Russell on Margaret Thatcher: “I always felt sorry for her children”

April 9th, 2013

One Sunday recently while staying in London I took a stroll in the gardens of Temple, the insular clod of quads and offices between The Strand and The Embankment. It’s kind of a luxury, rent controlled ghetto for lawyers and barristers, there is a beautiful tailor’s, a fine chapel, established by The Knight’s Templar (from which the compound takes it’s name) a twee cottage designed by Sir Christopher Wren and a Rose Garden; which I never promised you.

My mate John and I were wandering there together, him expertly proselyting on the architecture and the history of the place, me pretending to be Rumpole Of The Bailey (quietly in my mind), when we spied in the distant garden a hunched and frail figure, in a raincoat, scarf about her head watering the roses under the breezy supervision of a masticating copper. “What’s going on there mate?” John asked a nearby chippy loading his white van. “Maggie Thatcher” he said. “Comes here every week to water them flowers.” The three of us watched as the gentle horticultural ritual was feebly enacted, then regarded the Iron Lady being helped into the back of a car and trundling off. In this moment she inspired only curiosity, a pale phantom dumbly filling her day. None present eyed her meanly or spoke with vitriol and it wasn’t till an hour later that I dreamt up an Ealing Comedy style caper in which two inept crooks kidnap Thatcher from the garden but are unable to cope with the demands of dealing with her and give her back. This reverie only occurred when the car was out of view. In her diminished presence I stared like an amateur astronomer unable to describe my awe at this distant phenomena.

When I was a kid Margaret Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring – I could ignore the content but the intent drilled it’s way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and Prime Minister when I was four, she remained in power till I was fifteen, I am, it’s safe to say, one of Thatcher’s children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

I grew up in Essex with a single Mum and a go-getter Dagenham Dad. I don’t know if they ever voted for her, I don’t know if they liked her, my Dad I suspect did, he had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent, so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.

As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it’d be a kid’s memory bank account at a neurological Nat West where you’re encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs) I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning The IRA. And the miners. And the single Mums. The Dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually.

Thinking about it now, when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn’t know what to think of this fearsome woman.

Perhaps my early apathy and indifference are a result of what Thatcher deliberately engendered, the idea that “there is no such thing as society” that we are alone on our journey through life, solitary atoms of consciousness. Or perhaps it was just because I was a little kid and more interested in them Weetabix skinheads, Roland Rat and Knight-rider. Either way I’m an adult now and none of those things are on telly anymore so there’s no excuse for apathy.

When John Lennon was told of Elvis Presley’s death he famously responded “Elvis died when he joined the army” meaning of course, that his combat clothing and clipped hair signaled the demise of the thrusting, Dionysian revolution of which he was the immaculate emblem.

When I awoke today on LA time my phone was full of impertinent digital eulogies. It’d be disingenuous to omit that there were a fair number of ding-dong style celebratory messages amidst the pensive reflections on the end of an era. Interestingly one mate of mine, a proper leftie, in his heyday all Red Wedge and right-on punch-ups was melancholy. “I thought I’d be overjoyed, but really it’s just… another one bites the dust…” this demonstrates I suppose that if you opposed Thatcher’s ideas it is likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one’s enemies.

Perhaps though Thatcher, “the monster” didn’t die today from a stroke perhaps that Thatcher died as she sobbed self-pitying tears as she was driven defeated from Downing Street, ousted by her own party. By then, 1990, I was fifteen, adolescent and instinctively antiestablishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I’d unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support, I was on my own. We are all on our own. Norman Tebbit one of Thatcher’s acolytes and fellow “Munsters evacuee” said when the National Union Of Miners eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided “We didn’t just break the strike, we broke the spell”. The spell he’s referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community.

Those strikes were confusing to me as a child. All of The Tory edicts that bludgeoned our nation, as my generation squirmed through ghoulish puberty, were confusing. When all the public amenities were flogged the adverts made it seem to my childish eyes fun and positive, jaunty slogans and affable British stereotypes jostling about in villages, selling people companies that they’d already paid for through tax. I just now watched the British Gas one again, it’s like a whimsical live action episode of Postman Pat where his cat is craftily carved up and sold back to him.

