Russell Brand just cannot seem to stop shocking people lately and has been generating quite a bit of buzz by repeatedly demonstrating a thoughtful eloquent approach to much of life. Most of the recent chattering among the media circuit have revolved around an interview Brand gave with Jeremy Paxman during which the two engaged in a heated debate about the effectiveness of voting in the current political system.
People were impressed to behold Brand’s intellectual power as he sat in the predominantly beige room and spoke with great passion about each topic that Paxman grilled him on. He spoke of social reform, of designing a political system that represented the people and not just the privileged or “elite.” He spoke of his refusal to vote, stating that the system is too flawed for his vote to be of any use. He spoke of revolution, of “genuine alternatives,” and how the situation was one that could not sustain itself and simply had to change.
More than his just ideologies, the much of what seemed to impress was how very collected Russell Brand was inspite of the emotional investment he had in his viewpoints and the direct challenges being presented by Jeremy Paxman. Paxman seemed to think Brand’s ideas about government were at the very least impractical and Brand defended himself while remaining self-possessed and eloquent. Regardless of whether one agreed with him or not, none could argue that he did not present a well rounded argument.
This is not the first social issue that Brand has weighed in on, not even the first with Jeremy Paxman. Interviewed by Paxman in 2010, Brand discussed the “narrative” of celebrity and media. He discussed his own position within the omnipresent system that presents artists in the ways that serve the presenters and distracts the public from important information with fabricated perceptions on the trivial actions of the artists. He spoke of wanting to transcend fame and bring about actual, meaningful benefit to society.
By shocking people, Russell Brand is trying to draw attention to elements of society that he feels just cannot be sustained any longer and he is drawing upon his own personal experiences to provide insight into how those systems have failed.
In April 2012, Brand spoke before a committee that was reviewing legislation on drug related criminal activity. Brand’s appearance before the committee was solely to advocate for addiction as a disease. Again, he presented his arguments well, insisting that addiction was a disease and that the most compassionate approach would be to get those suffering from addiction into treatment. He asserted that with proper treatment, crime would be reduced because “in general” those who stop using and maintain sobriety no longer commit criminal acts.
It seems that one of reasons why Brand’s commentary is so shocking to others is the well thought out, introspective depth that he puts behind each point he makes. In each video he is able to respond impressive rapidity to each question and his responses are all presented as if he were doing a speedrun of all the information for an essay before a final exam.
While Brand’s earnestness is beyond question, his opinions are not. Many have criticized him for being childish and idealistic and Jeremy Paxman made it very clear that he felt Brand’s refusal to vote was irresponsible and prevented Brand from having the authority to speak about politics. Brand’s rebuttal is consistent and equally convicted. It can be found in each video and in the social commentary editorials he is increasingly becoming known for. That message is that he has lived with the consequences of the circumstances as they are. He was raised in impoverished conditions that gave rise to his addiction. He has struggled under the hold of that disease and continues to daily, despite his decade of sobriety. He has seen how the systems currently set in place have failed entire populations. As he told Paxman, “This is what I come from. This is what I care about.”
Russell Brand is on a mission which he feels so strongly about that he cannot stop and some of his methods are proving to be quite shocking to people. There is bound to be an expanding pool of people keeping an eye open for whatever is coming next out of that razor sharp mind.
Written by: Vanessa Blanchard