The Russell Brand Effect

The “Everybody Wants a Revolution” theme continues from the last post, and a the post before that, with a few post-notes inserted along the way.

Interesting in this Guardian interview Brand continues the “don’t ask me I’m no expert” line, and admits he’s only recently taken an interest in the topic of alternative governance, so the warning remains that “do something to change things” hand-wringing and drum-banging is really only supported by half-baked, dangerous and positively misguided advice.

Don’t Vote vs Spoil Vote choice ? The real reason to go for the latter is obvious. The self-disenfranchisement of non-voting is a technicality, and yes, as a protest it devalues the hard-won freedoms of having popular democracy in the first place. No, the real practical reason is because a spoiled-vote is a protest which is visible, countable and accountable. Not that these are themselves naturally valuable virtues, except in any “system” where it’s the count of popular votes that counts, some variant of which is likely to be true in any free democracy. (Something completely other than some form of democracy ? Unlikely – conceivable, but unlikely – see Churchill.)

The Political Classes rhetoric? I’ve said enough. We are they. It’s “our” responsibility to change things. The more people who wake up to that the better, well done Russell, but in order to take responsibility we, some of us, need to think about what better governance would look like, and how we might get there, rather than just knock the poor sods who find themselves incumbent.

Protest(s) ? Hmm. Need to understand what protest is about and for, and what is protected by democratic freedoms. Protest votes and boycotts, protest stands and marches – all valid. Best if they are visible to those who the message is aimed at, obviously, that can’t be ignored, but of course the actual message, we/they are free to ignore if it doesn’t contain any sound advice or novel ideas. Something’s wrong, please fix it, is hardy news. Protest does not include rights to interfere or break laws (see trust & respect, below) though of course every protester (and whistle-blower) is physically entitled to do so, provided they accept the legal consequences (that means you Greenpeace).

Anonymity? Unless anonymity is the point of a protest, which it can sometimes be, anonymity is not a freedom or democratic right. Obviously anonymity as cover for illegal acts and threats of mob-rule is a no-no. Guido Fawkes has symbolic value as a mask, relevant in changing governance, sure – but don’t confuse that with any right to anonymity.

Respect and trust? Related to personal responsibility for rights and actions, which count against any rights to anonymity above, there is a basic need for trust and respect between individuals. Any form of democratic governance, includes accountability sure, but depends on trusting those to whom (any) power to decide and act is delegated, and mutually those entrusted need to trust their “constituents” in return. There is no system of free democratic governance that can dispense with interpersonal trust and respect for the governance arrangements. Brand needs to be very careful of hypocrisy in commenting on personal responses to his intervention, whilst indulging in personal (even witty, humorous) mudslinging rhetoric against political classes and named individuals. The other side of any change (call it evolution, revolution or paradigm-shift) we’re going to need mutual trust and respect.

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