Tuesday, November 26, 2013

For the times they are a-changin'

We all know that wide swathes of the global media are dominated by celebrity nonsense which breeds a deep cynicism towards the entertainment industry. But when celebrities like Morrissey, Russell Brand and now Antonio Banderas suddenly speak out against the status quo, something else is happening.

A few days ago, singer Morrissey publicly thanked Russell Brand for standing up for rebellion in a 2,000-word tirade which the former Smith’s front man posted on the fan website True-to-you.net.

He supported Brand’s call to abstain from voting in rebellion against the 'broken political system”. The "most powerful vote you can give”, Morrissey said, “is No Vote".

He mourned the lack of real debate in the UK: “At what point did the dis-United Kingdom become a cabbagehead nation? Where is the rich intellect of debate? Where is our Maya Angelou, our James Baldwin, our Allen Ginsberg, our Anthony Burgess, our political and social reformers?

“At what point did the shatterbrained scatterbrains take over – with all leading British politicians suddenly looking like extras from Brideshead Revisited,” he asked.

Brand’s famous Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman has had nearly 10 million views on YouTube. In the face of a lot of pooh-poohing and an attack by fellow comedian Robert Webb – who said that Brand had caused him to re-join the Labour Party (how sad is that?)  – Brand has stuck to his guns. He insisted recently:

"I'm happy to be a part of the conversation, if more young people are talking about fracking instead of twerking we're heading in the right direction. The people that govern us don't want an active population who are politically engaged, they want passive consumers distracted by the spectacle of which I accept I am a part."

Perhaps most dramatic of all, from within the very heart of the beast, the times they are a’ changing. More and more Hollywood stars are joining the fray to encourage young people to question the system and seek alternatives to it.

The unearthing of a 1997 video of Matt Damon reading a 1970 speech by late US activist-historian Howard Zinn is adding to the momentum on the internet. It makes clear that Brand’s condemnation of the impoverished nature of our democracies expressed feelings which extend far beyond British borders.

There is an immediacy in Damon’s voice as he calls for civil resistance, including “the right to abolish the current form of government”. Damon’s call – via Zinn – is for people to stop obeying laws that protect the rich and imprison the poor, whilst allowing the true criminals to go free. The international tenor of the speech is striking in its call for a “declaration of interdependence” amongst the people of the world.

Veteran actor Donald Sutherland says he wants his film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to inspire “a youth-led uprising against injustice that will overturn the US as we know it and usher in a kinder, better way”.

Now actor and director Antonio Banderas has called for an end to corporate power. He has told Spanish CNN interviewer, Ana Pastor that we are living in a “post-democratic era”.  Praising former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez he lamented the corporate corruption of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In response to Pastor’s questions about the financial crisis Banderas blamed “the markets, the lobbies, the big corporations” and suggested they didn’t have to take responsibility when countries and governments had problems. “We’re not being governed by the people we voted for.”

When Pastor asked “How do you put a stop to that?”, Banderas responded: “You break it like Chávez did in his day, you get all these big corporations and you nationalise them. There was no other way out.”

Banderas, Morrisey, Brand and Sutherland are straws in the wind of a seismic change that is pretty much global in its scope. The old politics is dying on its feet – not before time – and these artists in their own way express the yearning for an alternative. We should use the opening they have helped create.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

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