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Positive Things

Written By: - Date published: 2:27 pm, February 16th, 2014 - 21 comments
Categories: democratic participation, drugs, electoral systems, Environment, global warming, Parliament, political alternatives - Tags: , , , ,

Nice to see that Russell Brand’s political thought is evolving. In contrast to his stance on a fairly recent interview with Jeremy Paxman where he took aim at the entire concept of democracy, he’s now more targeted insofar as he now states:- “… I’m a man who doesn’t believe in parliamentary democracy – thinks it’s a charade – but what I want is change around this issue (UK drug policy) and I’m prepared to use the materials in front of me.”

Good to hear that he is no longer intent to throw the baby out with the bathwater and that he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The entire interview, with Jon Snow is here. Having watched it, I can’t square the negative framing by printed media with what I saw. The interview was a tad confrontational and, sure, Russell Brand is excitable. But I think he did well and made some important points.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Labour Party in the UK seems to be bringing AGW in from the political cold.

In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one in 250-year event. If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on….

…The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

Nice to think that he might walk the walk and that if he doesn’t, overwhelming pressure will be applied by ordinary people via the type of means that Russell Brand advocates.

21 comments on “Positive Things”

  1. adam 1

    I always liked Russell’s comments – yeah they were not completely thought out – but he did have the anger of a working bloke in mind when he spoke. Yeah he still not the most articulate voice for change, but he is saying there are different ways and different approaches. In some ways that is better than Obarma, who can articulate a liberal approach rather well – shame his voting record nor his time as president reflect his liberal rhetoric at all. Back to Russell – he has been introduced to real democracy and me thinks he likes it!

    • weka 1.1

      I don’t know, I think he is articulate, he’s just not slick. I haven’t paid much attention to him, but I watched the interview and understood pretty well what he is on about. He’s a bit emotional and a bit theatric, but that seems refreshing to me.

    • Bill 1.2

      The anger and passion aren’t in doubt. I also believe he’s articulate enough and fairly good at ‘thinking on his feet’ too. Now if he could just get his around the fact that democracy is developed by the involvement and participation of all (and present that fact back to these establishment interviewers) then he could stop being all defensive about not being able to present a finalised blueprint for ‘what will be’….and demolish their position by highlighting the democratic deficits in their scenario.

      When you have been through and rejected all the scenarios that are not democratic, you are left with what is democratic. I know you know this and that I’m just stating the obvious, but hey.

      • just saying 1.2.1

        When you have been through and rejected all the scenarios that are not democratic, you are left with what is democratic.

        I fear this route could end up taking too long. I’m sure there are a thousand non-democratic ways of being that haven’t been dreamt-up yet, let alone put into action, and even more good intentions that veer off track and keep on going. I don’t have the answers, but feel we might need to be a bit more proactive than just rejecting the wrong.

        How we go about that, I’m not sure. I just hope we have a solid foundation of alternative communities and networks working together when the shit is finally seen to have hit the fan, because the ensuing panic is likely to foster even less democracy in the ways we organise ourselves.

        • Bill 1.2.1.1

          I fear this route could end up taking too long.

          I disagree. I reckon it’s probably the quickest way. It’s not a case of actually having to enact all undemocratic scenarios and then reject them before opting for democratic ones.

          Take an example.

          How about I just order things and tell everyone what to do? Do we even have to try that one out to know it’s not democratic? No. Well, how about a committee of people – experts or whatever – ordering things and telling everyone what to do? Do we have to try that, or do we already know that it contains the same strongly anti-democratic elements of the first scenario and so can be discarded ‘off the bat’? I think so. Well, how about we elect a committee of experts or whatever and maybe have them order things and telling people what to do for a limited time, of say, three years? Is that any different? No. So we can reject that too….and so on.

          Bottom line – any hint or sniff of ‘power over’ being exercised by some clique is, obviously, not democratic and so can be rejected out of hand.

          But before people get silly on it, I’ll throw this in. If I’m wanting to build something, then of course, I’ll rely to some extent or other on information from a person with building skill/knowledge. That’s just common sense. But does my relying on their skill or knowledge then grant that person any right or licence to exercise any power over me in either that situation or any other? No, of course not.

