I love to read as you probably know, but I never would have thought Russel Brand to be a profound and highly educated author. You probably feel the same way, that he is a character in life and an insane movie star/rock star, yogi, drug connoisseur who dated Sarah Marshall for all of 5 minutes and took 3 days to get to the Greek theater. Thinking he would have anything enlightening to say outside of his own self-fulfillment and a fantastic movie character agenda would seem odd, right? Prepare to be surprised Russel Brand is not only a genius but an extremely well researched and educated visionary. His book Revolution published in 2014 will change your Joe Rogan Fear Factor perception of Russel Brand into the Joe Rogan Show/DMT experience version of Russel brand. Available on Amazon and Audible audio book. Chapter 3 especially resonated with me due to our current global social, cultural, and economic situation so here I am blogging an excerpt from this fantastic book in hopes you will enjoy this book as much as I did.
BY THE TIME I WAS A JUNKIE, I NEEDED DRUGS.
Lakeside had been a letdown. Once you’ve walked round its three floors, clocked a few birds, mostly uninterested, maybe nicked a pen or a CD, or got threatened by some hard lads from Tilbury, what’s left to do? There’s stuff to look at on the other side of the glass; mostly you can’t afford it. That opened up the possibility that the problem was an economic one. If I could buy that stuff, everything would be alright. A brighter bloke would’ve given more consideration to that equation, but not me. I devoted myself to acquiring the means to solving the problem as presented.
Get money. I got money, I got the stuff on the other side of the glass, and it didn’t work. There’s a moment where a new pair of shoes or whatever can be a fetishized and satisfactory little trinket. Treading like a foot-bound geisha past perilous puddles. Keeping the Reebok pumps on indoors, whilst watching telly, looking down at them during the commercial break. But before too long these tootsie totems lose their luster: “Obviously I need a new pair of shoes; this anesthetic is wearing off.” Luckily there’s a new, improved Reebok shoe coming to a sports shop near you soon, so the carousel continues. Up and down the escalator in Lakeside, brushing past the fake ferns, gobbing in the fountain, bunking off from school, wondering quietly in some antechamber of my occupied mind what the fuss had been about but never stopping to reflect, “Why am I even going to Lakeside? This clearly isn’t working.” Making enough money to become an effective consumer takes time, dedication, devotion. The wait is miserable. It never occurred that the objective was flawed and the rules were skewed.
When in 2011 young people all over Britain seemingly spontaneously decided to break the glass and snatch the idols from the altar, it was condemned as nihilistic and antisocial. That may be the case, what is more antisocial and nihilistic is the imposition of such dubious idolatry.
The unrelenting bombardment of consumer imagery, the intoxicating message that you are not good enough. You are too fat, spotty, and wan. You are not as fit as David Beckham or Beyoncé, escape your life into this PlayStation, mask the stench of your failure with this fragrance, run from your debts in these gleaming new shoes. Don’t be you. Don’t be you. If it had occurred to me, and if I’d had the guts, I’d’ve reduced that treacherous temple to shards. I’d’ve torched that shrine and scarred the sky with a smog like the fugue like they’d glued to my mind.
Luckily I didn’t: My auntie Janet worked in John Lewis.
Adam Curtis in his revolutionary documentary series The Century of the Self delineated expertly how the theories of Sigmund Freud were deployed by his nephew Edward Bernays to create the profession of PR and generate the consumer boom of the fifties. Prior to the inclusion of psychological principles in sales, products were sold on the basis of utility: “Do you have feet? Why not try shoes?” Fair enough.
What they evidently realized was that once a consumer had a pair of shoes they were no longer a viable target, that they’d killed a customer—a bit like the tobacco industry. The small but seismic interjection that Bernays, the nepotistic little villain, enacted was this: “Buy these shoes, they’ll make you feel sexy.” Then it doesn’t matter how many shoes you have, you can always purchase more. Who doesn’t want to be more sexy? It wasn’t just sexiness, though that was a lot of it. What Bernays established was the connection between consuming a product and feeling better. Of course, a shoe cannot make you feel sexy indefinitely, unless you fuck it. Even then I imagine there would be a subsequent period of guilt, and you’d get some askew glances in Foot Locker. No wonder they make people put that little pop sock on before they try ’em on.
A friend of mine, and, yes, I know that sentence makes me sound like a weirdo—I am a weirdo, and I’m a sucker for a swami: If you want me to pay attention to your opinion, put a curtain on before you tell me. I love a mystical costume. I once waited for about five hours with a Tibetan monk in LAX airport; his passport was yellow—not due to the passage of time; that’s how they print them. Yellow passports: Truly, Tibet is another country.
He was having a hard time getting through customs: the post 9/11 policy was draconian and all-encompassing. I mean, for a Buddhist monk to be suspected of terrorism requires a pretty radical misinterpretation of the nature of Buddhism. Given their doctrine prevents them eating sausages, it’s unlikely they’d endorse a policy of hijacks and tower toppling. I always have a hard time getting into the United States too, due to my ancient and somewhat trivial criminal record. That don’t prevent me from marching into secondary immigration with the escorting official like a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Lil Wayne.
