Whatever your take on Russell Brand, you'd have to admit he's quite a creative soul. As well as his acting roles (in which he always plays himself) and stand-up gigs, he runs a popular YouTube channel 'The Trews' and writes books. But one thing you won't catch him creating, is a cross on a ballot paper.
Although I've never heard him actively admonishing people for visiting a polling station, he is famously against voting. As a creative man so very keen on social and political change, I've always found this position curious. Which is why I've recently read his book 'Revolution'.
"Russell Brand's fame protects him from literary rigour."
What immediately struck me, is its dreadful style. By any standard, it is very badly written; and it is quite astonishing how easily a publisher can be blinded by celebrity. An unknown author submitting this manuscript would soon be retrieving it from the bin. No such difficulty for Mr. Brand, though. His fame protects him from literary rigour, as this quote from 'Revolution' shows:
"If I, so close to the peak, could glean no joy from that rarefied air, the air I was told, as soon as I’d acquired language, would absolve me, if in fact all I gleaned was the view from that peak, the vista true, that the whole climb had been a spellbound clamber up an edifice of foolishness, then what possible salvation can there be for those at the foothills or dying on the slopes or those for whom the climb is not even an option?"
"Not voting, apparently, is a high ritual."
Yes, that's an 86 word, almost indecipherable, sentence. But leaving aside Brand's need of a decent editor, the book tells us his unwillingness to vote is inspired by a loose combination of mysticism, universal brotherhood, and Marxist uprising. Not voting, apparently, is his high ritual, signifying the absolute rejection of the system which keeps us in spiritual and economic shackles. Russell believes a low turnout next Thursday will send a spear of rebellion deep into the heart of The Man, ushering in a love revolution.
It won't though.
Anyone who imagines politicians toss and turn in the night, worrying a person may not turn up to the ballot, is kidding themselves on a grand scale. In fact, nothing troubles our rulers more than the idea of mass participation in a looming election. Which is why they are now pleading, cajoling and begging their way into our affections, for fear we may reject them with the stroke of a pencil. To Russell Brand, voting is a measure of an individual's aptitude for conforming. He's wrong. Voting is a means of seizing control, of holding leadership to account and, in its ability to produce governments, it is a very creative act.
"The process is pretty wobbly."
Of course, our democracy is imperfect. Seats in the House of Commons do not represent proportions of the overall vote, a party can easily form a government even though most people voted for someone else. And why is it beyond our 21st century brains to allow an online voting facility? Yes, the process is pretty wobbly, but you cannot fix a machine by walking away from it. If the political class has abandoned us, and are merely using Parliament for their own ends, as Brand proposes, then there is even more impetus to drag it back to the table and demand it explains itself. Were we all to follow Brand's example, then elections would be eliminated. And look at the countries where that is the fact: Burma, North Korea, Iran and so on. None of these nations are renowned for their encouragement of creativity and free expression; quite the opposite, in fact.
In a couple of days, we'll have the opportunity to shake-up the unshakeable edifice, to upset the apple-cart and for once, be heard. One stubby pencil, one graphite cross and the decision-makers are set running. Whatever Russell and his 'Trews' may say, and whatever the outcome, voting is important, exciting, and the most creative thing any of us will do this year.
Magnus Shaw is a blogger and copywriter