Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thank you, Russell Brand!

I recently read a really brilliant jewel of an editorial piece, written by the UK comedian, Russell Brand. As usual, in the comments, he was criticised for not presenting a comprehensive solution. Said commenters have, most likely, been infected by a popular, apathy inducing belief: "Don't talk about problems unless you have a solution." I've no idea what universe they reside in, but in this one, some things have to happen in a particular order. First, one identifies and articulates a problem, then one understands it, then solutions become available. The fact that Russell doesn't have a solution does not negate the value of his criticism. He is right about the futility of voting. How ignorant do you have to be, to not know that it costs a lot of money to run a successful election campaign? That level of funding can only come from the very deep pockets of corporations and the super-rich. They like things as they are, and they don't bankroll candidates who would threaten their interests and privilege. He is right about the fact that the horrific suffering of billions, is required to maintain our present, competition-based system. He is right when he points out that the insane greed of a handful of psychopaths is hurtling the planet towards ecological disaster. It's important that these things be said. It is the first, and absolutely necessary, step towards real solutions.

Other people felt the need to accuse Russell of hypocrisy, on the grounds that he is allegedly very well off financially. Of course, if Russell were poor, those same critics would have dismissed the piece as a case of sour grapes. Personally, I think his decision to argue against his own position of economic privilege was an act of admirable and unusual integrity.

I also think Russell was unfairly accused of trying to incite revolution, without having any real ideas about what form it might take, or what consequences might follow. That's not how I interpreted his statements, nor do I believe that was his intention. He simply pointed out that a revolution is coming. He's right; a revolution is coming. Anyone who denies that, knows nothing of history, or isn't paying attention to what's going on around them. It's no longer a question of, "Will there be revolution, or not?" It's only a question of what kind of revolution it will be. It's high time people started talking about that, as well, before it actually happens. That's not irresponsible; it's the only thing that might, possibly, lead to a good outcome.

I'm really happy that someone as articulate, intelligent and influential as Russell Brand has broken the mainstream silence about all these issues at last. Good on him! He doesn't claim to have all the answers and I, for one, find that truly, refreshingly, honest and responsible. Clearly, he's not the one with a messiah complex. It's the nut-cases who expect him to either save the world single-handedly, or shut up, that have the messiah issues.

Voluntary?

I feel that I need to say something about the growing, Orwellian misuse of the word: voluntary.

voluntary
ˈvɒlənt(ə)ri/
adjective
  1. 1.
    done, given, or acting of one's own free will.
    "we are funded by voluntary contributions"
    synonyms:optionaldiscretionary, at one's discretion, elective, non-compulsory,non-mandatory, not required, open, open to choice, volitional, up to the individual; More
  2. 2.
    working, done, or maintained without payment.
    "a voluntary helper"
    synonyms:unpaidunsalaried, without pay, without payment, free of charge,without charge, for nothing, for free; More

I have a problem with people who stretch the definition of "voluntary" to include actions motivated by coercion. For example, income tax is supposedly voluntary. Yup, it's entirely up to you, whether you pay it or not. Only thing is, if you don't pay, you'll be fined or sent to prison. Say what!? No really; you have a choice. You can volunteer to pay, or you can volunteer to go to prison. I'm not making this up. Free market ideologues like to use "voluntary" as well, in describing their preferred social system. As in: "Free market transactions are voluntary." I can't figure out if they're stupid, or lying, or just have their heads stuffed so far up their asses that they've forgotten what the real world is. So, if I'm a poor person living in some third world hell-hole, I can volunteer to trade my skills and resources for whatever the market says they're worth, (less than a living wage) or I can volunteer to be homeless and starving? Just out of curiosity, what is the opposite of voluntary? That would be "involuntary", I suppose.

involuntary
ɪnˈvɒlənt(ə)ri/
adjective
  1. 1.
    done without will or conscious control.
    "she gave an involuntary shudder"
  2. 2.
    done against someone's will; compulsory.
    "a policy of involuntary repatriation"
    synonyms:compulsoryobligatorymandatoryforced, coerced, coercive,compelled,
    exacted, imposed, demanded, required, constrained,ordained, prescribed;
     More

Does this mean that everything I do, provided that I'm not being robotically controlled, is voluntary? If my only choices are obedience or death, is my choice still voluntary?