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October 26, 2013



If there's a credible left-of-Labour candidate in your area, why not vote for them? Greens in some places (including any PR election), some SNP candidates in parts of Scotland, most Plaid candidates in Wales, previously Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham...

Also, the main problem with Brand isn't that he's incoherent - it's that he's a terrible sexist. Refusing to work until a colleague shows him her tits, slut-shaming a girl to her grandpa on air, that kind of thing.


"the Technological Revolution took tens"

ALGOL 60. So called because it was invented in 1960. C++ 14. the latest standard to be released in 2014 - 54 years later, and still recognisably based on ALGOL.

So not so fast, the technology revolution is not finished by any means, with still many decades to go before we are done.


Chris: "If there's a big mass of potential voters to win, politicians will, eventually, have an incentive to appeal to them."

Party organisers know that the votes which they will most likely get come from people who voted for them previously. Voters are like magazine subscribers, expensive to obtain and requiring continual maintenance. Consequently, party organisers have faith that First Past The Post will keep them in the game at the next general election and beyond.

Perhaps there is a critical mass of abstentions versus active voters, at which point an alternative movement can scoop up new votes. Many LibDem victories occurred because previous non-voters turned out for them. Ditto for Respect wins. But an alternative movement typically needs to convert voters as well.


so as a father of two boys what advice should I give them on how to treat women? As equals? With respect? Or should I just tell them to read this?


Tim Almond

The problem is that you always need government. Even if you're a minarchist who wants government to do little more than defend borders and lock up criminals, you need to vote for that style of government or get something else.

And while I am opposed to the FPTP system and how it ensures two-and-a-bit-party rule, and creates the sort of elites that mean that the Conservatives are full of boys who went to school together and Labour is full of the sons and daughters of Benn and Miliband, and we have had less than 10 MPs in new parties since 1960, not voting isn't going to help. At worst, you might as well pick the least bad choice and do your small part in trying to push politics in a certain direction.

Zeke the Cork

It is curious, the overheated reactions you tend to get when someone admits to not voting. Say that you know nothing about politics - that you voted Conservative because you found David Cameron 'likeable', or that you vote Labour 'because my family has always been Labour', and no-one will accuse you of failing in your duty as a citizen. But say that you don't vote and you get that stuff about betraying your ancestors.

I'd also take issue with Jamie Bartlett's argument that spoiling your ballot paper is a better option than not voting. Low turnouts do get noticed, sometimes (for instance, the wretched turnout in the PCC elections has surely reduced the chance of any further experiments of that kind). But offhand I can't think of a single election when the number of spoiled ballots has given cause for comment - except when it was the result of voters being confused by badly-designed ballot papers (a quite separate issue).


Just to add to Dipper's point, not only has the ICT revolution been running for decades (arguably for over a century, if you start the clock with the electromagnetic wave experiments of Edison and Tesla), but the agricultural revolution did not take thousands of years.

The real revolution in agriculture was not the domestication of livestock or the invention of the plough, but the improvements in productivity and efficiency that occured during the late 18th / early 19th centuries. This enabled the majority of the population to move from an economy based on subsisdence to one based on manufacturing and services.

Technological revolutions typically have a slow build up over many decades with an "accelerated" peak (when they come to public attention) and a gradual "deceleration" (actually more of a plateau, but we find it easier to think of it as a wave-form).

Brand is subscribing to a classic ideological trope - the idea that modernity means that everything is speeded-up. This serves to encourage manic consumption and the worship of pseudo-change (I imagine he's been through a few iPhones in his time). His heart is in the right place, but he doesn't half talk a lot of bollocks.


I agree with your criticisms of politics.

But there is another way of looking at this. Namely that representative democracy is a tremendous achievement from a historical point of view. Until the early nineteenth century almost no one thought it could work at all. In developed countries it allows for stable governments that change without mass violence and some limited choice at the ballot box.

The system is elitist but you can argue less so than the systems that preceded it. It would still be a great advance for mankind if all countries became liberal democracies.


I knew I could count on this blog to provide a counterbalance to the pile-one.

Now all we need is to transplant Mr Dillow's brain into Mr Brand's head, and we might really be able to get somewhere.


FATE: "This enabled the majority of the population to move from an economy based on subsisdence to one based on manufacturing and services."

