December 13, 2014

Why I Believe Russell Brand

farage-brand

Jesus, BBC’s Question Time on Thursday night was DEPRESSING.

I tweeted that I was getting rather ‘deprunk’ (a word my little sister taught me; a combination of being drunk and colloquially depressed) as I rifled through the #BBCQT hashtag, it was a farce. I poured myself a vat of red wine and settled down on the sofa to watch the battle commence: Russell Brands vs Nigel Farage (a.k.a. Nasty Nidge). Like with most things that follow excessive amounts of media hype, it obviously wasn’t going to give everyone the answers they were hoping for.

Now, as a 25 year old working in the  media, my confession is I’ve been pretty disinterested in politics for most of my life. I ran for the hills when an old teacher suggested I should take a politics class, and I’d conveniently “need the loo” or ask “anyone want another drink?” whenever anyone started a political row in the pub. I just wanted it at arm’s length. Sure, I’d dip into the odd ranty column but I wouldn’t really have my own opinion. I would just be a bit immature about it and say I hated them all. That, I know, isn’t overly helpful or productive – or a very good message. Being engaged with politics is a highly important part of our society; these decisions, opinions and policies affecting every single one of us.

The funny thing is that a mad-haired, bearded, flamboyant comedian has made me interested again. Russell Brand, someone who I’d admired for just being some ‘funny frivolous bloke’ now has me properly ENGAGED. Enraged and engaged. He’s entered the debate and speaks from a new point of view; a different background. He’s a rags to riches, not a riches-to-even-more-rich. It’s adds a different dimension to the debate. His voice isn’t posh for starters, and even that highlights how SAMEY all the politicians are. Samey isn’t good. Samey doesn’t represent the country. Samey is dangerous.

I actually care. I woke up the next day after watching #QuestionTime still really riled up. I used to be a passive bystander, but that’s because I didn’t care or relate to any of the men in power. And they are mostly men. Straight White Males.

The thing is, they are also Serious Straight White Males. They is no ice-breaker. Russell Brand’s use of comedy in last night’s Question Time was pretty much the only thing that made me actually reflect. Comedy can be a very good way to talk about serious issues. We see this all the time in stand-up. The things that make the audience wince, are the things that speak so much of the TRUTH. I believe Brand when he says he wants to pull away the curtains and show us the corruption, the cover-ups. I feel like there’s so much ugly stuff that politicians hide from us on a daily basis.

It wasn’t just Russell Brand that came across well during #QT; it was also inspiring to see the other female politicians who spoke up, who would not be interrupted, challenging the old system and speaking in a measured tone. In particular Mary Creagh (Labour MP) and Camilla Cavendish (Sunday Times columnist) gave objective views, accepted other points of view, and I felt they were trying to help on a bigger wider scale, with a bird’s eye view of the issues. Nigel Farage however came across as an irritating toddler, just trying to dust off his own shoulders and make himself look good. When the Straight White Male politicians just argue about their own views, their own salaries, their own media profile, the world doesn’t only snore, but we realise how much time this wastes. The energy spent on discussing salaries is time and money lost on fighting the more important issues in hand. I am so incredibly bored of the media circus surrounding politicians pay-packet. I don’t care – just get on with the job and stop whining about it.

It annoyed me when a Channel 4 News reporter asked about Russell Brand’s rent on his expensive flat. Russell Brand earned his own living from a different career – he is a very successful comedian – it has absolutely nothing to do with this political work. It was an unfair question and it also highlights how petty all of the pay questions are. How much people want to out-do each other. If you want to obsess about your money and your own media profile go on Big Brother, don’t be a politician. Make the salary debate about the people that matter, who’s livelihoods are more at stake and deserve more recognition, aka the nurses at the NHS who haven’t had a pay rise for three years.

Russell Brand is not perfect and he will not be able to start the revolution alone. He is also not responsible for giving the country a solution single-handedly. I believe his involvement has proven that celebrities or influencers can bring attention to the cause. That they can get kids excited again.

Because that’s what’s missing in all of this: The Cool Teacher. The one that’s likeable. The one’s that make us sit up listen and engage, instead of just being told things that go in one ear and out the other because speaking in a glum monotone is not effective.

Imagine if we had a politician who we thought was COOL. Who’s face we’d wear on a t-shirt. Like when I bought t-shirts for me and my housemates during the Obama campaign.

He’s not been right or logical about everything, but one thing that totally stuck in my mind from his Huffington Post follow-up piece was this:

“That the people have the wisdom, not politicians, that the old paradigm is broken and will not be repaired. That the future is collectivised power.”

He is right. It IS about collectivised power. It is NOT about the same few mates from school running the country. We need more diversity, more representation, more people who CARE.

The way we communicate is changing. I cannot understand a political group who are so old-fashioned in the way they talk to young people. I’m not just talking about the internet, although Russell Brand’s Twitter feed and The Trews YouTube series proves that young people want digital engaging content. I’m talking about their tone, their marketing skills, their language. “Young people” are not idiots, we are savvy, we want to be involved, we are obsessed with being involved, but there’s nothing relatable to be in involved IN.

Please, give us something we can grab on to – because right now, it’s starting to scare us.

My Book

“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”

– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE

"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"

– The Debrief

“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic