The other day I watched this video because it was spreading like wildfire (uncontained wildfire without the a wildland crew in sight) across Facebook. I usually find Russell Brand to be amusing, engaging, intelligent, and sexy in his sarcasm and wit. However, this video left me WANTING something more. It is all well and good to call for revolution and to point out the unfairness of the current system. In fact, I would even say that is important: awareness and enlightenment is the first step. However, I think that we, as a society, have moved beyond that first step, and to keep reiterating the first step (the “call” for revolution without concrete plans for action) can stall the revolution as much as any type of pacification with the current system. by continuing to call for action people feel like they are contributing to something, feel like they are being heard, feel like they are organizing, but nothing is actually being DONE to make changes. This is nothing more than a safety valve that releases the frustration of the general population, rendering them harmless against the current patriarchal capitalist system. I believe that Paxton had every right to ask what Brand suggests we actually do, and I would have loved to have heard a strait answer from Brand. But I didn’t. He stated the problems several times: economic inequality, generational systems of hierarchy, the general population not being heard, and the natural environment being destroyed. We KNOW this. This is not new information. What we do not know is how to act in a way that will bring about change to the current global and national systems that are so unfair. Brand’s answer seemed to be to not participate in the current system (by not voting) and to just wait until a clear plan comes out from someone smarter than he is. He also pushed the problem back onto the people with the power, saying it is their responsibility to fix things because they have the power, when their having power is a direct result of a broken system. Okay, Brand, I get that you are a comedian and not a social theorist, but you have a strong following and I would like to see you using that to advance a social revolution instead of stirring people up into simple foam and froth, to be blown away with the next interesting call for action. He doesn’t have to be the one making the plan, but perhaps he can use his fame and position of celebrity to point people in the direction of others who have valid plans for revolution.
That being said, I thought I should not be a hypocrite and offer up my plan for how we, as a group, could gain power and effect social and economic change in the world. Some of these things I am doing, some I am working towards, and some I know I will never achieve. I also recognize that most of them only work if a large majority of people agreed to act together, and that by doing them as an individual you are exposing yourself to risk of exploitation and poverty.
- Buy local. I don’t mean just use a mom and pop store that imports its goods from who-knows-where. I mean buy honestly local as much as possible. Buy food from local farms. Buy textiles made in your state. Learn what the natural resources are near to you and learn to live your life utilizing them. If you can’t buy local, then buy second hand. If you need to buy globally then establish a personal relationship with your supplier and understand their economic ethics.
- Don’t buy. Seriously. Begin a minimalist lifestyle. Assess what you really NEED in your life as opposed to what commodities serve to pacify you. Buy less. Do we really need the latest computer, tablet and phone? Do we need to update these every year? Do we need new clothes every season? The latest baby gear? Honestly, no. We are taught to shop to keep the economy running, but the current economy serves the interest of a select few, so go ahead and bring that economy to a grinding halt. Grow your own garden. Knit and sew your own clothes. Trade with your friends, not department stores. Ride a bike instead of driving a car.
- Take the money you save by not buying things and reduce your hours at work. Does a family actually need two full-time incomes to flourish? Do you actually need to work 45 hours a week? Current American consumer trends say, yes, working that much is necessary to buy all of the things we “need.” I say we don’t actually need most of those things. Cut your hours back to at MOST 40. Cut your family incomes down to at MOST 1.5. Cut more if you can. Try to get down to living off of 20 hours of work a week. The world would still function if we all worked just 20 hours a week. Of course, I realize that is not a reality for most people as 40 hours are necessary for health care and other work-related benefits. Petition your employer to change their policies to accommodate part-time work more readily. Change your employer if they refuse to work with you.
- Take the time you save by not working and work on building your community. Spend time with your neighbors. Move out of the city. Host parties. Say hello to everyone you live near. Trade with your neighbors. Teach each other skills. Go on vacations that do not concentrate on spending money. Chaperone a field trip. Lead a scout troop. Volunteer your time and attention to others, and let others volunteer to help you. Start a community garden, an adult skills-trade. Engage and get to know each other on a personal, economic, and political level.
- Engage in grass-roots democracy. Perhaps you realize that our global and national level of representation sucks, and you want to change that. No matter who gets elected at those levels that system will not change UNLESS there is pressure on the candidates from people organized at the local level. Organize a neighborhood council, and participate. Use the weight of your neighborhood council to pressure your city council to actually represent your wants and needs. Let that force trickle up to the state and national levels.