“The News” was the pompous conduit through which we suckled at the barren Baroness, through newscaster wet-nurses, naturally, not direct from the steel teat. Jan Leeming, Sue Lawly Moira Stewart – delivering doctrine with sterile sexiness, like a butterscotch scented beige vapour. To use a less bizarre analogy; If Thatcher was the Headmistress they were junior school teachers, authoritative but warm enough that you could call them Mum by accident. You could never call Margaret mother by mistake, for a national matriarch she is oddly unmaternal. I always felt a bit sorry for her biological children Mark and Carol, wondering from whom they would get their cuddles. “Thatcher as mother” seemed, to my tiddly mind, anathema, how could anyone who was so resolutely Margaret Thatcher be anything else? In the Meryl Streep film it’s the scenes of domesticity that appear most absurd. Knocking up a flan for Dennis or helping Carol with her algebra or Mark with his gunrunning are jarring distractions from the main narrative; woman as warrior queen.

It always struck me as peculiar too when the Spice Girls briefly championed Thatcher as an early example of Girl Power, I don’t see that. She is an anomaly, a product of the freak-conomy of her time. Barack Obama interestingly said in his statement that she had “broken the glass ceiling for other women”. Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.

I have few recollections of Thatcher after the slowly chauffeured, weepy Downing Street cortege. I’d become a delinquent by now living on heroin and benefit fraud.

There were sporadic resurrections; to drape a hankie over a model BA plane tailfin because she disliked the unpatriotic logo with which they’d replaced the Union Jack (maybe don’t privatise BA then) or to shuffle about some country pile arm in arm with a dithery Pinochet and tell us all what a fine fellow he was. It always irks when right wing folk demonstrate in a familial or exclusive setting the values that they deny in a broader social context. They’re happy to share big windfall bonuses with their cronies, they’ll stick up for deposed dictator chums when they’re down on their luck, they’ll find opportunities in business for people they care about. I hope I’m not being reductive but it seems Thatcher’s time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behavior that it’s much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

Is that what made her so formidable, her ability to ignore the suffering of others? Given the nature of her legacy “survival of the fittest” – a phrase that Darwin himself only used twice in Origin Of Species, compared to hundreds of references to altruism, love and cooperation, it isn’t surprising that there are parties tonight in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brixton – from where are they to have learned compassion and forgiveness?

The blunt, pathetic reality today is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision, if you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn’t sad for anyone else. There are pangs of nostalgia, yes, because for me she’s all tied up with Hi-De-Hi and Speak and Spell and Blockbusters and “follow the bear”. What is more troubling is my inability to ascertain where my own selfishness ends and her neoliberal inculcation begins. All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn state funeral are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate.

I can’t articulate with the skill of either of “the Marks”, Steel or Thomas, why Thatcher and Thatcherism were so bad for Britain but I do recall that even to a child her demeanour and every discernible action seemed to be to the detriment of our national spirit and identity. Her refusal to stand against apartheid, her civil war against the unions, her aggression towards our neighbours in Ireland and a taxation system that was devised in the dark ages, the bombing of a retreating ship – it’s just not British.

I do not yet know what affect Margaret Thatcher has had on me as an individual or on the character of our country as we continue to evolve. As a child she unnerved me but we are not children now and we are free to choose our own ethical codes and leaders that reflect them.

Russell Brand: My life without drugs

March 8th, 2013

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received “an inconvenient truth” from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change – I’m not that ecologically switched on – she told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

Morrissey, as ever, conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.

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Give It Up

March 5th, 2013

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received “an inconvenient truth” from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change – I’m not that ecologically switched on, she told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

Morrissey as ever conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralizing pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation fifteen years ago it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in it’s hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.

This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.

It is ten years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has immeasurably improved. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.

