Sunday, 27 October 2013

Celebrity Conscience Rehab

Russell Brand, the British actor you may remember from "Get him to the Greek" (whose on-screen acting performances are virtually indecipherable from his appearances as his real self on tv, and to this end make me think it is quite generous even designating him "an actor") has become the latest celebrity to embrace progressive activism and take the risk of exposing himself to loud ridicule and accusations of hypocrisy.  He guest-edited a publication called "The new statesman" and said voting was a waste of time, slammed and dismissed capitalism, bankers, and politicians, and pleaded for environmentalism and the need for a new paradigm.  I don't necessary disagree with any of that and don't think I need to write "Shut up, you have lots of money, you're an idiot and a hypocrite" as you can find those comments in the hundreds below any article but I would like to take Mr. Brand to task on one thing.  As a celebrity, just because you have a soapbox, doesn't mean you are required to use it.  And nothing is more lame, more trite, or more already been done than using it to fuck the system and we need a revolution and all this kind of stuff.  The media (well, specifically Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe) latches on to something like this and gets us all apprehensive about youth unemployment and youth voter apathy and tells us this message is really indicative of some new, bold, brave movement that is going to turn everything upside down.  The youth in Western countries today have even less in common with each other than the youth of previous generations that experienced these same type of "collective consciousness mobilization" moments, and Mr Brand himself uses these moments as examples.  I just don't understand how he cannot grasp or understand the complexity of the world as it exists today and instead delivers himself to the same irony of some of the examples he uses.

He cites a time in 1967 when Mick Jagger told a TV host that kids in Britain were "looting and burning" because there was nothing in society, in the workforce, in the government for them and so this type of behaviour wasn't surprising.  It was around the same time that craggy, scrappy voice of the prophet from Minnesota ('65 or '66? But don't quote me on that.) admonished the old fogies and put them on notice that indeed "The times, they are-a-changin'"

Now at the time Messrs. Jagger and Dylan were young, edgy rock stars in their prime, 25 or 26 years old, and I don't intend to diminish anything that either of them accomplished or their originality and cultural significance at that time.  But today these men are around 70.  Bob lives in Malibu, Mick has a spread in Wimbledon and probably others; both are worth upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars.  They both have continued to tour well into their senior years, pocketing millions more each time.  What is my point? That personal interests have this weird way of trumping idealism, and I have no wish to pick a fight with rock and roll gods today other than to use them as an example to show Mr Brand why his wholly unoriginal diatribe is not helpful.

It's why if you read Bono's wikipedia page, you are almost certain to be annoyed with his arrogant lecturing of common people on the plight of Africa.  Again, this criticism is of course not withstanding of his musical accomplishments, but the man is obviously a brilliant capitalist whose network now extends well into Davos and the executive offices of Western nations, so why should you feel like shit because of somebody like that.

Celebrity after celebrity after celebrity falls into this category.  They hate poverty, they hate war, they hate pipelines, they want to send little girls to school in africa, they want peace in Israel and Palestine and why have they had to use their public profile to advance these causes? Because you, joe schmo six pack, are not engaged or committed enough, or else we wouldn't be having these problems.  I actually appreciate nine figure guys like James Hetfield or Keith Richards more who have the discretion to say in an interview "You know, I don't want to talk about that.  Celebrities, politics, the environment - I'm not interested in discussing any of that with you" THANK YOU for not making your position known.

Even the prime minister of Canada, who gets dismissed as a one percenter and an elitist will only get a $256,000 a year pension when he retires.  That rate does effectively make him a one percenter in this country.  But if that makes you outraged which I'm sure it does ask yourself why you feel so much less outraged about Bob Dylan's $180,000,000 fortune (over seven hundred years of a Canadian prime minister's pension). 

I'll tell you the one celebrity fact which actually impressed me in my entire life.  Pope francis, before he became pope, lived in an apartment and took the bus.  You know, like millions of people on earth do every day, millions of people like this who have to endure lecturing and browbeating and guilt tripping by people who live in the Hollywood Hills or their equivalent, possess amounts of money that require several dozen employees to manage, and whether they get around by bugatti, suburban or private jet, sure as fuck don't take the bus.  I don't care how much money you made or continue to make making music or movies or iphones or whatever but just quit with the sanctimony that the millions of ordinary slobs who continue to buy your shit that you put out are somehow scourges that earth needs to get rid of.

There's a nugget of wisdom that I would like to share that I've acquired in the last few years since the time where I used to be quite vulnerable to being manipulated by these celeb consciences.  It's that people gotta live somewhere, and they got to get around somehow.  They also got to make a living.  These three undeniable truths are why the collapse, radical change, paradigm shifts and great resets have not occurred.  Yes there are too many humans on earth, 7x more than a century ago, but what living person can be faulted for that?  If we outstrip earth's capacity and all have to die well, we just have to learn to accept the risks of life at the macro level.  In the meantime, if we could all agree to live in apartments and take the bus, the falling level of stench of celebrity self-righteousness would surely do to lower global temperatures back to more sustainable levels.

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