True enough, but in 1939 10% of UK population still worked in roles which supported agriculture. WWII conditions imposed major change on UK agriculture, particularly mechanisation and large scale farming. Peculiar circumstances accelerated that particular curve of efficiency.

Regarding ICT revolution, the significant change is mass communication (the disparaged discipline of Media Studies derives from Mass Communication study, or the like). Super computers permit scientists to imply that winds will tear UK apart on Sunday; I comprehended the message. However I do not own any windmills which need to be turned off nor am I able to move my house. I will not do anything differently this weekend.

Have earth observation scientists and weather predictors done anything useful? Almost certainly, their advice is useful to other specialists. To us masses, it is just weather.


"...The real revolution in agriculture was ... the improvements in productivity and efficiency that occured during the late 18th /early 19th centuries. This enabled the majority of the population to move from an economy based on subsistence to one based on manufacturing and services..."

It sounds so nice the way that you put it. Mass dispossession, through New Poor Laws and enclosure for their own sake. But the "subsistence' aspect persisted, in the towns and cities to which the "surplus" poor flocked because they were driven.
Indeed it persists as reports of fuel and food hunger suggest.

The truth is that the Agricultural Revolution did take a very long time and is still accelerating-unfortunately.


Great post, as always, Chris.
I agree with much of Brand's diagnosis and much of the general spirit behind his solutions but the not voting thing: really not so much. The political and the personal are irrevocably intertwined, whatever Brand thinks - unless one has managed to completely detach from all national/global systems - it is a myth to assume that individual or collective apathy can either be sustained or helpful, except to the interests of the most powerful: it leaves far too much to chance. Here I agree more with Bartlett. Abstention from voting, is an option and a natural reaction, I concede, in the dissatisfied (or lazy, or ignorant), but it merely takes us back to chance. Far better, I always think, to turn out to vote and spoil one's ballot in the absence of a palatable choice because at least spoiled ballots are counted. It is the one of the few official "platforms" we have through which to show our disapproval, after all. That would also speed up politicians' "incentive to appeal", for "eventually" is a most unsatisfactory time frame. There's nothing to stop us forming and using other platforms simultaneously.

It is a shame how right you are about "the bind that leftists are in". As are the rightists, too, really, in their own way. It shows how far we haven't come or how easily Society reverts when it is desperate, frightened and confused. Personally I have little time for those who play the envy/hypocrisy cards. It serves to perpetuate traditional and economic class distinctions and stereotypes and, well: it's superficial, lazy and grossly oversimplified in the 21st Century.


@Bevin, I wasn't seeking to make it sound "nice", merely pointing out that the decisive shift in agriculture happened over a relatively short period. This gave rise to terrible social suffering and also the creation of "the reserve army of labour" that was crucial to the industrial revolution that followed.

Over the period 1750-1850 the UK population trebled but the number employed in agriculture fell from 45% to 22%, with most of that drop happening after 1800. In other words, 1 in 4 of the population went from the fields to factories and workshops within living memory.

Tom Hickey

Russell Brand quite brilliantly set forth the position of Occupy and Indignados. His TV presentation and New Statesman article are street theatre and populist poetry reminiscent of the populist figures that stirred the Sixties and Seventies countercultural revolution along with the musicians and comedians.

Don't look now, but it is happening again in much the same fashion and Russell Brand has already won a leading role in the coming social, political and economic transformation, which will be led by global youth demanding a Fair Deal.

As Brand observed, there's no chance of that given the current institutional arrangements and power structure.

BTW, this was anything but a naive outburst, if one groks the many allusions in the poetry. I was gobsmacked at how brilliant his New Statesman piece is on so many levels. I have the knowledge, but I wish I had the creativity to write it. It's a battle cry.

Tom Hickey

BTW, Brand's call for a spiritual revolution is key to his position as it was to the countercultural revolution of the Sixties and Seventies. This is not new with Brand and he is echoing what many were saying at that time, such as R. Buckminster Fuller (whom brand mentions), representing the cutting edge in the West, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who adapted Eastern knowledge to Western and emerging global conditions. While Brand doesn't mention Maharishi specifically, his call for a change in consciousness reflects Maharishi's assertion that social change involves a raising of the level of collective consciousness of the society.