The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational. Recently for the purposes of a documentary on this subject I reviewed some footage of myself smoking heroin that my friend had shot as part of a typically exhibitionistic attempt of mine to get clean.

I sit wasted and slumped with an unacceptable haircut against a wall in another Hackney flat (Hackney is starting to seem like part of the problem) inhaling fizzy, black snakes of smack off a scrap of crumpled foil. When I saw the tape a month or so ago what is surprising is that my reaction is not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced but envy at witnessing an earlier version of myself unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was, who for all his problems had drugs. That is obviously irrational.

The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope.

This is the reason I have started a fund within Comic Relief, “Give It Up”. I want to raise awareness of, and money for abstinence based recovery. It was Kevin Cahill’s idea, he is the bloke who runs Comic Relief. He called me after reading an article I wrote after Amy Winehouse died. Her death had a powerful impact on me I suppose because it was such an obvious shock, like watching someone for hours through a telescope advance towards you, fist extended with the intention of punching you in the face. Even though I saw it coming it still hurt when it eventually hit me.

What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple, it actually is simple but it isn’t easy, it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. Not to mention that the whole infrastructure of abstinence based recovery is shrouded in necessary secrecy. There are support fellowships that are easy to find and open to anyone who needs them but they eschew promotion of any kind in order to preserve the purity of their purpose, which is; for people with alcoholism and addiction to help one another stay clean and sober.

Without these fellowships I would take drugs. Because, even now, the condition persists. Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.

If this seems odd to you it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90% of people who can drink and use drugs safely, I have friends that can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack and then merrily get on with their lives, for me this is not an option. I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house.

I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me, unchecked the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see that dereliction can survive in opulence; the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare. Spurred by Amy’s death I’ve tried to salvage unwilling victims from the mayhem of the internal storm and am always, always just pulled inside myself. I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in it’s glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release it’s prey.  The gutter is within. It is frustrating to watch. It is frustrating to love someone with this disease.

A friend of mine’s brother cannot stop drinking. He get’s a few months of sobriety and his inner beauty, with the obstacles of his horrible drunken behaviour pushed aside by the presence of a program, begins to radiate. His family bask relieved, in the joy of their returned loved one, his life gathers momentum but then he somehow forgets the price of this freedom, returns to his old way of thinking, picks up a drink and Mr. Hyde is back in the saddle. Once more his brother’s face is gaunt and hopeless. His family blame themselves and wonder what they could have done differently, racking their minds for a perfect sentiment, wrapped up in the perfect sentence, a magic bullet to sear right through the toxic fortress that has incarcerated the person they love and restore them to sanity. The fact is though they can’t, the sufferer must of course be a willing participant in their own recovery. They must not pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time, just don’t pick up, that’s all.

It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had “brought it on themselves”?

Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it, I share my brain with one, and I can tell you first hand they are total fucking wankers. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug and alcohol free lives. Guided by principles and traditions a program has been founded that has worked miracles in millions of lives. Not just the alcoholics and addicts themselves but their families, their friends and of course society as a whole.

What we want to do with Give It Up is popularise a compassionate perception of drunks and addicts and provide funding for places at treatment centers where they can get clean using these principles. Then, once they are drug and alcohol free, to make sure they retain contact with the support that is available to keep them clean. I know that as you read this you either identify with it yourself or are reminded of someone who you love who cannot exercise control over substances. I want you to know that the help that was available to me, the help upon which my recovery still depends is available.

I wound down the hill in an alien land, Morrissey chanted lonely mantras, the pain quickly accumulates incalculably and I begin to weave the familiar tapestry that tells an old, old story. I think of places I could score. Off Santa Monica there’s a homeless man who I know uses gear. I could find him, buy him a bag if he takes me to score.

