Continuing from the previous post… In his comment piece in the Guardian, Russell Brand has himself admitted that he said nothing new or original in his interview with Jeremy Paxman, acknowledging that it was the expression of the knowledge that democracy is irrelevant that resonated with both Paxman and a wider constituency.
In his op-ed, Brand argues that:
As long as the priorities of those in government remain the interests of big business, rather than the people they were elected to serve, the impact of voting is negligible and it is our responsibility to be more active if we want real change.
What Brand this fails to acknowledge or deal with is the reason why the people who politicians were elected to serve are not being served. It is too simplistic to say the politicians are only looking after the interests of big business. The fact is the power to effect change in this country has been given away to the European Union and politicians here cannot rein in behaviour of the corporates when EU laws give them a mandate to act as they do.
Whether Brand realises it or not, the issue again boils down to sovereignty – who should run Britain?
When Brand says that politicians are frauds, he is right on the money about many of them. This is because there is a significant number of politicians who understand very well the limitations that EU rule has on a government’s scope for domestic governance. Despite this they make impossible promises and hold forth about changes that need to be made in areas of policy where the UK no longer governs itself – while staying silent about the EU dimension.
However, there are politicians who simply do not understand the EU dimension and think the UK still has the ability to effect changes. Given the fast moving world of current affairs and the sheer breadth of things they need know just enough about to comment upon, as if they were in control of a brief, these are the people who don’t take the time to learn how this country is really governed, where power really resides and how little can actually be changed even if Westminster was of a mind to.
This takes us back to the so-called ‘democratic process’, which is just long hand for ‘voting’. This is about the limit of involvement people can have in our so-called democracy. But where is there any value in voting when the people we elect do not have the power to change those things we are opposed to? Back to Brand’s op-ed again:
The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right. The lazily duplicitous servants of The City expect us to gratefully participate in what amounts to little more than a political hokey cokey where every four years we get to choose what colour tie the liar who leads us wears.
Replace ‘The City’ with ‘the EU’ and Brand has actually got it spot on. The reason we only get a few derisory tit-bits is they are all there is within the gift of the people we elect to give to us. The reason they hop a few inches left or right is that all the big issues are dealt with in Brussels, so there’s no point in ideological battles when any mooted changes could not be delivered unless the EU willed it. That leaves us with the change in tie colour every four or five years, because the three main parties are all fighting over that narrow piece of ground where Britain still has some control over its affairs. That results in the insignificant differences Brand references.
Somewhere else Brand has managed to land on solid ground is with these words:
I like Jeremy Paxman, incidentally. I think he’s a decent bloke but like a lot of people who work deep within the system it’s hard for him to countenance ideas from outside the narrowly prescribed trench of contemporary democracy. Most of the people who criticized me have a vested interest in the maintenance of the system. They say the system works. What they mean is “the system works for me”.
Perhaps. Or perhaps they just have no imagination. Perhaps that is why the likes of that fool, Harry Mount, rush forth with a blanket rejection of Brand’s comments and have to work in extremes. The alternative to what ‘democracy’ we have today, the likes of Mount argue, is violent revolt, lawlessness, social breakdown, chaos.
Not for Mount is there any consideration of a different system where there is real democracy. One where the politicians have to ask for permission from the people before executing some of their plans. Not for Mount is there any route to this other than though armed revolt, rather than peaceful, intelligent civil disobedience that demonstrates a removal of consent by the people and removal of power to implement the wishes of those over whom we have no control and who we cannot hold to account.
Just as politicians avert their eyes from the EU elephant in the room, the other parts of the establishment avert their eyes from the one way they can be brought down, without them being given the excuse to use force of arms. Although Brand heads off on a flight of emotional indulgence, he does return to the core issue, possibly without realising what he has hit on, when he writes:
Here’s one for blighty; Philip Green, the bloke who owns Top Shop didn’t pay any income tax on a £1.2bn dividend in 2005. None. Unless he paid himself a salary that year, in addition to the £1.2bn dividend, the largest in corporate history, then the people who clean Top Shop paid more income tax than he did. That’s for two reasons – firstly because he said that all of his £1.2bn earnings belong to his missus, who was registered in Monaco and secondly because he’s an arsehole. The money he’s nicked through legal loopholes would pay the annual salary for 20,000 NHS nurses. It’s not illegal; it’s systemic, British people who voted, voted for it. I’m not voting for that.
What he has described is the result of the loss of sovereignty. This is what happens when a nation state can no longer levy taxes because it is precluded from doing so by the law that applies in the political union. This is a powerful case for leaving the EU, where corporatist interests are indeed put first. We have never voted for it, as Brand asserts. The politicians simply made it possible by taking decisions in our name and refusing to seek our permission. It doesn’t take a violent revolution to correct that. Just making ourselves ungovernable in a peaceful way is far more effective as it breaks the very system from which they derive their power and exert control. This is Harrogate Agenda territory. And it doesn’t require a single vote for the least worst choice of identikit political climber, it doesn’t require a spoiled ballot paper.
Brand finishes his piece thus:
If we all collude and collaborate together we can design a new system that makes the current one obsolete. The reality is there are alternatives. That is the terrifying truth that the media, government and big business work so hard to conceal. Even the outlet that printed this will tomorrow print a couple of columns saying what a naïve wanker I am, or try to find ways that I’ve fucked up. Well I am naïve and I have fucked up but I tell you something else. I believe in change. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty because my hands are dirty already. I don’t mind giving my life to this because I’m only alive because of the compassion and love of others. Men and women strong enough to defy this system and live according to higher laws. This is a journey we can all go on together, all of us. We can include everyone and fear no one. A system that serves the planet and the people. I’d vote for that.
He is mostly right. If we collude and collaborate, if we believe in and want real change, if we defy the system in intelligent ways that frustrate and undermine our tormentors, we can indeed embark on a journey together and bring about a system where we, the people, have the power and our interests are served.
These are indeed hard truths, though perhaps moreso for those people who continue to troop to the polling station and put an ‘X’ in a box, particularly those who do it without enthusiasm because they feel it is their duty to exercise their franchise. In the main, most of them do not realise all they are doing is legitimising a system where they are not able to vote for the people who really do make the decisions about how Britain is governed.
In such a circumstance, why bother voting? If it changed anything, they would likely ban it.