Russell Brand, revolution, and responsibility
Jake Jose insists that Russell Brand is wrong – voting is our civic duty, and the only means for change
The the vital thing about democracy is understanding. People vote, and their elected representatives enter office and proceed to act on the aims and desires that their constituents supported. There is an understanding that they won’t go off and govern on a whim – they are beholden to their electorate. Thus, electorates must actively engage in political discourse to voice their desires and their expectations, allowing politicians to govern according to these remits. If politicians fail to do so, they must be punished. If voters fail to participate, if they shirk their civic duty and shy away from the voting booth, the agreement falls part. They are abandoning their representatives, and in doing so preventing themselves any say in the policies that will govern them.
British comedian Russell Brand recently published a long political commentary urging people not to vote. This ignores the agreement in democracy; it is the people who elect their leaders that have the power to criticize and remove them. If you do not vote, you have no right to condemn the government, as you made no effort to change it, or make it otherwise. Not voting is akin to saying, “I don’t care what goes on in my government, who gets elected, or what their policies are.” Brand pointed out quite vividly that in today’s political system voters feel disenfranchised by selfish politicians who further their own personal agendas at the expense of the public. To an extent, he’s right. Voters did not vote for invasive national security, nor did they vote – in 2008 – for governments to bail out banks that threw their countries’ finances into disarray.
Voters did not vote for the ensuing recession nor they did not vote for the austerity measures enacted by politicians in an attempt to mitigate it. Voters will not vote on the new US-EU trade agreement and the concessions it will include to multinationals nor will they vote on the next round of tax cuts or raises and the details of the next bill. Democracy is not about direct influence on every single policy issue – democracy is an understanding between the electorate and the elected, an agreement that the latter will do its best to advance the interests of the former. The people give politicians power, who in return promise to care – unfortunately, the relationship between the political elites and the polity is anything but reciprocal these days. What can we do to change that?
Brand calls for a revolution. This is not the answer. For all of his bombast about revolution, Brand could not articulate any positive statement on how it could successfully progress. As he spoke to the ever-droll Jeremy Paxman, he could only say what his revolution “would not” be. It would not be economically disparaged, it would not destroy the planet and it would not marginalize the majority of the lower classes. It would not fuel a hierarchical society where mobility is obstructed by corporate ladders, higher education, and investment schemes. Beyond the abstraction of a utopian socialist society, Brand failed to mention how any alternative to democracy would benefit the common people.
What is required – and it is revolutionary in its simplicity – is mere accountability. It is in the hands of the voters to hold politicians responsible for their actions. and inaction. No longer can voters allow their governments and politicians to act on anything but the electorate’s mandate. A policy which favors the corporation at the expense of the people is undemocratic, a politician who favors corporations at the expense of the people is corrupt.
Egoism, corruption, and the preference of one group above another cannot be tolerated. Voters must partake in the democratic process by all means available to them. Civic engagement is not just about election day, it is about activism, awareness, and authenticity. The electorate must educate itself and express itself through all means possible, through participation, publication, and protest. The elected, and those elected will be some of us, must beholden themselves to the wants of the people. That is civic pride. That is democracy.
Within the next few decades, our generation will rise into positions of power. We, here at St Andrews, will be the politicians and the CEOs: it is our responsibility to govern and manage according to the principles of democracy. We must act ethically with the interests of the people – of all classes and parties – as our guide. It should be understood that if a politician, ten years from now, should go so far as to perpetuate the current antagonistic social and economic climate, they will be removed. If Russell Brand sees no hope for change, if he wants revolution, he should look to the ballot box. There is always more than one choice – it is our responsibility to ensure he can’t make a wrong one.
The views expressed in Viewpoint do not represent the views of The Saint, but are individual opinions.