Once I was sent all the way back to England by U.S. customs—that was mad. I’d done a whole transatlantic flight and was promptly turned round and sent straight back home, like the grand old Duke of York (who sounded like a general whose methods were in need of investigation: “So you’ve been marching the men up and down the hill, have you? For days now? And have you found any weapons of mass destruction?”).
When they escorted me back to the plane—honestly, this sounds like a lie, but it isn’t—they cuffed me between two guards and led me back to my seat. It was like Con Air, in my mind I pretended I was an international Mr. Big who was an enemy of the system. Then I just got on the plane and watched films and got fussed over by hostesses. It’s odd the way that, in spite of the exuberant appurtenances of fame, the undeniable and, let’s face it, enjoyable tokens granted by success, I’ve always had one foot in the gutter. In secondary immigration, as I await processing, I sit with people for whom I imagine the experience is less of a novelty. To be blunt, non-white people.
Mexican and Arabian people, mostly—I assume, I don’t look at their passports; they don’t have them, they’re behind the desks with the border police, equally trapped and obese, behind the counter, often the same color as the people they’re casually harassing. “Who does this notion of nation most suit,” I wonder as I sit there, unable to use my phone. Proper rich people don’t encounter these rooms, these borders, these problems. For them the world is as it is when seen from space, without boundary, without limitation, full of fluid possibility and whispering wonder. Often the principles that need to be employed for the majority are already enjoyed by the elites: They support one another; they sell state assets to the businesses their friends own; when their banks collapse because of irresponsibility or misfortune, they bail their pals out. They know it’s the right thing to do; it’s how they treat their friends and family; they just don’t want it for the rest of us.
I’m aware that now, due to my good fortune, I am a member of the 1 percent. That now I am a tourist in poverty, when on occasion I’ve found myself in cuffs or in cells or cowed by authority, I know I can afford lawyers, I know I am privileged now. I know too with each word I type I am building a bridge of words that leads me back to the poverty I’ve come from, that by decrying this inequality, I will have to relinquish the benefits that this system has given me. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t frighten me.
Anyone who’s been poor and gets rich is stalked by guilt and fear. Guilt because you know it isn’t fair, that life hasn’t changed for everyone, and fear because you feel like a fraud, that one day there’ll be a knock on the door or a tap on the shoulder or a smack in the mouth and they’ll take it back. It’s not like I’m gonna pay voluntary tax to our corrupt government, as suggested by that honey-glazed chump Boris Johnson; donations aren’t the answer, especially not to that cartel of Etonian skanks.
Systemic change on a global scale is what’s required, and because I know that is happening, that it is inevitable, that we are awakening, I will, when I know how, sever the gilded chains. “Oh, yeah, mate? When?” you could crow with legitimate suspicion. Well, I suppose, like every aspect of this project, we’ll work that out together.
Anyway. I’m in an airport with a monk, remember? I felt he was a powerful dude. Like he had a connection to a light far more powerful than the strip lights that bleach you into inhumane subservience in LAX. But again, that could be because he was dressed in a curtain. I admit I’m highly suggestible. (Isn’t he the king of the Rastas? Sorry. Probably racist, as is the whole curtain thing.) If Nigel Farage kept up all his xenophobic chumminess and gin-blossomed hate but did it dressed like Aladdin, I’d vote for him at the drop of a hat.
I wonder, with this monk, had he been done up in an Adidas tracksuit and a pair of Crocs if I’d’ve been so keen to hang out in customs for an additional few hours after I’d been processed. I was carrying his bag and doing translations between him and the cops—even though I don’t speak Tibetan. He’d say something, then I’d just say what I reckoned he’d said while looking all holy. We got out eventually, I took him to his taxi. He didn’t even seem that grateful. I think I was getting on his nerves. “Who is this bloke that looks like Charles Manson who keeps bugging me? I’m pretty sure he’s not a qualified interpreter.”
He looked relieved when he shut the cab door and left me behind. That’s the problem with trying to be friends with Buddhists. They don’t get attached.
I later found out he’d served loads of time in prison for refusing to renege on his holy vows after the Chinese nicked him and he was in L.A. to attend the launch of a documentary about him. I got an invite but I didn’t go. I was still smarting from the rejection.
I only mentioned this monk to let you know that I am vulnerable to mystical-looking people. I actually want to recount a maxim passed on to me by my friend Radhanath Swami, which I’ve mentioned frequently but is irresistible in the context of this book: “All desires are the inappropriate substitute for the desire to be at one with God.” I like ruminating on that idea. To test its efficacy, let’s start with desires that are a considerable distance from rapture, or enlightenment or transcendence. Say, for example, you really want to smash a gâteau down your gob while gyrating in a rum-fueled frenzy through a bleak suburban orgy. That’s your desire—to eat cake, get drunk, and have loveless sex in an appalling flat in Croydon—where is God in that gray decadence?
