Britain loves an enthusiastic amateur.
If Russell Brand is so adamant that it is capitalism that is the malaise at the centre of our society, he might do well to reflect on where he got his shoes, how he made his millions, where he got the shirt on his back or where the components of his phone where welded together – because the capitalist, democratic system he had the good fortune to be born into is a damn sight better than much of the rest of the world.
The Guy Fawkes Mask Russell Brand wore on Bonfire Night wasn’t made in Croydon. It was produced in a factory somewhere in the developing world, a chunk of its cost went to Time Warner who own the trademark and the fiver or so he paid kept someone, somewhere in a job, promoted the peaceful trade of goods and protected intellectual copyright.
Its a better system than the slave Labour of much of the world which had communism thrust upon it by unthinking violent revolutionaries overthrowing less free and fair systems than our own – capitalism, pure, unbridled, is not without its ill’s, but that’s why society has developed Democratic Societies which regulate that economic system.
Capitalism and Democracy is not perfect, but it’s better than the gulags and forced labour of Nazism or Communism which have been tried and found badly wanting.
If Russell believes the only things keeping Capitalism in business is lies, the military, the police and fear, he could well compare what happens in the UK, where he can get away with making that accusation and turn up to a protest which jams up the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities unrestrained by arrest, persecution or censor the next day and what would happen where he to criticise the system in North Korea, China, Russia or Cuba.
He would do well to educate himself on how the military is used to keep up to a quarter of the North Korean people in gulags, how the police is used to silence LGBT rights in Russia, or how fear is used in China to supress dissent.
He could also ponder what the effect the censor and lies have in much of the un-free world in keeping the population in check in those countries.
The Chinese are not allowed to talk about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests put down under the tread of tanks, we are free to remember and challenge our own societies mistakes and repressions.
Unlike much of the world where rebellion is met with the bullet, Britain is a democracy. We had our revolution and destroyed our tyrant centuries ago in the English Civil War and we ushered in the rule of a crowned republic over divine right or dictatorship in the Glorious Revolution
Unlike Tibet, Scotland joined the union of its own volition, differences, of culture, thought and opinion is not just tolerated but freely expressed and openly debated. Rational debate is voiced and heard. If Scotland wants to leave the union, it gets to vote on it, if Tibet wants to leave China, it gets occupied.
Unlike the people of the People’s Republic of China, Brand doesn’t just have a vote, and a voice he is free to express without fear or repression but also the right to participate in our Democracy.
If he thinks the system is broken he has not just the right, but the ability and crucially, freedom, to do something about it without taking to the barricades. It’s what sets Britain and other Democracies apart from the barbarism of much of the world.
And our Democracy is not perfect. It never has been and it never will be, but it is always changing, evolving and becoming more perfect.
Parliament existed in a time before it was Sovereign over the Monarch, When Charles I lost his head so did that concept. Through the Putney debates and the Levellers Movement elitism began to break down.
The poor laws were a response to the plight of those unable to help themselves, their rationale was swept away by the welfare reforms ushered in by Liberals at the start of the 20th Century. The Chartists made the argument for more equal suffrage, the Suffragette Movement extended that suffrage to women and equalised suffrage has seen Parliament become ever more responsive to the needs of the people;
Rights are fought for and won through the ballot box, be that the LGBT movements rights, abortion rights, equality of pay between the sexes or a better informed and more socially liberal societies instincts overcoming the conservatism and dogma of religious susceptibilities which came before.
Society, morals, sensibilities, the sense of justice and the standards of the age are always in flux, so too has Parliament and Politics changed with them.
We are no different now than the society of 100 years ago. Some were content, others wanted change, and the equilibrium was managed in a way which minimised chaos and harm. The dynamics of the disenfranchised and the gratified have not changed, just the time and the arguments.
British History is littered with examples of how democratic movements forced change. The point is we don’t need a revolution of bloodied martyrs in the fashion of the French Revolution, or the nonviolent resistance of Ghandi or Rosa Parks to make our point. The system we have, whilst far from perfect, allows for change without the death or disruption necessary to end the rule of the Communist Party of China, the Kim regime in North Korea or the various tyrants of the Middle East.
That’s not to say there isn’t a hell of a lot wrong with British Politics:
The head of state is unelected and rich from the public purse, women and ethnic minorities are not on an equal footing to rich, white, men, economically, socially or electorally, sexism, prejudice and racism have not been eliminated, the rich do get richer and the poor stay poor.
