R. Brand, Sparks, Whistleblowers, The R-word

Talk in the news about revolution and pirate chic. Right. It makes my fingers itch. So go ahead, accuse me of writing an essay… but there are ‘a few’ things going on here that we tend to overlook and some of them could be important enough to tip the tables or change history. In fact, they are that important because we currently live in a lynchpin moment not only for our species but life on Earth. Even the smallest choices we make now… will have consequences far beyond anything we imagine. They already do. And some people are trying to get us to realize this, clearly. One such person is Russell Brand, who, one might argue, has broad and possibly conflicting motives. Nonetheless, change begins in unpredictable ways. And Brand is unpredictable enough to be that kind of phenomenon in general.

And everyone has an opinion about this. But let’s look at something that’s not being talked about. Something beyond the gossip, sniping, cheering, and snoring. Something that might matter, not just to a few people, or some class of spectators… but to everyone on Earth.

Brand is acting, in a sense, like a whistleblower. Or let’s say he is at least mimicking this role in a possibly useful way. This is, in fact, an extremely popular position right now, for rather obvious reasons. Now, he is not particularly courageous in the same way that say, Snowden is, but he is, effectively, rather stepping on board a similar ship and saying, openly, some things we can all understand and relate to, in clear, unequivocal language. That can be powerful. But, like Snowden, what is happening is not immediately apparent. I recognize the gesture clearly: he is sending a little ignition signal to the popular intelligence (such as it may be) and hoping some fires might start. Much like whistleblowers who leak incontrovertible data to the public with a similar and more serious argument: we cannot allow this to continue.

Here’s the problem… the public, at least in the West, really hasn’t got a clue what to do with the ball (and Brand is well aware of this), and that is, in part, what makes his gesture symbolic: we are, as a group, utterly passive. The “we” in these statements is nominal, because, in reality there is no ‘we’ — our collectives are fictions composed of bitterly opposed fractions. This strange non-we basically just gapes and gossips. Allow things to continue? What control do we have?, comes the reply from the audience, who identify not so much as citizens or a group but members of subcultures who act largely as spectators or commentators. It’s like a magic show or something. One begins to wonder if Derren Brown set this whole thing us as a gag.

It’s staggering to realize that we still think petitions and protest are political action. Which isn’t to say that they cannot be… but if we are limited to the field of the forces that are wiping us out, our cause will be decimated. So the problem is: we have to have a public active, intelligent, cooperative, and enthusiastic enough to use these sparks to ignite what I imagine will turn out, shortly, to be new kinds of fires. Forms of change and forces of revolution … we have neither seen nor imagined. Because our social networks are evolving faster than our ability to understand their nature and potentials. We have gained abilities we do not yet understand… but the inherent creativity in our artists, youth, radicals, and ‘special’ groups… have the power to instantly invent … forms of response we have never dreamed of. Forms as creative as we can become, and as human as we have been dreaming.

Or, we can post snippets, quotes, snipes, and news. We can gossip, or exchange memes. We can create and attack subcultures of political, religious and every other kind. The point is this. There is a game where we pass sparks of inspiration, wonder, intelligence and humanity back and forth amongst us, turning them, growing them… learning them. Together. Not copies of copies of photographs of cats. Not sniping. Not complaint. Forms of information and communication we have never imagined because we have never dared to do so, at least not in public.

But now we can. We have opportunities that go vastly beyond critique and division. All that is required to ignite the process is agreement, a sense of adventure… and the determination to recover ourselves and our mutuality from cultures devised to co-opt them against us. Our nations are largely toxic dinosaurs. Our cultures are staggering contradictions to the basic ideas of humanity and the bases of biology. We don’t need to be shown new options, we need to become them. Now. What we will do, now, with the sparks we are thrown, and those we can produce, will determine the course of life on Earth. We need to remember this old game, this game we still sometimes play in private… that children use to invent and explore possible cultures on the fly — without damage to one another. In fact, we are already learning… albeit slowly. The game is afoot. Spectators be damned.


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