Revolution by Russell Brand review – the barmy credo of a Beverly Hills Buddhist

The comedian’s desire to lead a global revolution is undermined by his smug, 
shallow manifesto

[‘He discredits leftwing thought’: Russell Brand addresses anti-austerity 
demonstrators at a rally in London in June. Photograph: Rex Features]

Nick Cohen
Monday 27 October 2014 05.00 EDT

The rich can buy anything in Britain, and they have now brought us their own 
opposition. Russell Brand is the voice of the discontented wealthy. He tells us 
that money can’t buy you love – which I already knew – and that only the 
complete overthrow of the existing system and embrace of mysticism can take us 
from “the shallow pool of the known” to the “great untamable ocean” beyond.

I was prepared to dismiss Revolution as the swollen ramblings of a jaded celeb. 
Brand leaves you in little doubt that he is trying to escape the ennui that 
follows trying everything once except incest and folk dancing. “It’s only 
because I decimated my life by aggressively pursuing eating, wanking, drinking, 
consuming and getting famous that I was forced to look at spiritual 
alternatives.” Inspiring a revolution – for such is his ambition – is one of 
the few thrills to have escaped him. “The revolution cannot be boring,” he says 
as he encapsulates his thoughtlessness in one phrase. “We’d all be a bit 
disappointed if utopia and ditching capitalism boiled down to ‘We want to be a 
bit more like Germany’ – fuck that.”

His writing is atrocious: long-winded, confused and smug; filled with 
references to books Brand has half read and thinkers he has half understood. At 
one point, he discusses whether our perception of reality is a mentally 
constructed illusion (don’t ask me why). “So,” Brand says in a conclusion 
worthy of a Thought for the Day vicar, “when Elton John said Marilyn Monroe was 
‘like a candle in the wind’ he was probably bloody right, and if he wasn’t 
we’ll never know.” At another, Brand argues that spirituality is the road to 
revolution, a belief that would have baffled every revolutionary leader in 
modern European history. “We’re all doing the same thing, dreaming the same 
dream, in the words of Belinda Carlisle,” he announces in a sentence that is so 
syrupy a Barbie doll might have written it, and worse – much worse – misquotes 
Ms Carlisle.

For all that, Brand is worth taking notice of because he is the nearest Britain 
has to a revolutionary populist. The right and far right have Nigel Farage. The 
Islamists have George Galloway. Scottish nationalists have (or had) Alex 
Salmond. These demagogues boom out certainties that make the tentative policies 
of conventional leaders appear pale and timid. “Get out of the European Union.” 
“Get out of the Muslim world.” “Get out of Britain.” Get out, and with one 
convulsive act of renunciation, you can escape the complexity that blights your 
lives.

Television news producers are as world-weary as any burnt-out celebrity. They 
want Brand to be their new Farage and draw hundreds of thousands to their 
failing programmes. I am not saying that there is not a need for a left 
populism to confront financial power and environmental degradation. But Brand 
is a religious narcissist, and if the British left falls for him, it will show 
itself to be beyond saving.

His book tells us much about him and little about the rest of humanity. Brand 
says that he is qualified to lead a global transformation, not because of the 
quality of his thought, but because he has transformed his private life. “I may 
not have overthrown a government. But [I have] navigated myself from one set of 
feelings where drinking and drugs were my only solution to a state where I 
never drink or take drugs.” It is perhaps too easy to reply: “Well, bully for 
you.” I accept that freeing yourself from addiction and finding inner peace can 
have more beneficial effect than any political programme the powerful can 
implement. But Brand is offering his Beverly Hills Buddhism as a political 
programme, not a self-help guide. Everything is corrupt, his theory runs. All 
politicians are the same. Reforms won’t do, and no one can expect him to 
relinquish his fortune until there has been “systemic change on a global scale” 
(a useful condition that last one).

The systemic change that means the most to Brand is an embrace of meditation 
and pantheism. The greatest villain of Revolution is not a super-rich financier 
but Richard Dawkins. Brand denounces him as a “menopausal” proponent of 
“atheistic tyranny” because Dawkins denies the existence of the supernatural. 
He pulls a succession of shabby tricks to bolster his claim that religion does 
not authorise oppression. Anyone who claims that Jesus, Allah, Krishna or the 
fountainhead of any other religion endorses homophobia instead of the “union of 
all mankind” is “on a massive blag”, he says. Brand has to ignore Leviticus’s 
edict that the punishment for men who sleep with other men is death, St Paul’s 
hysterics about lesbianism and the hadiths that have Muhammad saying that the 
punishment for sodomy is death by stoning. In other words, he has to ignore 
several millennia of real and continuing religious repression, so he can make 
his spiritualism sound emancipatory rather than cranky.

Comrades, I am sure I do not need to tell you that no figure in the history of 
the left has seen Buddhism as a force for human emancipation. If it were, Sri 
Lanka would be a paradise rather than a site for ethno-religious slaughter. Nor 
has any revolutionary leader said that atheists will be the revolution’s first 
target. In our times, only Islamist counter-revolutionaries dream of their 
suppression.

Brand might have designed the political programme that follows to discredit 
leftwing thought. The revolutionary state should revoke the charters of 
corporations with revenues larger than the nation with the smallest gross 
domestic product. According to the World Bank, that nation is Tuvalu in 
Polynesia with a GDP of $37m – which means that Brand wants to close all large 
and many medium-sized businesses. Food production must be localised and organic 
– which means Brand wants hyperinflation, starvation and the bankrupting of 
African food exporters. And personal debts should be abolished – which means 
that Brand wants to crash the credit system and return us to a barter economy.

In an unintentionally revealing moment, Brand describes attending a trade union 
march against austerity. He complains that the protesters are not like Islamic 
State terrorists but “flaccid” and placid. He has a case. For all its many 
faults, the British left does not imitate Isis. It does not commit genocide and 
practise sexual slavery. Its “revolution”, when and if it comes, will consist 
of boring, gradual attempts to restrain an economic system that is running 
amok. Russell Brand will want no part of its tedious reforms and will go off in 
search of bigger thrills.

The sooner he leaves the better.
 

 Revolution by Russell Brand review – the barmy credo of a Beverly Hills 
Buddhist 
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/27/revolution-review-russell-brand-beverly-hills-buddhist?CMP=ema_565

 
 
 
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/27/revolution-review-russell-brand-beverly-hills-buddhist?CMP=ema_565
 
 
 Revolution by Russell Brand review – the barmy credo of ... 
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/27/revolution-review-russell-brand-beverly-hills-buddhist?CMP=ema_565
 Russell Brand’s desire to lead a global revolution is undermined by his smug, 
shallow manifesto, wr...
 
 
 
 
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/27/revolution-review-russell-brand-beverly-hills-buddhist?CMP=ema_565
 
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