In 2015 Russell Brand performed a stand-up show at Rod Laver Arena. He declared his affections fifty times in the show, “I love you,” he said with a surprising lot of heart to thousands of strangers. Adult men and women responded with tangible adoration. They flocked to Russell for hugs and high fives when it was all over. They just wanted to touch the person who had forged this connection. It was remarkable to witness. He was a man on stage who regaled the lessons of his life with an unflinching honesty that had to be respected even when he mined all the cringe worthy details for laughs.
I think he’s on a kind of sabbatical now, perhaps preparing for the next Revolution (no pressure). Honestly, I don’t know how he takes it all on. The naysayers (like Rupert Murdoch for instance) are powerful and plentiful with their vitriol and for some reason opposed to his message for equality, fairness, love and sometimes legislated things.
Geldof and Bono, other stars who have fought for social justice, are celebrated now but I wonder if they were universally admired when they began using their influence for activism? World Leaders, Obama, Merkel and Trudeau have achieved great things for their countries (approving same-sex marriage, introducing minimum wage and establishing a gender balanced cabinet respectively) but ultimately their interests are tied up in the turns of politics.
Russell is not the first human after a kinder world but he makes the ideal seem possible. He brings popularity, scale and discussion to dreadfully important issues that we’ve let slide by in collective apathy. With Russell, we have a refreshing voice on the world stage. A person who talks to us directly through our iPhones, appealing to our humanity albeit with a lot of swearing and a rock star wardrobe. His ability to untangle the webs that western society has constructed is impressive; our political systems, economics…he articulates each strand in a way that my high school English teachers used to but with a lot more technology and pizzazz (watch episodes of The Trews to see it in action).
I like what Russell is saying because he refuses to accept our current reality as the only option which is what most of us tend to do; almost like it was divinely established or immovable. Truth is, it was all it was made up over time, by people – and we all know what people are like. Decisions piled up through a history that created feudalism, industrialisation and imperialism; generations have taken advantage of these systems and their products and now we have reached the end.
Yet we stall. It’s like we are waiting for nuclear war, GFC 2.0, disintegration of polar ice caps or any complete disaster to make meaningful revisions. Russell’s work (on the Trews and Revolution) is like pouring cold water over lobsters in a slow boiling pot. But it remains up to billions of individuals to want a better world to claw their way off the stove.
Getting people to embrace change and challenge the status quo is a task and a half. If we fly from Russell in London over the cold, grey waves of the Atlantic we can see what he is up against. The rich and powerful Donald Trump is doing all he can to rule the free world, tapping into the basest elements in the American electorate. He represents greed, exclusion, cheap media and poll gains and it is exhausting. It frightens me that masses follow him, even though they are hardly the one percent benefiting from the way things are.
Closer to home in Australia you come across a full spectrum of ideologies with a conservative movement gaining strength. Yet it was not until late 2015 that I knew the wider community cared about the creeping political atmosphere. The newly created Border Force announced they were going to do spot visa checks in Melbourne’s CBD which earned them a pop-up rally which was instantly organised over social media. The outraged protesters won.
In a similar vein, Russell wants us to be outraged at the systems and institutions influencing the way we think and live but retaliate with love and understanding for fellow beings. Admittedly, living in a world where it is normal to have affordable housing, justice and greater wealth distribution can feel depressingly far fetched. But really, if you drill down far enough the reason we live in an unfair world is because we all participate in it with few fights, let alone question the premises it is built on. This is how we have been raised; our home is familiar whether we find it comfortable or constricting. Calling for a revolution is not that different from a society growing up and moving out into a home designed for our real needs.
Russell Brand’s revolution requires each of us to decide we want to live in a world devised by our own hearts. He reminds us we have the power to change ourselves, our communities and the way we choose to interact. That’s all it takes to have Russell-style revolution on our hands.