When travelling in impoverished regions in galling luxury, as I have done, you have to undergo some high-wire ethical arithmetic to legitimise your position. If you can’t geographically separate yourself from poverty, then you have to do it ideologically. You have to believe inequality is OK. You have to accept the ideas that segregate us from one another and nullify your human instinct for fairness.
Edward Slingerland, a professor of ancient Chinese philosophy at Stanford University, demonstrated this instinct to me with the use of hazelnuts. As we spoke, there was a bowl of them on the table. “Russell,” he said, scooping up a handful, “we humans have an inbuilt tendency towards fairness. If offered an unfair deal, we will want to reject it. If I have a huge bowl of nuts and offer you just one or two, how do you feel?”
The answer was actually quite complex. Firstly, I dislike hazelnuts, considering them to be the verminous titbits of squirrels. Secondly, they were my hazelnuts anyway; we were in my house. Most pertinently though, I felt that it was an unfair offering when he had so many nuts. He explained that human beings and even primates have an instinct for fairness even in situations where this instinct could be seen as detrimental. “You still have more nuts now than before,” he chirped, failing to acknowledge that all the nuts and indeed everything in the entire house belonged to me.
Come to two ‘Revolution’ events in NYC tomorrow Tuesday 14th Oct:
3pm Zuccotti Park – See me reading excerpts from my new book. I’ll also be joined by some Occupy movement specialists and then marching to Wall Street with them.
Then 7.30pm @ The Strand Union Sq.
I suppose we must each ask of ourselves – or each other, have fun with it, it could be a quiz – two fundamental questions: 1) Are you happy with things the way they are? And 2) Do you believe that things could be better?
I know most people want change. I know most people can’t be happy with the current regime. In any electoral process worth having, we might assume that the 3.5 billion people who have as much wealth collectively as the 85 richest people in the world are up for some amendments an’ all. I just used the calculator on my phone to subtract 85 from 3.5 billion and the answer had a letter in it. Even the calculator has gone berserk at this injustice.
That aside, a significant number of people are not happy with the way things are. I’m not, and I’ve done all right out of this system: I’ve a big house, a nice cat, and when I write books, they’re immediately put on the school curriculum. So this system has not been bad to me. I’ve been given everything I wanted. The problem is, I didn’t really want it. That desire was put there. Who put it there? And why?
Interview in The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone, Saturday 11 October 2014
Last year, Russell Brand caused another to-do. This time he wasn’t playing nasty jokes on Andrew Sachs, or boasting about the millions of people he’d slept with; he wasn’t calling George Bush a “retard”, or giving a Nazi salute at the GQ awards, or turning up to work dressed as Osama bin Laden (as he did the day after 9/11), or stripping naked to cover the May Day protest for MTV. No, this time he simply made a political statement.
Brand was asked to guest-edit the New Statesman, and chose revolution as his theme. He agreed “because it was a beautiful woman asking me”, associate editor Jemima Khan – not the most revolutionary reasoning. He then admitted he had never voted and encouraged others not to, in order to nobble the establishment. A few weeks later, he was grilled on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman: who was he to advocate revolution, a here-today, gone-tomorrow comedian, an apathetic whinger who couldn’t even be arsed to exercise his democratic right, a “very trivial man” who believed in nothing?
One year on, Brand has got his answer. Now, his revolution isn’t just a throwaway comment. It’s a new book, a slogan on his necklace and, he believes, a real possibility. The book is a classic Brand potpourri: brilliant and infuriating, part travelogue, memoir, rant, riff, a call to arms and, ultimately, to love. It is not as readable or funny as his two Booky Wooks; more stream-of-consciousness tract. In short, he argues that the planet is being destroyed, the poor are being shafted, the rich are getting richer and he has had enough.
Continue reading on The Guardian website