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Big Brother isn’t watching you
In the article “Big Brother isn’t watching you” by Russell Brand, he reflects on the, at that time, recent riots in England and how they have affected him and his native home. Russell Brand is by the way a famous British comedian and actor, who is now living in Los Angeles. Throughout the text, he comments on the possible reasons for the riots and on the possible consequences of these incidents. In this paper I am going to analyze and comment on the article, where part of the focus will be on the writer’s style and his attitude towards the 2011 UK riots.
In the beginning of the text, Russell Brand states the fact that he, because he is now living in another country, has not been directly affected by the riots. However, he still believes that he has something to say on this matter, seeing that he has spent most of his life in the UK and has his own experiences with these kinds of riots. The author then goes on with talking about the reactions from the prominent British politicians and how much he disagrees with their rhetorical way of handling the situation. As an example, Russell Brand mentions Theresa May, the home secretary, who called the behavior unjustifiable and unacceptable, which he, naturally, follows. However, he does not believe that this statement is enough, as he says, “Wow! Thanks guys! What a wonderful use of the planet’s fast-depleting oxygen resources. Now that’s been dealt with can we move on to more taxing matters such as whether or not Jack The Ripper was a ladies’ man.”(p.2 l.51-53) It is clear to see his irony and disagreement in this example. He does agree that this act is a horrible and terrible thing, nevertheless he goes on with saying, “However “unacceptable” and “unjustifiable” it might be, it has happened so we better accept it and, whilst we can’t justify it, we should kick around a few neurons and work out why so many people feel utterly disconnected from the cities they live in.”(p.3 l.55-57) It is not enough to just say how terrible it is. They also need to take action upon these events.
In the next part of the text, the author talks about his own experiences with being in a riot. When he was in his early 20’s, he was a part of the anti-capitalist protest, and he especially enjoyed when these protest got hectic and lost direction, which even let to him getting arrested. With this experience, you should think that Russell Brand would be incompetent to comment on this matter. However, it seems clear that he only protested because he was a confused young man, who just did not agree with the politicians. Furthermore, in the end of the article it is mentioned that he is donating his fee for the article to a clean-up project.
Russell Brand then talks about the possible reasons for these riots and how they could have been prevented, especially from a political aspect. He believes that these young people, like he used to, are very confused and angry with the government. Moreover, it is extremely difficult for the young people to find a decent job with a respectable salary, which Brand sees as one of the main reasons for the crimes and disturbances. This he illustrates by comparing the young rebels to the business men to point out that it is not only the youngsters, who are to blame, “How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.”(p.4 l.97-101) I, personally, really like this quote and I think it is interesting to look on the respected higher class, who is able to get away with a lot more than the young generation, seeing that they have a certain possession of power. Obviously, the bankers, who Brand is referring to in this example, did not drag the economy down on purpose. Nevertheless, it is interesting to look on how the media and everyone else are very quick to just blame the young people and call them uneducated, ignorant and not knowing what they are doing.
Another reason for these riots that Russell Brand describes is the politicians’ lack of community spirit and their increasing focus on the individual. This already began with the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and is something that David Cameroun has passed on. Most people cannot understand, how these young people can get themselves to destroy their communities. However, if they have never learned to appreciate the values of one, you cannot expect them to be extra sensitive about their “own” community. As Brand says it, “If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.”(p.4 l.105-106) Again this seems, to me, as a pretty good argument to why the youngsters think the way they do.
The style of this article is a lot different from a regular article, which makes sense seeing that it is a commentary written by a comedian. He makes use of a very spoken language with many contractions, slang words and phrases, like “fucking trainers”, which makes the tone very casual and informal. Furthermore, Russell Brand makes use of irony in his work, which for example can be seen when he talks about the reason for these troubles, “Unless on the news tomorrow it’s revealed that there’s been a freaky “criminal creating” chemical leak in London and Manchester and Liverpool and Birmingham that’s causing young people to spontaneously and simultaneously violate their environments -…- we have, as human beings, got a few things to consider together”(p.3 l. 58-62) This choice of style makes the article both interesting and exciting to read, as the comical tone contributes to emphasize Brand’s desired message. In addition to this, Russell Brand makes it clear throughout the article that he actually now belongs to the very group of people he used to protest against. He knows that he, through film, commercials etc. is contributing to the increasing pressure on the lower class. The very thing he tried to fight against. Yet, he does not believe that the solution is just political, but also spiritual, and that he trough his position as a celebrity can help this solution come to live.
All in all Russell Brand, like the rest of the nation, finds the riots frightening and sad. Yet, on the other hand, it is obvious to see that he feels compassion for these kids and that he is able to somewhat understand their frustrations and dilemmas. Not saying that he finds their act okay, but he still believes that the blame should not lie entirely on the youngsters. Additionally, he wants to make it clear that to create a society where everyone feels included, it is important to include him or her on terms with which they can agree. You cannot force an idea over people’s heads if they cannot agree to the terms of it. Then situations like this will, sooner or later, take place.