          So given the admittedly rather quickly thrown together examples above, is it safe to say that any hierarchy that somehow or other grants a right to exercise ‘power over’ precludes the possibility of democracy? I’d say so.

          So, whatever structures we employ or institutions we develop, they must be free of such hierarchies if we want democracy. And – well, hierarchies, whether institutional or informal, just ain’t that difficult to recognise and so any proposition that would lead to their formation can be rejected.

          Simple. And quick too ;-)

          Oh yeah – and the bullshit I still hear from time to time how *this* hierarchical arrangement will somehow be different due to checks and balances (thinking variations on the theme of ‘democratic centralism’) – well, it’s up to the proponents of such scenarios to conclusively demonstrate the democratic integrity of their scheme. Just one identifiable glitch or weakness is all that’s required to reject it and move on.

          • just saying 1.2.1.1.1

            That’s not quite what I meant.

            It’s about the idea of democracy arising from stopping using the more overt forms non-democratic arrangements currently take, as opposed to someting, and I don’t know what, more proactive. It’s also about the danger of good intentions drifting into informal hierarchies with kinds of hegemony of their own.

  2. Rogue Trooper 2

    always a worthwhile read Bill., and a striking masthead.

    • Bill 2.1

      Thanks Rogue. Good to see you back here btw.

      • Rogue Trooper 2.1.1

        Too Kind.
        apparently Abe is quoted as saying “Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and we shall find a way”. kinda like these 2014 ‘Oil Tour Protests’, Well, sort-of. :-D . And if you are inclined to Bill, check out that Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows ; a great ‘heads-up’, considering the plasticity of the brain. :-D

  3. weka 3

    I don’t know what the negative framing has been, but I can’t see the problem with the interview either. Apart from the interviewer getting hung up on the ‘don’t vote’ stuff and trying to force an admission of something from Brand rather than using it as an opportunity to explore what Brand is on about.

    Love the bit in the middle where Brand parodies politics “Sorry everyone, everythings fine. There is no poverty! There is no climate change! Those floods aren’t real!”

    • Bill 3.1

      The negative framing, well, y’know, when the linked article is this dismissive “Indeed, for much of the interview the presenter treated Brand like a boring schoolboy, appearing to suffer through the moments when Brand babbled on (occasionally getting so carried away with his own hyperbole he confused his words) by fixing him with a long-suffering stare.”

      Or the Huffington Post headlining “…Comedian Loses His Temper During Heated Talks On Drugs And Revolution”

      Or ‘the dailymail – “Comedian meets his match…”

      • Rogue Trooper 3.1.1

        lolz

      • karol 3.1.2

        “Comedian meets his match…”

        Has Jon Snow slipped that far in his media role?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.3

        I didn’t get that from Snow. He says exactly what he’s up to from the start. He wanted to get Brand to address an apparent contradiction in his position. Brand eventually, after much encouragement, did so, rather eloquently, but he was clearly there to push the drug law reform message. It was a good interview though.

  4. karol 4

    Jon Snow looks like he’s being deliberately hick.

    He’s reduced representative democracy to voting in elections. It also includes (in theory/principle at least) lobbying, protests, grassroots campaigns, circulating ideas, petitions, engaging people at the grass roots in debates, etc. Anyone can participate in such things, whether they vote or not.

    Brand is focused on these other democratic processes, that are also legitimate channels in our society.

  5. Yoza 5

    I saw the Paxman interview, I didn’t get the sense that Russell Brand was anti-democracy. It seemed quite clear he was condemning the established boundaries of what can be acceptably framed as democracy. In both instances, Paxman and Snow, the interviewers were determinedly set on getting Brand to recant and accept the kind of perversity that presents the likes of Tony Blair and Ed Miliband as the only alternatives.

    Brand is correct when he says voting in Western style parliamentary ‘democracies’ will not fundamentally change a system of social organisation which has been specifically designed to marginalise the general population while concentrating participation in decision making processes in the hands of the wealthy and the powerful. The illegal invasion of Iraq and global warming are probably the clearest current examples of an existing gulf between what the established elite expect the general population to believe and what your average person actually believes.