I’d leave him on the corner, a couple of rocks, a couple of $20 bags pressed into my sweaty palm. I get home, I pull out the foil, neatly torn. I break the bottom off a Martel miniature. I have cigarettes, using makes me need fags. I make a pipe for the rocks with the bottle. I lay a strip of foil on the counter to chase the brown. I pause to reflect and regret that I don’t know how to fix, only smoke, feeling inferior even in the manner of my using. I see the foil scorch. I hear the crackle from which crack gets it’s name. I feel the plastic fog hit the back of my yawning throat. Eyes up. Back relaxing, the bottle drops and the greedy bliss eats my pain. There is no girl, there is no tomorrow, there is nothing but the bilious kiss of the greedy bliss.

Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web I am reaching for my phone. I call someone not a doctor or a sage not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he’ll just let it ring out. It’s 4am in London. He’s asleep, he can’t hear the phone, he won’t pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble
“Hello. You alright mate?”
He picks up.
And for another day, thank God, I don’t have to.

More pics from I Am A Walrus Down Under

December 4th, 2012

Russ and Gee examine the wildlife

the team terrorise a koala


October 20th, 2011

Among the many triumphs of the Occupy Wall Street movement (a campaign so alive with zeitgeist that I feel here obligated to reference its proper title – #OccupyWallStreet) is the remarkable sense of occasion that accompanies the phenomenon. Since it began a month ago I’ve been subliminally transfixed. Then, like a baffled alien abductee, I unwittingly found myself first transplanted from Los Angeles to Manhattan then suddenly somnambu-jogging through Tribeca to Zuccotti Park, lured by a peculiar certainty that I simply had to be there.
Leaving my apartment with an objective no grander than to go for a run I somehow landed amidst Zuccotti’s tarpaulin sprawl in unforgivable leggings and a headband that would have had Alice reaching for a shard of cracked looking-glass.

There can be few cultures that would unthinkingly welcome into their fold a man dressed as I was in the macabre attire of a spandex scarecrow but the occupants of this pop up civilization offered me first food, then shelter and then, incredibly, hope that we can change the world.

Of course, this may seem like cock-eyed optimism given that physically the site resembles a Kenyan slum, all slung together wigwams, a Toy-Town medi-centre and a cardboard-igloo library, but whilst the visible structures may be flimsy they are held together by an invisible scaffold of ideals founded upon the thing the establishment fears most; the will of the people.

During my first accidental visit I chatted with an enthralling bunch, notably a beautiful group of teenagers, righteous and idealistic and interestingly mellow. I suppose they differ from the London teens that last month took a starkly contrasting course of action from the same impetus of frustration, in that while they may be similarly disenfranchised, they believe in the possibility of change.

Brianna who is seventeen, pagan-pretty and dusky, is attending college by day and occupying Wall Street by night like some heart wrenching cross between Pocahontas and Batman, said that young people are entitled to an education without being bound to a lifetime of debt. Whilst “Messiah” (there’s a lot of those names flying about, go with it; it’s a small price to pay for Utopia) literally danced into the conversation and self consciously, but touchingly, divided up and shared a stick of gum in a “Sermon on the Mount” brought to us by Juicy Fruit. You might think, that given her name, that was the least she could do, but we’re talking about a sixteen-year-old girl here. If Fox News and the Daily Mail are to be believed I’m damn lucky she didn’t shiv me in the guts and film it on her phone.

Here in Zuccotti Square these young people clearly felt safe, purposeful, included and behaved with charm, compassion and respect. Naturally I was impressed but more agitated than ever by my jogging outfit. Really, it’s terrible, I mean if we’re going to bring about systemic and meaningful social change, I want to be dressed for it.

The next day I returned to learn more, in a very fetching scarf with my friend Daniel Pinchbeck the brilliant writer, radical and ludicrously, yet truthfully titled “psychedelic Shaman”.

One of the movement’s significant principles is that there are no appointed leaders. That said, there are more experienced and pragmatic inhabitants to whom Daniel and I chatted. We were given a tour of the site and in spite of the lashing rain and gales, which I, of course regarded as the winds of change and cleansing rain, all we encountered were bonhomous and welcoming. Much more than I’d anticipated. Let’s face facts, one of the campaign’s few edicts is to provide the unrepresented 99% with a voice, had I, when I fitted into that demographic, chanced upon a touring celebrity I would have used that voice to tell him to fuck off, no matter how nice his scarf was.

