Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Not my Brand of Revolution

Gentle reader,
 I had hoped to stop ranting.


Really and truly… I was prepared to write something warm and smiley… something to read to the kids over hot chocolate and Dutch cookies (they wouldn't have to be Dutch, any Frankish Confection would suffice) but alas…

Russell Brand had to start a revolution.

Or, at least, prophesy a revolution.

In a very entertaining and informative interview on the BBC, Russell Brand tapped into the disenfranchised zeitgeist and shared his disgust at the current state of politics in the western world; the lack of attention being paid to the environment and the dis-empowering of the populace.  He declared “Government” a failure; revealed that he does not vote and that explained that voting only supports a system that offers no “real” alternatives and perpetuates injustice.  (

And now, cue my grandfather….

Seriously, I know that my reaction is going to sound like an old privileged guy invested in the old way of doing things, but I've got to tell you, I’m tired of this entitled whining.  Russell Brand is willing to throw away his right to vote so casually… a right that woman only won in the past century, a right that people considered to be “less than a whole person” took to the streets to demand; endured torture and death to claim… a right that Ghandi started a revolution to obtain, a right that woman with blue ink on their fingers are risking their lives for today…
Russell has declared it meaningless.  
Because England, America (and by inference Canada) aren't offering any real alternatives.

You know, if you don’t like what Mommy or Daddy is making for dinner, you can sit at the table and refuse to eat.  Lots of little children do. 
OR, you could also go into the kitchen and learn to cook.  Lots of adults do.

I’m not defending a specific political party and I can be as cynical and frustrated with our various governments and leaders and anybody (I live in Toronto for goodness sake!!) but to just opt out and wait for the revolution?  Like all those people who are waiting for the Apocalypse when God swoops down and saves those who have been so hard done by (their own estimation) and exacts revenge on the slobbering fat cats – Russell needs to get a life, realize that he has a responsibility here and now and get off the side lines waiting for someone else to fix it.

That’s how responsive democratic governments came to be.
That’s how unions that protect workers came to be.
That’s how new political parties come into being.

Had others had the same sentiment earlier in the last century, decried the Government for not having a comprehensive health care plan for all citizens and decided not to vote, we would have no Health Care system in Canada and no NDP party offering another voice to the national debate.  Tommy Douglas could have stuck to preaching and his colleagues to farming… Not voting would have showed them all…

And we would have:
No emissions standards.
No environmental protections whatsoever.
No immigration policies.
No employment assistance.
No protection for farmers.
No food security or health standards.
No Equal Marriage
No Green Party.

I know that many of the things included on the above list are underwhelming, they may not be comprehensive enough; responsive enough… but imagine, none.   That’s what Russell is offering when he says that we should just get rid of government.  Really? By what organ will we determine the will of the people and then find the means to enact or support that will?  Shall we just let Apple and Walmart run the show?

Some will argue that the Government is not doing the will of the people… and I would agree.  But when voter turnout for the last Federal Election was 61%, who’s really to blame?

But they didn't really give us any alternatives, I hear you cry.

Yes… so, don’t leave it all to Election Day.  Get out and join a political party and help to change the policy so that there is an alternative on Election Day.  Start a new party!  I appreciate that it is unlikely that that Green Party will form the Federal Government in my life time, but they have already influenced the debate and will continue to do so, as long as people are willing to work for what that in which they believe.  It wasn't that long ago that the CCF became the NDP and everybody knew that they would NEVER form a Federal Government or even be the “Official Opposition” and yet, here they are as the latter and cannot be discounted as the former.  And in capturing the imagination and passion of the public, they have had a profound influence on the policies of the Canadian Government and the other parties.  

Remember Stephan Dion?  He seemed to be committed to a number of ideas that would appeal to Russell Brand and others who wring their hands and hang their heads…. What happened to him?  Not enough votes.

The problem (as I see it) is that, in this fast paced world of pop-up menus and instant selection on my smartphone and television set, change isn't fast enough. We want some immediate gratification and relief. We want to push a button and change the screen.  We might be prepared to vote, after all it only takes an hour, but to go out and work for a party? Become a member and go to policy meetings? Walk the streets and share ideas, promote alternatives.? Become a candidate?  That might take more than an hour… it might take days or weeks… real fundamental change might take years or even generations…  we don’t have that kind of time!!!

Well, Russell… yes, you do.  
If it matters to you, you can find the time.

I’m not asking you or anybody to wait for the world to change – I’m asking you to change the world, even if it takes years… even if you have to work and work and don’t live long enough to be at the victory party…

Not voting?
You realize that the lower the voter turnout, the more likely it is for the incumbent government to maintain power? So, by not voting, what you really do is play into the hands of those who don’t want you to have a voice and you encourage those in power to avoid alternatives, after all, alternatives just might encourage voting.  As long as you decide to not vote in protest, THEY get to write the narrative, set the agenda and mollify dissent with the promise of better cable television prices.  

Real change demands real participation.  It requires patience.  It requires self-sacrifice.  It often means doing work that is over-looked, under-valued and often goes unappreciated.  But it brings about education for all people, universal health care, moves us closer to justice; provides support for those trying to make a life; offers sanctuary for those in peril… it offers protection for the minority… the right to speak, marry or live without fear of a mob…it provides support and context for culture.   It takes many forms, happens in many places – but very rarely (in my opinion) is it achieved by NOT voting.   

I agree with Mr. Brand that a revolution is coming… I am not convinced that  it is a revolution that needs to burn down everything that we have worked for over the centuries.  However, whatever form it takes, it is a revolution that will be led by active, sacrificing participants...  not those waiting at the table for a better supper.

End of Rant.  (where's my remote?)

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