We trade short term gain for long term pain, passing off the environmental damage of fossil fuels, the economic restraints of debt and the problems we’re too frightened to deal with today to the agonised screams of our yet unborn children.
The voting system does not reflect the will of the people, no government has won a majority of votes since 1931 – Brand can call out the Lib Dems for not being able to scrap tuition fees, but he should also point out they got a quarter of the vote and a tenth of the seats, and limited ability to implement their promises.
He should, by the same token point out that the Tories and Labour have power wholly un-proportional to the votes they actually got, and that neither of those parties wanted to get rid of fees at all.
Instead of suggesting the young are impotent to change their lot and to not vote, perhaps he should encourage them to do so. Old people vote and they get TV licences, bus passes, help with fuel bills, more support when they get ill, housing wealth, benefit’s denied to under 25’s protected against the ravages of recession and inflation, pay less as a proportionate of their income in tax, and pensions those in their 20’s will never be able to get at ages they’ll never be able to retire at — all gratis.
Perhaps if more young people voted, more politicians, those elected to represent their electors, would give a damn about them or be of them?
As long as Politicians can ignore young people, and encouraging young people not to vote allows them to be ignored, the reason my generation and the next will be subject to back breaking debt racked up by our elders is because they choose not to get engaged with the electoral and democratic system and so get screwed by it.
But let’s not pretend it was the coalition who broke politics.
Blair was elected with a majority on a minority of the vote, so was Thatcher, the gap between rich and poor has been getting bigger since the sixties, the concept that some could live their lives on welfare is recent, housing has been getting more expensive for 40 years, as more people with power and money get older they have broken the unwritten but deeply held contract that parents pass on a better world to their children.
But if Russell Brand truly wants shake things up, do something about the problems we face, break up the big three and change things for the better then he should adopt the logic of the Capitalist Free Market system he hates and fails to understand the freedoms of; enter the market and provide competition.
Or in other words, he should put up or shut up.
If he wants to make Britain a place fairer and to his liking, if he thinks no Party represents his beliefs, or those of the majority of the British people, then he should energise the 40% of British non-voters, set up a party with ideas to make things better and run in the next election.
He’s free to do it, no one can stop him, he’ll find the police and the military respond to will of the people not the markets and, if he does get people turned off by our current politics engaged, then he’ll make our democracy a more perfect thing.
I challenge him, Mr Revolutionary without a plan, to use the freedoms hard fought for by our forbearers and emulate their example.
If he thinks that he, or someone else, could do a better job then provide the alternative women, men, ideas and values he thinks are lacking.
Should he take up that Gauntlet he should be aware that a lot of people, most, in fact, probably won’t vote for him or his ideas, nor will his efforts be easy or without opposition, that is part of the freedom of choice and thought which allows him to seize the right to make his case.
Whilst he engrossed himself amongst some face wearing protestors tonight, I hope his ego allows him to see beyond that mask and into the buses full of the commuters he held up tonight who had places to be, friends and family to see and bonfires and fireworks of their own to witness who I imagine fundamentally disagree with his world view.
Because up until now, he has not made any case, let alone a convincing case, for an alternative to our Democracy, our economic system and our social system. No politics, market or system of representation can ever represent the views of all, all of the time.
But elected representatives represent a huge range of people as diverse as they are individual. Our markets allow for the peaceful and free flow of ideas, goods and labour limited only by what society, through our parliament, deems immoral or unfair.
Our justice system provides redress where it is requested or needed, those with power and influence, be they moneyed, politicians, press barons or anyone else with disproportionate power are kept in check and challenged by the balances of a free media and press, freedom of thought, expression and speech and where one balance or check fail, they fall back on each other in contingency.
It’s not perfect, but no system ever can be and ours does better than most.
Russell Brand can either decide to become someone who contributes in a meaningful way to that system, or he can come up with one of his own he can convince a majority of people to accept. In the expectation that he’ll fail in the latter, he should put in some hard graft in the former and provide the alternative he thinks is lacking.
Once he wakes up tomorrow the MP’s Brand chides will be doing the jobs they were elected to do and making Britain the place they think it should be.
Either he gets stuck in or he becomes irrelevant, anything else is just self-gratifying, grandiose, bluster massaging his already engorged ego.