Perhaps it is this ambience of inclusion, of acceptance and indeed of love that has brought #OccupyWallStreet such success. There is a remarkable absence of anger and resentment which is why the movement resonates so deeply. Is this movement’s implicit goal to reengage our humanity? To reach beyond the political, the national and other illusory, temporary concepts and into our true, spiritual nature?

Justin, our volunteer tour guide was smiling and patient, especially with my incessant questioning about where people go to the toilet; mostly in McDonald’s it transpires – I’m glad Ronald and the Hamburglar at last have a chance to atone for their mucky past and eery jocundity. The sense of cohesion and civic duty in the square, which many call Liberty Square, its former title, was something I found appealing. In my country, England, and across the world there is amongst older people an irritation at the breakdown of traditional values, a grudge against apathetic and uncaring youth, atomized and X-box agog, indifferent to their culture, abstracted from their land.

Here young men who would typically be drenched in spittle-flecked “Get a job” rage diligently join committees for sanitation, cooking and on site security. A voluntary conscription to the cause of change. A nation founded on ideals of harmony and responsibility, on representing the whole, built here in a privately owned square. The ownership of the Square, explained David, a seasoned and visionary activist, is important as the New York Real Estate Group who represent the interests of the powerful institutions to whom this movement is a threat, are now desperate to implement legislative change that will ensure the Occupation will be curtailed and not repeated. Clearly this is no simple undertaking as demonstrated when the suspicious attempts to vacate the Square for cleaning were abandoned. It is unlike Mayor Bloomberg to back down but David outlined this movement is unlike anything this country has ever seen.

Other protestors took the time to educate me on the matters that had brought them to the square. One purple haired, perfect skinned occupant told me beneath the billow and crack of the turbulent tarpaulin that in 2009 24% of American families with children were at some point too poor to buy food. Hunger. It doesn’t get more basic than that. Another lad, black and bright eyed with spectacles that I suspect-acle didn’t have glass in them, informed me that 50 million Americans do not have health care. Perhaps that’s why his glasses weren’t finished.

Of course these problems are not unique to America, they are the symptoms of a global epidemic, said a lady who was there speaking on behalf of the Mexican Zapatista movement using the already iconic “Human Mic” system in which staccato sentences are truncated and repeated by the crowd. A charming and inspiring instant cultural artifact.

A Scotsman there told me that he considered this to be America’s class awakening, that the 99% are a contemporary proletariat existing in opposition to an oligarchical 1%. A business class that have been steadily waging a clandestine class war through market deregulation and psychopathic economic exploitation. The surprisingly sanguine Scot told me that now this exploitation is reaching critical mass, too many families are affected, too many people are losing jobs, too many people across our planet cannot put food on their family’s table for this behavior to continue unopposed.

As I listened, Johnny, a wild-eyed wolf man drummer, continued the burgeoning rhythm, a slow, comforting nocturnal heartbeat.

Later, leaving the McDonald’s lavvy (the staff were lovely and friendly and seemed to really like the protestors; recognizing perhaps whose interests were being represented) we exploited corporate facilities further by questioning Bill, a seasoned campaigner, in Dirty Ron’s boutique brand, Pret a Manger.

Bill has been an activist for many years primarily with the early campaigns to bring awareness and justice to sufferers of HIV and AIDS. He said there were similarities with the #OccupyWallStreet movement in terms of the bureaucratic obstacles and official reluctance, but that this huge issue of social inequality, of unbearable economic disparity has a veracity and velocity that was difficult even for those on the ground floor to anticipate.

Daniel Pinchbeck proposes that we are entering an era of profound change of consciousness. That capitalism has provided our civilization with the machinery of mass communication and with it potential global union.

It occurs that the relentless charge of vagueness leveled at this movement may be it’s great strength. The reason there is no candid agenda is because a spiritual shift this seismic is initially difficult to legislate.

