and it's so mixed up that it's hard to organize my thoughts. (I also feel like I may have lost a few IQ points upon reading the article; I don't know)

That said, I think he's more a bit of a pillock (to use UK terminology) than really dangerous; I get the sense he's saying stuff he knows will sound extreme and transgressive and will get a lot of attention. I get the feeling he's upset but doesn't have a good thought of how to do concrete things to help others, other than talking about how bad banks and some corporations are. Somewhere in the mess he elucidates that noooo, he doesn't hate PROFIT (which, I suppose, is good, because one of my questions to him would be, "Well, then, if you hate people making money, have you sold all you own and given the money to the poor?"). But he hates big banks. And ummmm....some corporations. But Apple is pretty cool, except when they are like abusing their factory workers and stuff....

He speaks approvingly of winding up in the center of a "riot." I don't know. Based on the riots I've seen on the news, I'd be terrified for my life to wind up in the middle of one. He speaks of revolution and as I said before, I fear any big revolution (at least in the US and probably also in the UK - heck, perhaps MORESO in the UK) would be more like 1950s China than 1776 America. And, as someone who'd be tarred and feathered as an "intellectual," I have no desire for a Great Leap Forward or a Cultural Revolution.

A lot of people who talk about taking "corporations" down don't really think it through, I think. Do you enjoy growing most of your own food? Dealing with shortages? Having limited choices as to clothing and such? Going back to the kind of third-world, subsistence existence that he saw on his African trip?

Yes, some of the labor practices used by many corporations are awful. Yes, we probably should try to (a) change things and (b) buy from companies that treat their workers better. But most problems like this require solutions implemented over time, not a "BANG SMASH DESTROY" mentality. And not a sitting around and wringing one's hands and going "My fellow man is so blind and so selfish, and I am the only enlightened one"

I will also say the level of crudeness and rude-words that Brand inserts in his diatribe don't really make me any more inclined to listen to what he's saying. Yes, I'm a square and unhip, but you know, there are a lot of us out there who are put off by the use of a slang term for ejaculate in a situation where any other word....or no word at all....would have worked as well.

Brand describes a trip to Africa where he sees the poorest of the poor. Apparently this was not a mission trip or anything with an aid agency, it was tourism. He returned disgusted at his "santized" life....yet the thing is, I see no mention of concrete attempts to help, other than saying "All you lot here should feel very guilty that you sleep in a safe warm house and in a bed."

I may not be able to do much to change policy in my nation. But I can donate money to groups that help with, for example, education of children in some of the poorer nations of the world. Or to groups trying to give help after natural disasters. Or groups helping to improve agricultural practices for subsistence farmers. I realize in the grand scheme of things it may not be much....but no single person can do "much." We can do what we can. I think of the old story about the kid walking down the beach after a storm, throwing starfish back in the ocean, and the man who confronts him: "Stupid kid! You aren't big enough to save all the starfish. You can't possibly make a difference" and the kid throws another starfish back, and says, "I made a difference to that one."

I also think there is a certain sense of individual responsibility. Some of the things Brand is saying give me the sense that he thinks money should be taken from banks and corporations and just given to people, with no expectation that they use that money responsibly or go to work in the future. To quote a late countrywoman of Mr. Brand's: "The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money"

I would much rather choose to give a portion of my paycheck (and I do) to various groups doing work I can support, and whose work I can check up on and withdraw my support from, if, for example, I find there seems to be corruption or abnormally high salaries among those at the top. I cannot do the same with my tax dollars. I am sure some of those are used wisely, but I also am quite sure some of them are going to groups or individuals of questionable desert.

I have no idea if Mr. Brand gives money to charities trying to help with the issues he is concerned about. I hope he does. But it frustrates me to see someone who earns more than I do apparently trying to tell me what I should do with my money, and also implying things should change so there is more governmental control of people's lives.

1 comment:

Dave E. said...

I also read that Brand piece. Whatever his other talents, the man is an idiot when it comes to policies that would actually do good in this world. I think that entire essay was more about assuaging his own personal guilt than doing anything useful.