There is an interesting conversation that has emerged because Russell Brand, the comedian/actor, decided to lash out at some interviewer on politics who held him to task for writing for a political magazine. The upshot, or the telling points, are that Brand purports to be an anarchist who doesn’t believe in the current system, doesn’t vote, and doesn’t feel that holders of the current system really have a lot of ground on which to hold him accountable for these thoughts. In today’s Salon, Natasha Leonard expands upon this and then adds the criticism that Brand is basically a misogynist who essentially started his article by stating that he only wrote it because a pretty woman asked him to do so.
Having read both the article and having watched Brand’s interview, my only thought is that I find it fascinating that the concept of ideological anarchy is getting some attention, but at the same time I’m somewhat dissatisfied that it had to be someone like Russell Brand who brought it to our attentions. You see, personally I can’t stand his humor, his movies and pretty much anything about him. Okay, I liked his choice in marriage, as he married Katy Perry, but then that just meant she wouldn’t marry me because she was married to him, so I’m not sure that counts as praise any longer. At least they divorced so she’s still available (once she gets over those extremely rich and famous other guys), but that’s another story.
As for politics, I agree with Brand that the system is rigged, which is basically his entire argument. You see, he doesn’t really have a well-thought out argument. He just has a couple of news bytes, and they’re not all that impressive. It’s like someone listened to an Occupy protest and then shouted out slogans that people wrote on signs. Much of his diatribe was a lot like that. Sure, it was well articulated, but it was basically much of the same.
And that’s the problem with anarchy because we’re always going to be seen as a bunch of yelling, Molotov cocktail throwing Neanderthals who don’t understand that money makes the world go round. Okay, we do understand that, but only because we’re stuck into a specific paradigm that never lets us forget it. And that, too, is another one of the problems.
There are a lot of great ideas out there that have been written down and spoken over the years by people much smarter than me. Many of them have been anarchists. Hell, Marx was an anarchist, if you really think about it. Of course, I’m referring to Harpo Marx, that anarchist-leaning Marx brother who just doesn’t seem to get enough respect.
But anarchy is one of those out there institutions that really gets little to no respect because it’s not something tangible we can put our hands on and say, if we do this set of things, we can move to a system of government that actually doesn’t allow us to have government any longer. We could do that if we all lived in Hobbesian times where we were all scared of our neighbors killing us in this brutal world we live in, but because Locke and Rousseau got to reexamine Hobbes through later lenses, we’re now stuck with a system of a state of nature that requires bartering, food stamps and industry to build very large explosives that will be dropped on other people who might want our food and food stamps (and possibly our bombs). In order to protect the land barons of yesterday, we built industry barons of the day before yesterday, and now we coordinate technology barons who gives us access to our own information so we can reconnect with the people who live down the hall from us, but we’re too lousy to leave the apartment and knock on their doors.
Which brings me to diatribes on anarchy. There was a lot Brand and Leonard both said that is both significant and important. But no matter how much you listen to what they have to say, you’re still left with an overwhelming sense of despair, brought on by the fact that getting to there from here is a lot like walking through muddy waters, without Chicago blues to back you up. People are really good at talking the game of anarchy or lack of government, but not too many people are really good at being able to envision just how you get from where we are now to a state of perfection (if that’s argued to be someone’s ideal). However, Leonard makes a great argument in that if someone has a parasitic creature on its face, telling that person that he needs to explain what creature he’d replace it with is not a question that should be asked, rather than just offering to get rid of the creature. The same thing can be said for a government system and economic infrastructure that are both not working. The answer that its defenders want is “what would you replace it with” when what anarchists are really saying is “get rid of it first, and we’ll figure out what should replace it later”. Democracy fans (or even monarchists and totalitarian fans) don’t like the absence of government as a state of being in order to deal with the removal of a parasitic government instead, which is why they’ll keep asking “what will you replace it with” when anarchists want that answer to be “nothing” or “anything you haven’t tried yet”.
And that’s where the complication of anarchy and not-working government comes to a head. Our system hasn’t worked for many years now.. I’m not even talking abou the dysfunction between two overpowered parties that stopped serving the mass needs of most citizens a long time ago either. I’m talking about how those two parties stopped serving the mass needs of citizens a long time ago. I don’t care that they can’t get along. I don’t care that they hate each other. I care that both of them have zero problem enabling themselves off of the system and making themselves filthy rich while pretending to be doing it in the name of the people. We should have seen the warnings when CEOs argued that corporations should get citizenship but shouldn’t have to pay the penalties that are enacted against actual citizens when they do wrong or illegal acts. It’s why major corporations cheat, steal and basically take actions that kill people, and there’s no ramification that causes any of their executives to do anything other than hire a PR team that only responds when too many people start to think they’re doing bad things and stop buying their products. If I’m part of a corporation that kills tens or hundreds of people with my industrial waste that helped my stockholders profit greatly, the only payback that might occur will probably involve fines (at worst) and possibly very weak future oversight. Me, personally, I’ll be free to do it again, and probably wouldn’t lose my job or position, and if I got away with enough, I’ll probably be promoted (or put somewhere with even more responsibilities because I’m seen as someone who can get things done).
That is what a lot of the complaints have been about, but no one really seems to care. Instead, we watch reality TV, worship movie and TV stars,, allow media conglomerates to take over the media industries that report our news, and we become dumber and dumber. And when someone rises above the dumb level of conversation and says something, we marginalize that person and make sure no one else listens to him or her again. If I was a comedian, this would actually be funny. But even our bad comedians, when they say this stuff, aren’t listened to, so what chance do I have to be heard above the noise?