Russell Brand in the film "Paradise"
Following last week's elections, reports surfaced in dribs and drabs of voters being turned away from the polls in Virginia and Texas, two states that instituted draconian voter ID laws. It's an off-year election, and the evidence is too anecdotal to understand what kind of effect these laws—designed to disenfranchise the poor, elderly, minority and student voting blocs—actually had, but it got me thinking about Russell Brand.
Russell Brand's interview with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman went viral when he delivered a call to arms for political non-participation and "revolution." Brand explained why he doesn't vote.
"It is not that I am not voting out of apathy," he said. "I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations."
Many on the proto-anarchist left celebrated this diatribe, that sliver of the electorate that is informed, intelligent, engaged with what's happening in the world, and yet have settled upon non-participation out of ennui.
Let me say, you people are dumbasses. "Dumbass" being the best pejorative because it's what a friend says to a friend when he or she is being a dumbass. It's not mean. It's meant to helpfully point out an extremely dumbass thing this person you really like just said or did.
Because Brand is absolutely correct that the current global order is failing, that it's rapidly destroying the planet and creating massive pools of impoverished and exploited peoples while a tiny elite reaps the rewards. Unless you're just off on your own little cloud drooling and playing with your testicles, this is totally undeniable. However, "opting out" is not an option if you care about these things. Opting out is what the powers that be want people like Russell Brand to do.
I nearly slapped the skin off my head when I read the Huffington Post headline "Russell Brand's Epic Interview with Jeremy Paxman Just Might Start a Revolution."
This is what frustrated me so much when I interviewed protesters at Occupy Wall Street. There is this ever-present reassurance within the non-participatory left that eventually a "revolution" will somehow sort things out, so why play the charade of voting for the next corporate-backed candidate?
Because, dumbass, there is no such thing as non-participation in a democratic system. When you don't vote, the fossil fuel, prison, military, pharmaceutical, banking, agricultural and extraction interests—their campaigns, their propaganda and their votes—count double. All those lobbies that have worked so hard to capture our democracy, they're not afraid of Brand. They're laughing their asses off, saying, "Keep preaching, Russell!"
Because they want us to be cynical and jaded and believe nothing can change, so why bother? Just keep waiting for the revolution, which should be any day now.
It's a slap in the face to those who literally died to secure the right to vote in states such as Virginia and Texas. It's not heroic to point out the world is screwed up; it's a coward's way of laying blame at the feet of an amorphous boogeyman while letting ourselves off the hook.
RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."
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