On revolution and Russell Brand…
I write a (non)blog called Revolution Trainee, and some people who know me personally say it should be titled something more indicative of my own role as a revolutionary. I maintain that we all, if we are decent revolutionaries, constantly learn, re-learn, pick and choice our revolution - hence the title Revolution Trainee. As such, I feel compelled to respond to the recent revival of the word revolution in the mass media and all that incorporates Russell Brand’s role in said revolution. And I’ll be candid up front, there are a few people in particular I’m responding to here, so forgive me if this isn’t the end-all be-all post on revolution. …everyone is a critic, and this IS tumblr.
First, on the word revolution, my use of it, and the mass media’s usage: Brand’s response to Robert Webb today in/on the Guardian lends to the idea that revolution = violence (re: death camps). Perhaps we need to bring Michel Foucault back from the dead (no, no, rest in peace, Foucault; you’ve done enough for us), but we need to remember how language is connected to power. Using revolution as word that is reminiscent of violence only further connects revolutionaries to the neoliberal, military-industrial society - the exact something ‘we’, as revolutionaries, are trying to escape. Being a revolutionary has NOTHING to do with violence, unless you are truly shit at being a revolutionary. Part of a group of young poli sci graduate students in Denver years ago, there was a discussion as to whether revolution could be peaceful. Composed of (self-described) Marxist, anarchists, socialist, etc, the resounding response was a ‘successful’ revolution would inherently be violent. LISTEN CAREFULLY YOUNG REVOLUTIONARIES: this is the folly of youth; the folly of WANTING to see the streets full of chaos, but live through a riot and ferment on it. With age and sage comes the wisdom that revolutions do not need to be violent to be successful. What a revolution needs to be to be, indeed a revolution and successful, is a mass change in thinking. That is what a revolution is, and so long as we keep attaching violence as a necessary condition for revolution, we will keep working further and further AWAY from an actual revolution. Again, evoking Foucault, by attaching the language of violence to the language of revolution, we only give states like the USA, Bahrain, and Brazil further reason to re-up on their supply of ‘crowd-control’, ‘non-lethal’ military supply - DO YOU SEE HOW THIS IS ANTITHETICAL TO AN ACTUAL REVOLUTION?!
Second - and I cannot emphasise this point enough, particularly to tumblrs who advocate social justice and equality - anyone can be a revolutionary, even Russell Brand. There are two points to be made here: the first is that a revolution is neigh a revolution unless it is INCLUSIVE of the masses, regardless of sex, race, sexual preference, religion, or ‘creed’. The second is that just because someone speaks of revolution, particularly in a way like Brand who advocates not voting, does not mean you have to follow them. Indeed that would be the opposite of being a revolutionary; I’m looking at you ‘hipster conformists’ (South Park).
To the first point, I see a great many people who have the potential to be great leaders - and leadership being the central focus of my doctoral research, is something I know a great deal about, and not just from reading (everyone’s a critic) - but so many people with such potential have the tendency to be so divisive. Yes, Brand is a rich, white celebrity; he acknowledges this, and according to the laws of tumblr, one can ‘escape’ privilege as best as they can by acknowledging it affects their perspective, which Brand has done, albeit with the caveat that life has not been easy for a non-traditionally educated, lower class, London drug addict. He embraces his past and his privilege and speaks how they influence his (revolutionary) politics. So to all those individuals who say something to the degree of: ‘A white man will never be my leader’, you’re part of the problem. Before you start in, yes, I understand your argument (its YOUR revolution) - just like I understand Laurie Penny’s argument about Brand’s ‘brocialism’ - but you do understand how being exclusive and reductionistic makes you the opposite of a revolutionary? I suggest you watch a quick clip from the President of the World. There will be no 21st century revolution without inclusivity, and there is/should be a place for every individual in the revolution. There is no revolution without the Kogi, the Muslims in the Rohingya state, or a focus on development, income equality, and justice for all. So long as you discriminate against people like Brand based on their gender, economic status, or race, you are part of the problem, and you have no place in the 21st century revolution.
To the second point, Laurie Penny points out the irony of Brand’s ‘revolutionary’ status whilst on a tour called the Messiah Complex; it’s not lost on Brand either. Che did not ask the ‘revolutionaries’ of Cuba or Bolivia to follow him; it was never about him, just like it was never about MLK, Gandhi, or Malcom X. ‘It’ (the revolution) is about us, as a global community of people who see injustice, unsustainable systems, and inequality, and our ability to take that message, as truthfully, as open-mindedly as possible to our peers - and by peers I mean human beings. If you think anyone is ‘excluded’ or ‘below’ your revolutionary message, again, you are not a revolutionary. If Brand’s revolution is not your revolution, no one forces you to follow. Robert Webb, if you want to continue to vote, then do so. But if you don’t vote because you see that you are supporting a system that you are so fundamentally opposed to, that’s your right in a participatory democracy (if you happen to live in one, which most of us do). Some of us see that Russia isn’t the only illiberal democracy in the world, and instead of voting we create our own revolution. That’s our choice, just as it’s yours.
Create your own revolution, no matter how big or small. But know: if it is violent, it is not a revolution; if it is not inclusive of the global community, it is not a revolution … at least not in this century.
The irony of today being Guy Fawkes Day is not lost on me.
As always, VIVA REVOLUTION! RISE UP! RISE AGAINST!