Thursday, December 11, 2014

An unmade bed and plastic comb left on the water heater

Russell Brand, the Tiny Tim of  leftist celebrities , continues to irritate. It's a lesson in personal humility , I suppose, in that I would, in a world that made sense, agree with the general drift of his otherwise twearker critiques of an economic system that has made him a rich man. Rich people espousing progressive cliches generally doesn't bother me. Russell Brand bothers me. His is the kind of personality that makes you want to knock  yourself unconscious with a bullpen hammer rather endure his prating presence.Why are we listening to this preening narcissist?

His gummy stew of post-
structuralist jargon, adjective-glutted paraphrases of Marcuse and Chomsky and his actorly declarations that we must strive toward a universal consciousness that transcends the offending ideologies he deplores is the species of self-regarding assistant professors sprinkle over their undergrads. 

Brand, though, does nothing to guide people to other sources for astute and clear critiques of what's exactly the matter with politics and culture and what we can do to it. He is the worse thing to happen to progressive politics since the hey day of the essentially relativist obscurantism of Derrida, and Baudrillard and the impotent and empty symbolic gesturing of the Occupy Movement. Their message at core is that Real Power is in place permanently, attempts to get power and change the world are illusions, and what seems like victories against racism , sexism, homophobia and the like are themselves an illusion, allowed only because the mechanisms of the machine are such that we are given the delusion of autonomy while things in the world does not change. Doing nothing at all, in other words, is as effective as anything else you can do. The Great Refusal is what Marcuse called it in "One Dimensional Man", a book I admire greatly since I read it in college, as it is an acute critique of how consumerism is a powerful form of social control; anyone who follows the news regarding the way entities like Facebook , Amazon and other online services have infiltrated daily lives and have , in a brief amount of time, radically change the way we behave and the way we regard the structure of the world, will realize how prescient his thinking on this matter was.

There is a point of departure, however, and while we can make smarter choices and refuse to offer ourselves to the altar of consumer capitalism and likewise refuse to contribute to the devastation of economies in its perpetuation, we have to realize as well that simply retiring and living as hermits and enlightened, stoic primitives does as no good. We will not return to Marx's Eden of pre-capitalist agrarianism. Voting matters, running for office matters greatly, becoming active in causes that have legislative has consequences. Voting and not voting in elections that have candidates and issues at stake have consequences at stake; tax increases, school bonds, infra structure spending, laws regarding fairness , politicians sworn to dismantle the Safety Net, end Medicare and Social Security and create new laws allowing corporations to further exploit American and foreign workers. Each vote not cast makes the world a worse place to live in.

The problem with Brand's messaging himself; he is an abrasive autodidact who seems only to read and retain things in order to demonstrate how smart he is. It shows in his sneering voice and his knitted brow. He mistakes talking down to and talking over others, as he does in interviews, for winning a debate and carrying a message. His message is other than what he intended "I'm a jerk."