2 thoughts on “Has Russell Brand got this right…

  1. Yes, I believe he has largely got it right. The interests of our establishment, both the self-interest groups and the individuals’ self-interest, don’t align well with our best interests if we assume that curtailment of our civil liberties and putting them in the hands of our security services, whose track record is mixed, with some creditable wins and a few, well publicised own-goals; or rushing through laws without thinking them through carefully; and by exercising some courteous restraint so as not pour fuel on the fire.

    I need to apologise in advance for what I am about to do to you. Please forgive me as it is to illustrate an important point. If I told you that your mother is c*** s****** w**** who f**** g****, I think I can expect a pretty poor reaction from you ranging from disgust and contempt, to a punch on the nose. While I may abhor violence and believe that no sane person might react by going on a killing spree to remedy this insult, the evidence is there to suggest what I may deem a horribly unreasonable reaction, they consider justified and WILL act on it.

    Visual representations of the Prophet Mohammed are widely felt to be offensive to Muslims. Muslims form 20% of the population of the globe. We operate in a connected world where a snarky gibe in Paris will be heard in Karachi. I don’t believe not drawing Mohammed is a curtailment of civil liberties or freedom of speech. Surely, it is the exercise of common courtesy and better judgement.

    A much bigger threat to our civil liberties lies directly in our hands. Apathy. Particularly, voter apathy. Not turning out to vote, or spoiling our vote, or sitting back and letting it slide when we hear other people are planning not to vote. Doing that at our EU elections last time allowed the soft, sanitised, “safe” face of the far Right, UKIP, The National Front in France and the UK, the chance to make huge advances in their agenda. By being able to tip the balance in hung parliaments, wielding leveraged power because their supporters were aggrieved enough to vote, and we weren’t. UKIP got 30% of the seats on the back of 7% of the electorate voting.

    There is a parallel between Germany in the depression of the 1930s and the rise of Nazism (Jews as scapegoats), Reds under the Beds in 50s America (Communists as scapegoats), War on Terror (Muslims as scapegoats).

    There is a good reason we have a proverb that history repeats itself; because IT DOES. Any one remember the housing boom that ended in 1980? The Dotcom Collapse, Barings, Lehman Brothers?

    Yesterday there was a piece on the news where a chap on Fox News purprting to be a terrorism expert said the Sharia Police patrol parts of London beating people wrongly dressed and Birmingham is a “no go zone for white people” because Muslims have taken it over. I cannot say I have ever seen evidence of these lamentable losses of our Britishness and yet these people are on the news networks influencing sentiment. Let’s face it, as a species we have a remarkable propensity to survive despite being really stupid, judgemental, bigoted and irrational much of the time. Pouring oil on the fire is very irresponsible and incompetent broadcasting at best and at worst, intentionally inflammatory. Either way, being called to account and do more than say “sorry” and pay a charity some guilt money to make it go away, is needed.

    Heightened levels of anxiety over prolonged periods actually cause our amygdala to grow. They control our freeze, flight or fight response. They trigger our bodies to secrete adrenalin, cortisol and testosterone/oestrogen. The more this state persists, the more it happens that we become anxious at lower and lower levels of stimulation. They inhibit serotonin which makes us feel calm. Lack of serotonin is linked to depression. This constant daily diet (in the case on my parents every 15 minutes all day every day as they watch the news channel to feel like they have a link with the outside world and “know what’s going on in the world”) of bad news has a debilitating effect on us as sentient primates and pushes us into depression, makes us more malleable, more likely to be influenced by those who promise to stop the bad things from happening or point us towards someone we can really get our teeth into hating, blaming.

    The idea that practicing loving kindness isn’t as daft as it initially sounds. According to Prof. Ronald Siegal’s course “The Science of Mindfulness” the latest results from clinical studies on mindfulness practices in medical schools and neurological studies have found that those who practice loving kindness suffer less pain when facing identical stimuli when compared with subjects who do not follow these practices. What is interesting, in these studies, subjects who had prolonged mindfulness practice experience had smaller amygdala than their non-mindful peers. And with even a little training and ongoing practice the amygdala shrank in subjects who previously didn’t practice mindfulness, particularly loving kindness meditations.

    How we are going to get Jihadi’s, politicians, security service personnel, publishing magnates like Murdoch, TV network executives, News editors, bankers to sign up to regular loving kindness meditation, when we can’t even be bothered to vote, Russell hasn’t explained but I do live in naive, optimistic hope.


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