Strategic Reasons Why Values Matching is a Good Idea

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Different framings for action on climate change and nature/environment gain more or less traction across the UK population depending on whether they mainly just appeal to Pioneers, or also to Prospectors and Settlers. This could be described as uplift for propositions, gained by ‘values matching’.

However some pundits, academics and campaigners argue that matching action-propositions to people’s values is not a good idea. For example writer George Monbiot has recently published two blogs (http://bit.ly/1pbFLum and http://bit.ly/1ucn5f3) in The Guardian, both based on the work of group ‘Common Cause’, which takes this position.

They (invariably Pioneers) are concerned that it might reinforce ‘the wrong’ (Prospector or Settler) values. They fear that this, in turn, might affect ‘society’s values’. The ‘wrong values’ they identify are typically about a desire for power, acquiring material wealth, and ‘self-interest’. Better then to try and change people’s values so that they are ‘good’: altruistic, global, benevolent, universalist?  From this mind-set, matching offers or asks to people’s values is a bad idea if it includes the ‘bad’ values. They do not accept that, as Saul Alinsky famously said, ‘with very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons’, and that ‘it is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill. It then follows that they do not accept that the right outcomes can sometimes only be obtained by getting support of people who do not share your own values.

I do not agree and have written about why in previous newsletters. This can become a tedious and tangled debate. Common Cause and their supporters like to talk about ‘extrinsic’ and ’intrinsic’ values, whereas CDSM divides any population into three Maslow Groups (Settler – Security Drive; Prospector, Outer Directed; Pioneer, Inner Directed, and within them, 12 Values Modes). It is not always clear whether we are talking about the same thing and certainly not in the same terms. Both sides acknowledge the work of Shalom Schwartz but draw different conclusions from it. CDSM’s approach is mainly empirical; Common Cause is more theoretical. We believe the evidence suggests Maslow was right and that if people meet their unmet needs they change (in improving conditions/ good life experiences, from Settler to Prospector to Pioneer). Common Cause seems to think not. 

In addition, Common Cause seems to advocate talking about values to change them, whereas we have found this will tend to lead to disagreements which entrench values differences rather than change them. We have found that people are largely unaware of their motivational values: they feel like ‘common sense’. Common Cause wants to talk about values to change behaviours. We think that you cannot do that very easily, if at all, and it is more effective to change the behaviours. And so on.

Myself, the people at Common Cause and Mr Monbiot are all environmentalists. We probably have a similar idea of how the world really ought to be in terms of environmental quality and impacts. We just have a different view about how to get there.

All that said, I usually try to avoid this debate for two reasons. First, unlike some of the potential antagonists, nobody is paying me to take part in it and I can’t afford the time. Second, the main proponents of the ‘improve the people’ argument are themselves articulating a set of values most clearly expressed in the Concerned Ethical Values Mode, and no amount of analytical evidence is likely to make any difference. Although they might not accept it, what I have seen of the many research projects we have conducted using the CDSM ‘Values Modes’ system convinces me that they are driven by a largely unconscious need to find ‘ethical clarity’ and so will want to reject any route to change which is not ethically the best possible option.

I’d suggest there are a number of practical strategic reasons why values-matching is a fundamentally sensible strategy in the circumstances faced by most campaign groups today.

1. The Maths

Most campaign groups are dominated by Pioneers (Inner Directed) and are operating in societies where the majority of people do not share their values. In China, for example, over 70% of the population measured by the CDSM values segmentation (which includes use of Shalom Schwartz’s internationally verified question-set) is Outer Directed i.e. in CDSM’s parlance, Prospectors, which groups like Common Cause and advocates like George Monbiot would see as having ‘extrinsic values’.

This ‘Maslow Group’ is the largest in every one of ten societies we have surveyed for Greenpeace, except the US.

The ‘Pioneers’ on the other hand are in a minority in every country and in all cases (except the US) make up less than a third of the population. To take a rudimentary example, if there was a need to gain majority support for an idea, just appealing to ‘Pioneer’ values such as self-direction, universalism, benevolence, ethics and a global view of the importance of nature, would be a recipe for failure. There are of course many instances in which a majority of some sort is a desirable objective.

