Russell Brand has come a long way since showing up for work dressed as Osama Bin Laden on the day after the Twin Towers were grounded.
The comedian-turned-political activist is now fighting for a much more radical change that involves scrapping international corporations and even abandoning the very idea of the nation state.
Brand’s recent book Revolution contains the core of his political manifesto:
[Our] ultimate aim is to live in self-governing, fully autonomous, ecologically responsible, egalitarian communities. Where like-minded people, or people with compatible cultures (because all our minds are ultimately alike), can live together without fucking around with what other people are up to. The organs, both ideological and practical, are already in place: we have accommodation, hospitals, transportation and communication networks. All we have to do is disband the corruption that skews them for the advancement of an elite.
To construct a roadmap for reaching this anarcho-utopian society, Brand looks to author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge. She suggests a three-point plan:
1. Rein in the power of big business by renegotiating trade treaties to insist that multinational corporations be place-based and accountable to nation states.
2. Re-localise food and farming by taxing food miles and removing subsidies for intensive agriculture.
3. Prioritise life over profit by rejecting GNP in favour of indicators that measure […] personal well-being.
The plan would require a wholesale change the way we imagine 21st century business or, as Brand prefers to put it, we would need “to kill [the] corporation”. He takes his inspiration for this idea from the Canadian anti-capitalistic media organisation Adbusters (emphasis added).
Adbusters propose a return to the earlier corporate incarnation: with a limited function which expire at the completion of that function. This would mean a completely different cultural and economic landscape; corporations and brands would be relegated to a functional position in the society, where they serve us instead of dominating us.
The idea is that a CEO should not work just to deliver a profit at the end of the year, like in the modern capitalist system, but instead focus on the function they were created for. As long as the iPhone is a great phone, Tim Cook should be happy regardless of how much money Apple makes.
Unfortunately we are given precious few hints for how this would be achieved. But, then again, maybe that’s the point.
In a column for the Guardian written after his interview with then-Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman that he credits with beginning his journey from comedian to revolutionary, Brand makes clear he’s only laying the seeds rather than delivering the victory:
“As I said to Paxman at the time “I can’t conjure up a global Utopia right now in this hotel room”. Obviously that’s not my job and it doesn’t need to be, we have brilliant thinkers and organisations and no one needs to cook up an egalitarian Shangri-La on their todd; we can all do it together.”
So perhaps, given the lack of detailed proposals or even claims to leadership, what Brand is really selling here is Revolution-lite.
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