Much has been made in recent weeks of Russell Brand’s appearance on Newsnight and his 4,000 word call to arms for a revolution in the New Statesman. In his interview and his article, Brand came across as articulate and eloquent and his polemical rhetoric about a political establishment out of touch with ordinary people and a need for a revolution struck a chord with many, especially young people. However, although Brand’s grievances with the establishment were well justified, his idea of a revolution was lazy, infantile and fundamentally flawed.
Brand posited many ideas of interest in his article such as a pressing need for aspiritual revolution based on “the acknowledgment that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised” and included other palatable (if slightly clichéd) leftie rhetoric. The main thrust of his argument, however, was that we should not bother to vote as the action of voting is a tacit acknowledgment of the legitimacy of our current political system which only serves to further perpetuate the cycle of a new set out of out of touch representatives. This rhetoric is controversial and dangerous and there are many indeed who hang on Brand’s every word and will take his message to heart. I completely agree with Brand’s raging against the machine but not with his proposed methods.
Apathy and indifference serve no purpose. Youth unemployment is high, tuition fees are spiralling, property prices are rocketing as is the cost of living and graduate jobs are few and far between. The frustration of many young people is understandable; we have more and more talented university educated young people but fewer opportunities for fulfilling and well paid work. This is a coalition completely out of touch with young people, which oversaw the rise in tuition fees and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance and David Cameron recently said that if the Conservatives were in a majority government he would scrap jobseeker’s allowance for under 25s.
What good does an indifferent shrug of the shoulders achieve then? The young are already stigmatised as lazy, apathetic and uninterested in politics (at least in the right wing press) so why should we perpetuate this unflattering image? When the time for electioneering comes, politicians routinely devote much time and effort to gaining the votes of the elderly? Why? Because they vote in droves. Their collective voice swings elections. Young people are something of an after thought. If you treat politics with indifference then politicians will return that indifference.
Without (hopefully) boring you with clichés and sanctimonious browbeating, modern history has seen much suffering and sacrifice either to protect our cherished notions of liberal democracy or for the basic right to vote. It is not something we should not take for granted. By all means, harness your anger and harass the establishment with chutzpah, write to your local MP or a national newspaper or go out into streets and protest. But whatever you do, don’t do nothing.