2. Signals of Feasibility

In democracies, and indeed in societies which are not ‘properly’ democratic but where rulers and decision-makers are aware that they need to have or appear to have ‘popular support’, many important policy decisions depend on showing that an idea is broadly supported, whether actively so, or simply accepted without much opposition. Achieving this typically means going beyond the Pioneers.

In contrast, generating a values-divided public debate generally sends the opposite message: that this is an intractable problem. Instead campaigns need to generate signs that the change they advocate is feasible, achievable and so offer decision-makers some sort of popularity reward.

3. The Decision-makers

Not all decision-makers are Pioneers. In the UK, for example, most people working full time for companies or other organisations are Prospectors. Nor are all politicians or officials Pioneers. For an idea to feel right and work for them, it needs to resonate with their values. Being told they are wrong-people and should adopt your demands based on your conflicting values is not likely to work but it will give them confidence that your proposal is wanting.

4.  The Doers

Contrary to what some Pioneers may assume, some of those most likely to act to support the changes they want are not Pioneers but Prospectors. Of these, the Now People Prospectors are the ‘bridge’ for new ideas or behaviours between the Pioneers and the Prospectors: they pick up these ideas from the ‘Transcender’ Pioneers.

This transfer is the point at which ‘mainstreaming’ takes place (as an idea becomes fashionable before becoming ‘normal’).  A good example in the UK is renewable energy. For decades almost the only people actively advocating or adopting it (eg. solar) were Pioneers. Now it is being mainstreamed by Prospectors, in businesses such as Gentoo Group (whose values we have surveyed – it is a mainly Prospector but very ‘green’ company with 27,000 solar panels on 2,000 properties in Sunderland and plans for 3,000 more solar homes). While Pioneers tend to agree with ‘good things’ but are so interested in debate and ideas that they may not do much to implement them, Prospectors are the principal doers and implementers of change. Once change mainstreams, Settlers too take it up. So, for example, you can now find homes sporting both solar pv and UKIP posters (UKIP’s core voters are Settler), like this one.

5. Outcomes

Campaigns should be planned backwards from analysing situations and identifying a strategic objective, and then working out a critical path of changes that will get you there. It’s along this path that the need to engage particular audiences, in ways that work with them, arises. Campaigns should not be projected forwards with rhetoric and polemic to advocate a desired outcome.

Many of the ‘moral hazard’ outcomes posited by critics of values-matching only arise if there is no strategy for change beyond advocacy and proselytizing. In reality, rather few campaigns can be won that way. An instrumental campaign built around a strategic critical path should have an objective which, once achieved, makes a strategic difference: a political decision between countries in the form of a treaty; an increase in the sales of a ‘good’ technology to the point where market forces make it inevitable that it will become dominant; or a change in infrastructure or a system that then determines which behaviours are possible or likely. In such cases, the motivations behind the actions become, at best, secondary.

6. Time and Resources

Even if it were true that people strongly driven to achieve power and material wealth were permanently locked into that values set, and even if you could ‘change’ these people without them meeting those needs (neither of which we think is true), campaigners dealing with urgent problems often do not have the time or resources to adopt a change-through-changing-the-people strategy. We have actually measured the values of the populations noted above. In China there are 26.4% who are ‘Golden Dreamers’, the people who most espouse the material + power values that some campaigners see as very ‘wrong’. In India 29.3% are Golden Dreamers and in the UK 15%. In all three countries they are the largest single Values Mode. This means that there are about 360m Chinese and a similar number of Indians who some see as having very much the ‘wrong values’.

Even if there was a way to ‘change’ these people (and some advocate 1:1 encounters), it seems somewhat unlikely that campaign organisations have the means to do so. Take for example, getting a car, or a ‘better’ car. For Golden Dreamers this is likely to be a priority. Persuading Indian Golden Dreamers to want their ‘next car to be an electric one’ rather than a fossil-fuel driven one is not difficult: we know from asking them that 68% say ‘yes’ (probably because ‘electric’ is now ‘fashionable’, seen as desirable and a sign of success). Persuading them to forgo a car altogether would be a very different matter but, from a climate-change point of view, electric cars are a change that the world needs to see, and quickly.

