What Brand for the Revolution?
This post is a shameless attempt to get some heat for the current European Citizen’s Initiative which you can find here. If you, like Russell, believe in the need to find alternatives to the current ways of doing things then I urge you to sign this petition and get the European Parliament to discuss the abolition of poverty via basic income.
Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight caused much discussion in the last week. Even if you find him tediously theatrical and sexist, he spoke with eloquence about the anxiety, insecurity and anger currently flaring up around the world. He said we need a revolution, and there was an explosion of support for Brand on social media. Certainly it made a welcome change from the usual line-up of suits mouthing the daily spin on austerity.
The horrific statistics are starting to sink into the UK consciousness. 66 young people chase every job out there. Homelessness rising; 500,000 people having to visit food-banks in order to feed themselves; 1 in 10 people are underemployed; 5,000,000 people are on council house waiting lists, desperate for (truly) affordable rents and secure tenancies. There has also been the proliferation of high street loan sharks & zero hour contracts. Brand was right to avoid trying to spell out the mechanics and logistics of a revolution or a blueprint of its product, but his passion was justified and sensible. What we need is a direction for that passion. The campaign for basic income is just such a direction.
Making a revolution is always tricky: business as usual is easier in the short-term than trying something new and different. It certainly feels easier than confronting the vast amount of change needed to get ourselves on course for a sustainable future . There are a lot of good ‘answers’ out there, and we have some guidance from history about what to avoid. People need something in their lives which will enable and empower as well nurture, care and protect them.
Redistribution of wealth, which Brand explicitly calls for in the interview, is not only desirable but a necessary first measure. The most urgent need is to ease people’s immediate fears of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and debt. Basic Income, while it won’t solve all our problems, represents a radical step in the right direction. It puts money directly into people’s hands, with no conditions attached. We all gain some immediate financial security, making other problems, whatever they might be, easier to think about and then act upon.
Unconditional Basic Income is the only progressive economic policy-idea out there which recognises the great amount which people do for one another outside of the market.
The funds for a basic income would, yes, start out as a redistribution of the wealth created out of the current bankrupt kleptocracy. Its way of doing things is environmentally, morally and economically upside down. Money is treated as scarce, while people’s time and the earth’s resources are treated as infinite – when the opposite is true.
Unconditional Basic Income is the only progressive economic policy-idea out there which recognises the great amount which people do for one another outside of the market. Moreover, it provides a practical tool for raising wages/conditions for those working in the market. It gives people the freedom to chose which jobs they do and to choose work they believe is both useful and necessary to the people and world around them. Ultimately, basic income might be just the means to make our revolution- whatever it turns out to be.
Sign the European Citizens Initiative here, tell your friends (Tweet Russell even!) and let’s get this discussion going everywhere.
Photo Courtesy of Joel Telling