Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Russel Brand has been big on the internet recently because of an interview he did where he espoused radical left wing sentiments like not voting because the system as it is currently is too awful and corrupt to support in such a way.  He advocates for a revolution instead of participation.  Predictably the responses have fallen along party lines and the extreme left wing folks are largely praising him as a genius and the right wing folks are calling him a lunatic.

I like his basic tenets pretty well.  He wants those governing to be more responsive to the needs of the people, to more evenly distribute wealth, and to better protect the environment.  Noble goals, and ones most of us support.  There are plenty of people talking about Brand, some criticizing his sexism while agreeing with his politics, and some just trashing him because he has no actual concrete suggestions, just criticisms of the current state.  I personally think that ideas on how bad things are have little interest unless they come along with some kind of plan that doesn't involve revolution.

It is easy to call for a revolution.  Glorious revolution, striking out against the bad guys and standing up for what is right!  Of course before the first shot is fired it is easy to imagine a revolution creating a utopia where the person or people who end up in charge feel exactly as we do about everything; after all, isn't that what the revolution is about?  The trouble occurs when we actually look at what happens in revolutions.  Death, suffering, and regression on environmental standards are the norm and unfortunately even when that cost is paid little improvement actually happens.  Normally the revolution is crushed by the incumbent rulers having accomplished nothing.  Even when it works it regularly ends up installing ruthless tyrants instead of a perfect benevolent government.  Just ask the Russians or the Egyptians if their revolutions created an ideal world.  Just because you can imagine a nebulous wonderland that could occur after a revolution does not mean that it will happen.  Even if you win it is highly unlikely that those that end up in power will think as you do or share your aims.

So yes, I agree with Brand that many of our institutions, laws, and customs are deeply flawed.  I agree that there are many things we could improve.  What I disagree about is that revolution towards an unstated goal is a sensible response.  Working within the system is slow, frustrating, and often futile.  That doesn't mean that picking up a gun and attacking the evil oppressor is better; it is romantic but romance has little to do with good policy.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is sigh and keep on trudging through the muck.  It won't get you all kinds of Likes and Views but it is how peaceful, happy societies are built.

If you don't believe me go and look at the track record of idealistic revolutions over history.  It is full of tragedy and completely lacking in utopian societies created from the ashes of evil regimes.

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