Dear Mr Brand,
Recently I saw you on Newsnight. The interview was remarkably popular. It popped up all along my FaceBook and Twitter feeds. People were very impressed. They liked what you had to say, about being disengaged and apathetic toward the current status quo. I liked it. It felt good to hear someone, in the proverbial lion’s den of an interview with the revered Pax-man, so effusive about the political situation. I’m a teacher and I know that many of my pupils pay close attention to what you have to say, you have often been mentioned in my classroom. Your words carry weight. They carry this weight with swathes of people who are about to, or have just reached, voting age. Swathes of people who feel that they have no say in the way this country is run, the way it works and how it will work with them (by dint of opportunities, training or at the very least a framework of assistance in work/health/education).
But then it stopped. You told people that they shouldn’t vote if they were not happy with the system and then stopped. Don’t think this a criticism, your reasons are yours and they are valid enough. But your answer isn’t enough; not for the people whose ear you are close to. Revolution needs to be more than a word. Revolution is action. Action married to words and conviction. We live in an age where people can sit and see confirmation of any point of view they choose from the screen of a phone but so few people are in a position to take action. Instead of words, instead of ten minutes of YouTube interview that people feel justifies their apathy/anger, instead of this witty aside in the ongoing political narrative, people need an option.
I tell my pupils to vote. To vote with their conscience and their heart in what they believe in. To look beyond the big three parties and to research parties and organisations who offer more than a side in our faintly pathetic ongoing duopoly and the illusory notion of democracy. But mainly I tell them to engage and understand, because if they don’t we are in danger of losing a generation people who feel that they cannot spark the changes both you and I seem to believe that we need. Your message that they shouldn’t vote worries me. It worries me because the current parties would love people to not vote. Their vested interest lies in people not voting because the more people disengage from the process – the more difficult it is to effect change and the less people will understand about the political process itself. This is dangerous.
If you tell people to not vote but you don’t expand on the options available then you worry me.
I think what I’m suggesting Mr Brand, is that you don’t tell people to not vote. History tells us that commandments are poor form even with the best intentions. Instead, help them to engage. Engage in a ferociously critical way, engage in a manner that sees them tear into the status quo with savage intelligence and engage in building the future.
I’ve seen your twitter feed and the swirling positivity you bring to highlighting movements and groups around the country. Bring this positivity to be, don’t let it lie with empty rhetoric, soundbites lost in the social media swirl and conveniently timed publicity. You have the ear of a generation.
Also, carry on making them laugh. Donald O’Connor was not wrong in that regard.