When Russell Brand challenged the status quo in a Newsnight interview, he was picking up on a shifting sense of what is possible for society – and recent successes in international diplomacy are among signs that he may be right
At times, it might seem like things will always carry on in roughly the same way as they are now; business as usual. But then something arises and expresses deeper changes that have been building beneath the surface.
One such occasion was 23 October, when Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight and articulated a widely shared disenchantment with the current political and economic system.
Brand’s immediate rejection of the logic of his interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, gave an insight into how the cultural foundations of our society – the sense of what is true, what is of value, and what is possible – are changing, and with them the systems they uphold.
“I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm, which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” said Brand, “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”
Challenged to define the alternatives, Brand said it wasn’t his job to conjure up a “global Utopia” there and then but that there are brilliant thinkers and organisations out there, and that crucially, we can all do it together. Regular readers of Positive News will be no strangers to the evidence for this; there is an abundance of it within the articles we publish.
But most importantly, Brand was calling for a “revolution of consciousness,” as he wrote at the time, to underpin any social change.
When the US and Russia reached agreement in September on a UN resolution over Syria’s chemical weapons and averted a military strike, there was vast pressure from a public who – although horrified by the Syrian chemical weapons attack – knew that the old rhetoric of more violence was no longer viable.
Again cynicism and militarism were undermined when, on 24 November, after decades of dispute and tension, Iran and six world powers reached a historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Of course, these situations are complex, and the world’s troubles remain vast and in many cases they are worsening. But a world overly defined by fear, conflict, individualism and materialism – as too often described by much of the media – is perhaps one that increasingly people don’t recognise. It’s too limited in its expression of reality; of what it is to be human, of our connections to others, of the diversity of lives we live, of our inner and outer experiences, and of the possibilities we know in our hearts.
Brand has also said: “What’s important, and what’s defining, are the things we all share: love, unity, togetherness. As long as we have cultural narratives that eschew these ideas, that suppress these ideas in favour of negative human traits, we are all existing in opposition to one another.”
The successful diplomacy that has occurred regarding Syria and Iran, and the voices arising for alternative ways of structuring our societies, are signs that the narrative is changing. So at times when we might only despair at what we see happening in the world, take confidence in the knowledge that there are deeper seeds of change edging always towards their spring.
This editorial appeared in the winter 2013 print edition of Positive News. To receive a copy, please become a member