October 25, 2013

Russell Brand and not voting



Russell Brand's BBC interview is drawing a lot of fire, from his statement that we're creating a more permanent, more worldwide, more entrenched underclass, through his statement we need some sort of revolution, and finally at his thoughts on not voting in a democracy. I take the written quote from the Guardian's summation of the interview:
"Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve."
It seems that progressives (one friendly Texas blogger, I know of) as well as conservatives are jumping on this one.

Sorry, but I'm with Brand, and I'm not alone.

About a decade ago, the Dallas Morning News had interviews with a lot of ’60s era civil rights activists from the Dallas area. You know what? A number of them felt like Brand, and said they hadn't voted in years, if not decades.

I agree with Brand, overall. The Guardian's columnist nuances the issue:
Should Brand be taken to task for rejecting the vote in this context? Yes and no. No, because his rejection clearly resonates with, and is reflective of, a growing sentiment in wider society where, in fact, actual majorities in our liberal democracies do not vote - not because they are apathetic, but because of the abject apathy of a broken political system in the face of the crisis of civilisation. Yes, because simply disengaging from the prevailing political system is another extreme reaction that is, in fact, part and parcel of the very system it purports to reject. Because the more the majority disengages, the more a decreasing minority is able to dominate the political class.
Sadly, big bucks from both the Republican and Democrat (sic on purpose) parties hope more people agree with him, and get apathetic not just about the act of voting, but about politics in general.

However, it appears Brand is NOT apathetic about politics in general. Or let's hope not. Back to the Guardian:
That does not mean the solution lies within the prevailing political paradigm. Brand's call for revolution, for a fundamental political, economic, cultural and cognitive shift, is on point. But rather than entailing disengagement resulting in anarchy, this requires the opposite: Engagement at all levels in order to elicit structural transformation on multiple scales through the overwhelming presence of people taking power back, here and now. 
Agreed. At the same time, at some point, it requires having specific goals, specific "toolkits" for working on those goals, prioritizing goals, and making other strategic decisions.

In short, we need people taking back power, but we don't need the Occupy mythical nonsense of "leaderlessness," nor the Adbusters/Anonymous mentality behind it.

Anyway, back on point, speaking of focus.

I support the act of not voting. I've done it before, myself, where both "mainstream" parties' candidates in a certain election were that unappealing and I had no third-party option.

Heck, Brand is British, and he's got a wider variety of options that might be electorally meaningful, being in a parliamentary system, even if the House of Commons is like the US House with first-past-the-post single-member districts.

3 comments:

PDiddie, aka Perry Hussein Dorrell said...

There are alternatives to 'not voting' that do a better job of sending the message Brand intends. For example, various public referenda are often on the ballot; that is as direct as US democracy gets and should never be overlooked. If there are indeed no candidates at all worth your vote... to show up at the poll, register, and cast an empty ballot best accomplishes the objective (because you will be recorded as an 'undervote' in each race). But there's bound to be someone you can support; even in the ongoing Houston, TX mayoral election, there is a Green AND a Socialist Workers Party candidate on the ballot.

Gadfly said...

You make a good point, and that's what I normally do when "not voting," is actually to show up, but not vote on a particular race. I don't know how Brand handles "not voting," but it does sound like, for him, it's not voting at all, doesn't it.

Back in the days of paper ballots in smaller town Texas, I deliberately wrote someone in on a ballot, on a race that didn't allow for that.

PDiddie, aka Perry Hussein Dorrell said...

"Pat Paulsen for President".