Finally, it sometimes seems that those opposed to ‘values-matching’ think that it means advocating that people should consume more or be more ‘materialistic’. The examples given in ‘Broadening the Appeal of Environmental Action through Values-Framing Uplift’ show that this need not be the case in practice. 

For example, the proposition ‘It is vital to introduce young children to nature’ out-scores ‘we should all care for nature’ by attracting more agreement from Settlers and Prospectors (ie. better matches their values). But this is because it is ‘about children’ and being a (good/better) parent rather than just promoting ‘nature’ and implying personal action. It is not gaining power or material wealth which is the promise here but social success and reinforcement of self-identity. For these groups, being-a-parent does this whereas global ethical universalist care for nature does not.

Similarly, ‘There’s still time to address climate change if we all make quite small and easy changes’ better matches Prospector and Settler values than just asking them to be ‘bothered’ and ‘concerned’ about the environment because agreement requires less self-agency. That’s another way to better match Prospector and Settler values but also does not require endorsement of ‘materialism’.

The main implication for Pioneers is one of self-restraint. Values matching requires them not to lecture or harangue Prospectors and Settlers to see things as Pioneers do, for example to embrace ‘huge and difficult’ changes with little evidence that they can be achieved, or to put ‘nature’ before their children.

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Chris Rose is an ecologist and communications and campaigns consultant based in the UK, a former director at Greenpeace, campaigner with WWF International and Friends of the Earth, author and host of Campaign Strategy, a free campaign planning website. This article was originally published in Campaign Strategy’s June 2014 Newsletter and has been republished with the author’s permission.

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The Circular Economy and The Access Economy

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What happens to resource efficiency, recycling and waste management in a world where disownership is becoming the new normal?

As much as it may seem that the nuts and bolts of resource and waste management is about sorting machinery, storage, bins and collection systems, it is really ultimately about people.

We know that if people are to use resources mindfully, to manage them well, and to both demand and correctly use appropriate end of life systems, then we need to design systems that they are easy and convenient to use.

There are two ‘muscles’ that can be flexed in relation to resource and waste management – the Circular Economy muscle, and the Access Economy muscle. A lot of muscle-building effort has gone into the former, and the latter is a muscle we’ve only just discovered we can build.

circular economy biological loop - make, consume, enrich; technical loop - make, use return

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The Circular Economy is a concept and model which has been around for some time now, but is increasingly gaining traction – the UK’s leading waste & recycling organisation, WRAP UK have recently rebranded themselves as ‘Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency Experts’.

The Circular Economy seeks to shift activity from a linear to a circular model by making better use of materials, by keeping materials in circulation through reuse and recycling, industrial symbiosis and other efforts to divert material from landfill.

It displaces some demand for new materials, but does not address the rate at which materials enter the circle, as evidenced by total material demand continuing to grow faster than recycling rates improve.

It is vital to maintain a focus on bending the Linear Economy (‘take-make-waste’) into a Circular Economy, but it is not enough.

There is an entire, parallel area of territory yet to be explored, which I will call The Access Economy (aka Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy) – or being able to access what we need by better using what we already have.

image of a drill - caption 'I do not need a drill - I need a hole in the wall'

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The Access Economy seeks to minimise the demand for materials, and is as – if not more – significant than The Circular Economy. There are also overlaps between the two eg. reuse could be considered Circular and Access.

The rapidly-gaining momentum of the collaborative (aka sharing) economy holds huge potential for addressing how we consume resources, and ways it could result in less waste.

The Access Economy is focused not on managing material at end-of-life, of better managing ‘waste’. It is focused on designing systems that facilitate more efficient, cost effective and in many case, community-enhancing ways of enabling people to meet their needs by tapping what is already available and leveraging idle assets (be they stuff, time, space, skills).

This means looking at the design of our living systems – how we grow food and prepare it; how we clothe and transport ourselves; how we meet our daily needs. We need to look at how we can solve the pain points of people’s lives – cost of living, time poverty –in a way that also delivers on environmental objectives.

