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‘Revolution’ Book Review

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By Joshua Lee

‘When I was poor and spoke about inequality they said I was bitter, now I’m rich and speak about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality,’ states Russell Brand in the midst of his new, modestly titled, book, Revolution.

It is always the price a person in the public eye must pay, if ever one steps out of line to say something of any relevant substance; relentless ridicule descends, from all corners of the media and militant character assassination proves imminent. It’s no surprise then to see Brand, famed for his frivolous appearance and controversial humour, become something of a martyr of the press over the past year or so. He’s seemingly disowned his once jovial public image, to stand up as an ambassador for truth or so he claims. A voice on behalf of the disenfranchised, the marginalised, the disillusioned, or as Brand says, ‘the ordinary people’.

It seems the shift in Russell’s public image has been less of a random happening, but a patient spiral, first beginning around late 2013, when Brand wrote an article for the New Statesman in which he suggest young people should not vote. This of course provided a weeks worth of headlines, resulting in Brand’s infamous Newsnight interview, in which he was labelled a ‘trivial, trivial, man,’ by the less than hospitable Jeremy Paxman; it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government still get in. Since then there has been countless articles, and incidents, to do with Brand and his new found crusade for truth and justice. He’s even taken up the hobby of regularly criticising the media in his Youtube videos, ‘The Trews’.

Though what is the sum of this? What was it all in aid of? Right now, and probably up until January, the word ‘revolution’ is stuck up in the front windows of every Waterstones, and W.H. Smith, across the country. It might look like a joke which has gotten out of hand, perhaps it is, what with Brand’s face stamped on the front cover of every copy. Yet while the media are busy trying to humiliate the subject, Brand has remained particularity earnest.

However none of the ideas in the book are particularly new. It reads as more of a collection of ideas from many sources; Noam Chomsky, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, the Buddha and Jesus. The use of secondary material only works to the credibility of the book for it makes the points made seem more valid, a collaboration of sorts, as opposed to the mere disjointed ramblings of a hairy comedian.

Naturally, the cynics will be quick to discredit Brand’s prose as ‘self-indulgent’ waffle. But cynics suffer from a lack of imagination. Personally, I welcome the ideas discussed in Revolution which doesn’t mean to say I’ll absorb everything within the pages as divine fact. It is a chunky book (some 353 pages), full of often ridiculously long-winded passages, which could’ve benefited from a trim of the fatty excesses of self-indulgence here, and there.

But look beyond that. The general gist, the overall proposal, of Revolution is to root for a turn around, a positive change. Which doesn’t just mean ranting at the discriminative views of Fox News presenters, or talking about mass surveillance through social media, or how the total number of cuts in Britain last year equalled the total number of bonuses given to bankers, or how fear and propaganda are so readily used as tools of repression to keep the mass public in a state of constant paranoia, and oppression, time and time again. It means working towards a more spiritual revolution, of trying to shift the deep sense of isolation, and detachment, so encouraged by the crass values of consumerism, and capitalism. Brand seeks to bring out the love in revolution, or perhaps the revolution in love.

Revolution, by Russell Brand. The first guidebook to liberation? Probably not. A pioneer of social change for the better? I couldn’t possibly say.

Joshua Lee is a writer who is in his first year of English and Creative Writing.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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