Our survival impulses have gone awry. We no longer live in an environment where fat and sugar—the only bits of a gâteau worth having—are scarce; they are abundant, but our daft ol’ anachronistic brainbox doesn’t know that. That wouldn’t be a problem if you had a balanced life as part of a supportive, if not loving, community, like our species was designed to live in.
The moderation and regulation of these impulses is a challenge but not impossible—unless you live in a culture that continually stimulates these lower, atavistic desires. The booze becomes a necessary anesthetic in conditions like these. The natural desire for sex becomes distorted when we are abstracted from our social purpose, our reproductive function, our community values, and our interconnectedness.
We are living in a zoo, or more accurately a farm, our collective consciousness, our individual consciousness, has been hijacked by a power structure that needs us to remain atomized and disconnected. We want union, we want connection, we need it the way we need other forms of nutrition, and denied it we delve into the lower impulses for sanctuary.
We have been segregated and severed, from each other and even from ourselves. We have been told that freedom is the ability to pursue our petty, trivial desires when true freedom is freedom from these petty, trivial desires.
When I was bulimic, I needed to fill myself up, there was a void to fill, I needed to purge, I felt poisoned. Why? I don’t buy any modern psychoanalytic diagnosis. I don’t buy ADHD or OCD; they have as much veracity as MTV and the WBC. I’ve heard that pharmaceutical companies lobby for conditions to be diagnosed for which they have the chemical solution.
I was disconnected, cut off from the source. When I was piping and chasing and fucking and faming, what I wanted was a connection, and with no map, no key, no code, I settled for sedation.
I want to tell that eager berk toddling from Lakeside to the Westside to check his compass, lost in naïveté. I want to tell him to sit still and breathe and ask him: “Do you really think that the answer lies on the other side of Simon Cowell’s smile? Or in the fairground ride of lacquered pride that won’t change you inside?” He wouldn’t’ve listened, though: he was very determined. And very high on drugs.
If you can’t escape the system, you’ve got to escape from yourself. If you’re looking for God, for salvation, for a connection, for sanctuary from the cuckoo self incubating in you, and there’s no map, no guide, no story, no folk memory of how to get there, sooner or later you’ll pick up a bottle, a pipe, or a brick.
In Maslow’s pyramid of needs, Abraham Maslow demonstrates the hierarchy of human requirements, most basic at the bottom, in a diagram. If you ask me, putting people’s most basic requirements in a pyramid is bloody exclusive in the first place: They’re extremely difficult to build, only pharaohs are allowed in ’em, and Indiana Jones was very nearly killed trying to get the treasure out. If Maslow really wants people to have a better standard of living, he should’ve used a tree, or a Primark, or something a bit more affordable. If you look at the pyramid, you’ll see that our most basic needs are not being catered to. Housing is on the bottom tier, and there are plenty of people whose accomodation is insecure. By the time you reach the second tier—security of body, employment, resources, housing, and health—pretty much everyone is fucked. The remaining tiers outline important but less tangible requirements, like self-esteem and spiritual and familial connection. God knows who’s getting access to the penthouse floor of Maslow’s pyramid, probably just the Queen and the leaders of the illuminati; that’s probably where the bejeweled fun bus of privilege is taking them.
The reason I became a drug addict was because it was too painful not to. What’s more, I had no means to describe the pain and no way to access any kind of solution. In the absence of any alternative, self-medication was a smart thing to do. Even now, eleven years clean, I still feel the feelings that led me to drink and take drugs, but now I have access to an alternative way to change my feelings. The techniques are simple but not easy. I believe that by sharing these methods we can overcome together, not only addiction to substances but our addiction to a way of life that has been intoxicating us all.
Firstly I had to accept that there was a problem—that was blessedly evident with drink and drugs: I was miserable, becoming physically sick, getting hospitalized and arrested. The people that loved me were afraid that I was going to die. It was clear that something had to change, but I couldn’t see an alternative. I was fortunate in that my problem was obvious and pronounced but didn’t kill me. I know so many people that shuffle along with anxiety and pain like a stone in their shoe, but because they’re coping, holding down a job, not being forcibly institutionalized, they shuffle on, unaware that there is an alternative.
Once I’d accepted there was a problem I was able to regard my situation differently. When I was in treatment it was explained to me that I couldn’t use drugs or drink, one day at a time. This was anathema to me: my life, identity, and ability to cope on the most fundamental level were all dependent on substance use. I could not countenance even the most trivial interaction without some kind of chemical wetsuit to protect me. When I was introduced to the concept of “getting to bed that night without using,” I was afraid and suspicious. The fear had become a prison whose walls I would not breach.
Without the compassion of others, the support and encouragement of people who had been through what I was going through, and learned to live a different life, I would never have been able to stop. Through them I saw a vision of how I could live differently. If people whose problems had been more severe than mine could stop, then perhaps I could. More importantly than that, the feelings they described were the same as the ones I was experiencing. This gave me something that my life had lacked until that point: community. Common unity.