The systems for The Access Economy are different from those for The Circular Economy – and significantly they may be more appealing to people who don’t see themselves as ‘green’, or really care about recycling. 

Successfully meeting sustainability challenges means we need to stop focusing on ‘reducing’ and ‘managing’ energy, emissions, water, waste and everything else (which are symptoms, outcomes of how people live) and start looking our systems through a lens of design (not just physical design) and social innovation.

Ultimately, environmental organisations and programs are not really about ‘environment’ at all – they are social innovation, because they set out to create new patterns of behaviour among human beings in order to lessen our impacts on the ecological systems which sustain all life. And social innovation is a design process.

We are now far from the traditional, familiar territory of the Circular Economy, but into an exciting new realm we have scarcely begun to explore that is fast gathering momentum around the world.

What would we be capable of if we combined the existing strength of the Circular Economy with the emerging juggernaut of the Access Economy?

Further references:

Circular Economy – Ellen Macarthur Foundation - a series of articles about the circular economy model, its principles, related schools of thought, and an overview of circular economy news from around the world.

Shareable - an award-winning nonprofit news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation.

OuiShare - a global community empowering citizens, public institutions and companies to build a society based on collaboration, openness and sharing.

Collaborative Consumption - comprehensive online resource for collaborative consumption worldwide and network for the global community, curating news, content, events, jobs, studies and resources from key media outlets and industry blogs, as well as original content.

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South Australia to Share its Way to Zero Waste

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laptop displaying Share N Save at Campbelltown Produce Swap launch with people in background and produce on table next to computer

This article was written by Cat Johnson and originally published at Shareable.

Sharon Ede, writer of Cruxcatalyst, works for Zero Waste SA, and was the initiator of this project to ‘curate’ the local sharing/collaborative economy. Share N Save is now being actively supported by the South Australian government.

What would a zero waste world look like? One dimension is efficient recycling. But to truly get to zero waste, you’d need to go beyond recycling into reduce and reuse. In South Australia, they’re experimenting with how to take this one step further by adding “avoid” to the top of the waste management hierarchy.

To help avoid, Zero Waste SA created Share N Save, a map of “free stuff, shareable stuff, swappable stuff, community stuff you can borrow.” The site features an interactive maps that shows people to all the sharing services near them and helps communities find ways to avoid buying stuff in the first place.

Shareable recently chatted with Matthew Scales of Zero Waste SA about the importance of building sustainable communities, how they’re introducing people to sharing, and South Australia’s rich history of environmental and social innovation.

screenshot of Browse option in Share N Save

Share N Save helps people connect with sharing services in their neighborhood

Shareable: South Australia has one of the most successful waste diversion programs in the world. What do you attribute the success of the program to?

Matthew Scales: South Australians have a long history of environmental protection and being socially progressive. Since the 1970s we’ve had Container Deposit Legislation (the cash for containers scheme that gives consumers 10¢ for each eligible container returned) – the first state in Australia to have such a scheme. There’s a real pride in this scheme by South Australians and that’s flowed into the support for kerbside recycling systems as well.

Since Zero Waste SA’s establishment in 2004 we’ve worked closely with local government and the waste and recycling industry to refine the kerbside waste collection system resulting in the systems becoming more standardised across the state, with the ‘3 bin system’ being the default for most councils; a bin for organic waste which is sent for composting and turned into a product to enrich soils in one of the driest and most arid areas in Australia, a bin for co-mingled recyclables such as glass, paper and metals and a smaller bin for materials that can’t be recovered that are sent to landfill.

Add to that our relationship with the construction and demolition and commercial and industrial sectors where Zero Waste SA provides education about resource recovery and more efficient waste management practices in the production process as well as funding infrastructure and equipment to recover and recycle more materials more effectively and Australia’s first ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags and you can see the effect of all of Zero Waste SA’s initiatives contribute to our recovery and diversion rates of over 75 percent.

What is the Share N Save project? How did it come about? How does it fit into the Zero Waste program?