    The hierarchy of New Zealand’s security apparatus didn’t care about the democratically elected Clark government telling them they weren’t to join the invasion of Iraq, the bosses in Washington whistled and their New Zealand poodles came running.
    And how many news items about the storms in Britain or the US mention a link with anthropogenic global warming. There is a noticeably concerted effort in anglospheric media circles to minimise or completely ignore the effect human industrial activity is having on the planet’s climate.

    Brand’s campaign to institutionalise a sane approach to drug use is another lesson in what established interests have predetermined to be unacceptable thought crimes. Drugs are illegal so our domestic security forces have a pretext to kick around anyone who doesn’t conform to whatever the established order decides is tolerable behaviour. As I recall, one of the pretexts used to persecute Aziz Choudry and company was suspicion of drug use.

    I hope Brand gets more of these opportunities. He is quick on his feet, he is entertaining and he has a greater chance of getting the otherwise disengaged to consider the political paradigm in which they are ensnared.

    • karol 5.1

      Yoza, I agree with your point about voting in the current UK system will bring little change. It is more marked in the UK First Past the Post system than in NZ’s MMP system – though the dominance of the two main parties has become a problem as both have been captured by neoliberalism to a greater or lesser extent.

      It wasn’t always as bad as it is now – the Westminster system did provide a bit more of choice in times past.

      On reporting of the UK floods. The news coverage of the current UK & US storms does, firstly focus on the here and now of the storms’ impacts. The test will be if such storms raise awareness of climate issues in the long term. One storm alone is not evidence of climate change, but the increase in frequency and extent of severe weather does.

      I have seen some news reports of the storms that do raise the topic of climate change:

      This one from the UK Mirror:

      Meanwhile, a poll by ComRes for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror found that just 59% of people thought the Government was “beginning to get a grip” on the flooding.

      Some 48% said the storms had made them more convinced that climate change was happening, compared to 30% who said their views had not changed.

      An Opinium poll for the Observer found 51% thought Mr Cameron had responded badly to the floods.

      Some 51% of those questioned said they believed issues around climate change and global warming caused the floods while 24% did not take that view, and 20% were neutral.

      So this news organisation was raising the issue by polling about it.

      The Guardian has also printed an article about it by Nicholas Stern:

      The record rainfall and storm surges that have brought flooding across the UK are a clear sign that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change.

      Many commentators have suggested that we are suffering from unprecedented extreme weather. There are powerful grounds for arguing that this is part of a trend.

      • Yoza 5.1.1

        I was thinking about the news coming through agencies like Associated Press or the BBC. I’m not saying there are no stories about climate change at all, but when it is discussed it is out in the margins like Comment is Free in the Guardian or if it is allowed it is relegated to a couple of paragraphs in a large screed of text. More often than not anthropogenic global warming is presented as an inconclusive theory dividing the scientific community, rather than the reality of a rigorously pursued field of scientific research conclusively demonstrating humanity is responsible for destabilising the climate to a point where it threatens the survival of the species.

  6. Mike S 6

    ” In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one in 250-year event. If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on….

    …The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

    Nice to think that he might walk the walk and that if he doesn’t, overwhelming pressure will be applied by ordinary people via the type of means that Russell Brand advocates.”

    =============================================================

    “One of the Met Office’s most senior experts yesterday made a dramatic intervention in the climate change debate by insisting there is no link between the storms that have battered Britain and global warming.

    Mat Collins, a Professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream – the high-speed current of air that girdles the globe – which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual.

    Professor Collins told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’

    His statement carries particular significance because he is an internationally acknowledged expert on climate computer models and forecasts, and his university post is jointly funded by the Met Office.

    Prof Collins is also a senior adviser – a ‘co-ordinating lead author’ – for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

    • karol 6.1

      Here is a clarification from Prof Collins:

      Professor Collins made clear that he believes it is likely global warming could lead to higher rainfall totals, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. But he said this has nothing to do with the storm conveyor belt.

      • Yoza 6.1.1

        The guys over at Media Lens make an interesting observation:

        A careful analysis by Carbon Brief of 3,064 flood-related newspapers stories, published between the start of December and 10 February, makes this clear. Their stark conclusion is that over 93 per cent of press stories did not mention climate change (never mind the role of humans in disturbing the delicate balance of climate).”

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