Joseph Campbell (whom brand mentions) consulted with George Lucas on the development of a modern cultural epic in Star Wars, based on a mystical experience of Lucas that is represented by the Force, which is cast in Star Wars on the model of chi, qi, ki, in Oriental thinking and martial arts.

There is huge depth here. Don't just write it off if you aren't familiar with what's been happening with respect to consciousness since the Sixties. For example, Abraham Maslow led a revolution in academic psychology that broke the lock that Skinner's behaviorism held on the discipline in the Fifties. Since then consciousness studies has become a hot interdisciplinary field.

And in economics, take a look at people like Kenneth Boulding, who was not only an economist but also became a co-founder of General Systems Theory as he came to realize that conventional economics had lost its way and irredeemable institutionally.

Brand call in essence to turn on (spiritually), tune in, and drop out reflects Timothy Leary's message, which was LSD laced at the time. Brand has gone through the drug phase and realized that drugs are not an answer but that a shift in consciousness is and drugs are unnecessary to achieve it individually and scale it up socially.


I can't take person worth an estimated 15 million USD who talks about the 1% seriously.

The scary thing is he actually believes his own hype.

Mark C

The voting thing is the froth of the situation: the relatively harmless quote to get noticed.

The key message is in the areas of failure of our current system:
Environmental degredation, financial inequality and social exclusion.

I felt the message from the interview and his article (not read any more of
NS) was more a call for people to work together to improve the collective lot.

In an odd way it was a suggestion that the only way to change our reality is outside the political system... What someone once called The Big Society.

Environmentalists have Greenpeace, Transition etc. Socially Shelter, Amnesty... the churches and faith groups.

This is why the call for a spiritual awakening is so important. Business profit is dictated by the choicez of individuals, if those choices become guided by prinipals above lowest cost the environment may change without a shift in government.

Perhaps Katy Perry's dad had more influence than one might have thought.

Jon Danzig

Russell Brand had a popular message of dissent, but his advice not to vote was misguided.

Politicians are only there because we put them there. We can also take them away again. We have the power; we need to exercise that power more, not less.

At the last General Election, around 16 million people who were registered to vote chose not to. Add to that around 9 million people who were entitled to vote, but decided not to register. That's a total of 25 million non-voters. Together they could have completely changed the direction of this country; they could have put into power any one of dozens of political parties on offer.

Did their non-vote benefit anyone in the country? I don't think so. They chose not to take part. The country carried on without them. The non-voters contributed nothing; their power was wasted.

See my blog in response to Russell Brand, 'Can't vote or don't vote?'


Neil Harding

Quite simply, to improve our political system we need to give politicians more of an incentive to attract our vote. A more proportional system would help by evening out the importance of voters, but we also need to give importance to non voters, whose numbers are increasing in all cpuntries whatever their system. I propose MPs chosen by lot randomly from the entire electorate in inverse proportion to turnout - so if 40% of the electorate don't vote, 40% of MPs are chosen by lot. Now the elected would have a real incentive to maximise their vote.


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A great article with insight, also in many of the comments.
Agree, I think Russell "works" on many levels - which provokes/bemuses/annoys some - he's very holistic.

Agree comment lamenting his voting strategy tho. Yeah sure revolution is inevitable on current trajectory, but some are not ready yet to march in the street.

If those who can't be bothered to vote, took the trouble to write just that "I can't be bothered to vote for any of them" [spoiling their ballots] they are counted! AND if there's a common theme or vaste rise in spoilt ballots, it might be hard not to notice. They never reported how many papers were spoilt over that silly PCC thing recently? [afraid to]. How much would spoilers gain by knowing how many others there are?
Don't just spoil one ballot paper, do one ask for another ... maybe they'd run out?
People notice


How the hell can anyone know with useful probability the medium term yet alone long term consequences of their voting or not voting? It's a complex system.

Any argument from consequence is quite clearly utter bollocks. That leaves open principle I guess.


The problem is our current politicians. The answer is to encourage intelligent, benevolent souls to stand for election. Get rid of the party politicians for whom we cannot bring ourselves to vote. Scare them to death and sweep them away by a massive number of independents standing for election. Let's make a list of possible candidates, encourage/implore them to stand. Already high profile individuals from different walks of life? UK's top 300 intellectuals' list may be a good starting point. We can and must do it. Rich men often make better leaders not only because of their latent talents but also because of their lesser need for personal affirmation/gain.

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