Russell Brand on How Capitalism Silences the Inherent Human Desire for Fairness
“I know, I know. I’m rich, I’m famous, I have money, I have had private security on and off for years,” comedian Russell Brand acknowledges in a recent article for The Guardian as he discusses the need to abolish the guard labor that protects the rich. However, he goes on to concede, “There is no doubt that I as much as anyone have to change. Revolution is change.”
And perhaps this is what is so appealing about Brand’s paradoxically lofty yet accessible prose and overall flamboyant persona: his willingness to admit that a revolution must happen at all levels of society, even if that means sacrificing the privilege that he, among many others, reaps disproportionate benefits from. The Guardian article is an edited excerpt from the entertainer’s new book, “Revolution,” a title that reflects how Brand has been relentlessly promoting the concept of revolution in interviews, articles and his scathing YouTube series “The Trews,” which attempts to show a different perspective from the one the mass media espouse.
In this particular article, titled “What Monkeys and the Queen Taught Me About Inequality,” Brand relates various lessons he learned from friends or acquaintances using entertaining metaphors and a scientific experiment some of you may remember from a “Last Week Tonight” episode we posted about the gender pay gap. In it he relates an encounter with a Stanford professor who explained, using a bowl of nuts and a video of a couple of monkeys, that although humans have a natural repulsion toward unfairness, “studies show that it’s less pronounced in environments where people are exposed to a lot of marketing.”
But perhaps the most enticing part of the article relays a discussion Brand had with a friend he made during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, Matt Stoller, who introduces the idea of abolishing not only guards but titles such as, but not limited to, queen.
“The definition of being rich means having more stuff than other people. In order to have more stuff, you need to protect that stuff with surveillance systems, guards, police, court systems and so forth. All of those sombre-looking men in robes who call themselves judges are just sentinels whose job it is to convince you that this very silly system in which we give Paris Hilton as much as she wants while others go hungry is good and natural and right.”
This idea is extremely clever and highlights the fact that there is exclusivity even around the use of violence. The state can legitimately use force to impose its will and, increasingly, so can the rich. Take away that facility and societies will begin to equalise. If that hotel in India [I visited] was stripped of its security, they’d have to address the complex issues that led to them requiring it…Matt’s next idea to create a different world was equally cunning and revolutionary: get rid of all titles. “Mr President. Ambassador. Admiral. Senator. The honourable. Your honour. Captain. Doctor. These are all titles that capitalism relies on to justify treating some people better than other people.”
…“One of the most remarkable things you learn when you work in a position of political influence is just how much titles separate the wealthy and the politicians from citizens. Ordinary people will use a title before addressing someone, and that immediately makes that ordinary person a supplicant, and the titled one a person of influence. Or if both have titles, then there’s upper-class solidarity. Rank, hierarchy, these are designed to create a structure whereby power is shaped in the very act of greeting someone.”
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi ZapataYour support matters…
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