I think another attractive distinction that #OccupyWallStreet has is that unlike a lot of pious “Lefty” movements it’s a riot down there – I mean in the sense of “fun” not the kind of riots I was arrested at as a boy. Why, I met a fellow in a skin-tight stars and stripes gimp suit, all covered with scribbles and slogans. I’m not ashamed to admit that in the giddiness of the moment I quite forgot myself and unzipped his mouth and planted a kiss on his full lips. Only after did I ask his sexual orientation which he described as “open minded”, the perv.

As I was leaving, my outfit compromised once more by the addition of a freely given plastic poncho (it wasn’t really a poncho it was a sack, I had to chew my way out of it to make a head-hole, even then I was hardly Clint Eastwood but I had to do something about my hair. Plus my ascot was by now ruined) a bloke I spoke to, a former US government employee, a Doogie Howser Deepthroat, told me of the fear the movement had generated amongst politicians. #OccupyWallStreet has no recognizable funding, an anomaly the government does not know how to address. Typically public protests are funded by non-profit organizations that are easy to hound, and behind them foundations that would yield to political intimidation. But this amorphous, righteous, global collective is impossible to buy, too popular to repress and too peaceful to oppose militarily. Those in power for the first time in two generations are being confronted with something they don’t understand, and they are afraid.

As I walked home to my 1% apartment I felt incredibly hopeful, the benevolence and enlightenment of the Zuccotti tribe alleviated my feelings of hypocrisy, at least for now. Looking back through the media trucks and flash bulbs it was apparent that they have colonized more than the formerly anonymous square, they have colonized the international agenda. All about the surveillance cameras observe, the police look on.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is already a success on the most basic of principles; it’s own simple objective as stated in its name has been met- Wall Street is occupied. At least Zuccotti Park is, this once architecturally banal plaza, framed by silently thundering corporate tombstones, is becoming both the graveyard of a deceased economic dogma and the cradle of the revolution.

America is awake and with it the American dream has awoken.

Big Brother isn’t watching you

August 11th, 2011

I no longer live in London. I’ve been transplanted to Los Angeles by a combination of love and money; such good fortune and opportunity, in both cases, you might think disqualify me from commenting on matters in my homeland. Even the results of Britain’s Got Ice-Factor may lay prettily glistening beyond my remit now that I am self-banished.

To be honest when I lived in England I didn’t really care too much for the fabricated theatrics of reality TV. Except when I worked for Big Brother, then it was my job to slosh about in the amplified trivia of the housemates/inmates. Sometimes it was actually quite bloody interesting. Particularly the year that Nadia won. She was the Portuguese transsexual. Remember? No? Well, that’s the nature of the medium; as it whizzes past the eyes it seems very relevant but the malady of reality TV stars is that their shelf life expires, like dog years, by the power of seven. To me it seems as if Nadia’s triumph took place during the silver jubilee, we had a street party.

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Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse: ‘We have lost a beautiful, talented woman’

July 24th, 2011

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.

Frustratingly it’s not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene.

I’ve known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma.

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Booky Wook 2 Tour announced

September 10th, 2010

Russell has announced a limited number of dates on his “Booky Wook 2 Tour” – an evening of stand-up, interview with very special guest and audience Q & A.

London Hackney Empire, Thu 30 September
Live interview with Jonathan Ross

Following dates feature onstage interview with Matt Morgan

Edinburgh EICC, Tue 05 October

Newcastle Tyne Theatre, Wed 06 October

Manchester Opera House, Thu 07 October

Bristol Hippodrome, Fri 08 October

Birmingham Alexander Theatre, Sat 09 October

Further info and booking details at Ticketzone

And for those of you in the US Russell will be doing a NY Times Talk Tuesday, October 12 at 6:30PM  at The Times Center, 242 West 41st Street

New York, NY 10018. Book here

More US Booky Wook promo info coming soon

November 20th, 2009

Here’s a charming pic of Russell at the GQ Men of the Year Awards in LA