The Share N Save website is effectively a mapping website for collaborative consumption and sharing activities in South Australia. It’s the first of its kind in Australia and it helps South Australians discover local groups, events and activities to help with the cost of living, to connect with their local community and to avoid resources being wasted. The Share N Save website maps activities like toy libraries, community gardens, collective cooking groups and community produce swaps. It also takes in bike sharing, nappy libraries and things like Men’s Sheds.

At Zero Waste SA we’re interested in promoting sustainability on a level that goes far deeper than just concern for our use of resources and the physical environment, and focusing on sustainable communities and sustainable societies. We’re picturing the kind of neighbourhoods we want to live and work in, and that is a neighbourhood that is connected, resource efficient and compassionate.

The waste management hierarchy in South Australia places “avoid” ahead of reduce, reuse and recycle. This is a vital aspect of the sharing economy: that we don’t need to buy everything we need. Can you talk about the importance of this approach and how it’s being received?

‘Avoidance’ is so hard to target. It’s (relatively speaking) easy to explain to a householder what to do with a glass jar once it’s empty to ensure it doesn’t go to landfill, or help a business look at reducing their waste management costs by being smarter with their resources but what do you do to encourage people in our fast moving, consumer goods-driven society to actually buy less stuff? It’s an easy goal to identify as the top of the list in terms of the Waste Management Hierarchy because with less consumption comes less waste, less resource use, less energy and water use. But the question is, how do we do target that goal?

We started looking at the sharing movement and collaborative consumption as a great fit for that challenge. As the saying goes “You don’t need a drill, you just need a hole in the wall.” So, how can we as a society get access to make the hole without owning the drill? Collaborative consumption fits that bill. And not just issues of ownership are addressed through this, but core values of Zero Waste SA around avoiding valuable resources being sent to landfill.

When summer harvest time kicks in here in a few months time we’re looking at suburban backyards burgeoning with fruit and vegetables – but how many pears can you realistically eat and preserve? Sharing through food swaps and collaborative cooking firstly gets you access to a wider variety of produce at no to low cost and secondly stops your excess going to waste. Mapping and fostering this kind of behaviour goes to the heart of the principles of avoidance.

As an extension of South Australia’s Zero Waste initiative, Share N Save is in a great position to not only help people cut down their waste, but introduce them to the other benefits of sharing: building community, saving money, saving resources etc. What has the response been to some of these benefits of Share N Save that extend beyond waste reduction? Any unexpected responses or results?

Reconnecting with your local community has benefits well beyond just waste reduction. The State Government in South Australia has identified key areas in which to focus to improve our state which include:

  • giving our children every chance to achieve their potential in life
  • keeping our communities safe and our citizens healthy
  • building our reputation for premium food and wine
  • creating a vibrant city that energises and excites
  • keeping our high quality of life affordable for everyone.

Looking at that list, fostering the sharing movement and a culture of collaborative consumption is crucial for tackling those goals. Sharing can be seen as the blueprint to how we can start to address those priorities.

How could you keep life affordable for South Australians? Through sharing access to what you have to get what you need.

How would you keep your community safer? By being more connected with your neighbours, by engaging with those who are marginalised or disenfranchised, by providing those in need with access to the excess of others (for example through initiatives funded by Zero Waste SA to redistribute food like Oz Harvest and Foodbank)

screenshot of Map option in Share N Save

The interactive aspect of Share N Save is really exciting. I think it’s important for people to have access, not just to a list of available services, but to see what’s going on near them. What are the benefits of having the services mapped in this way?

Having a real-time map of your area is what keeps the content fresh and what we call hyper-local. It’s great to see the kind of activities taking place around the state but what personalises this and what drives the community to take the next step and connect with an activity in their area is that a map like this allows people to say “Hey, that’s just around the corner from me and I never knew it”.

Share N Save emphasizes the ground-up, community aspect of sharing and the power of communities to transform themselves in small, but meaningful, ways. What’s your big picture vision for this project? What would be the ideal outcome be?

Firstly, our goal is to map every single existing sharing activity already taking place in South Australia – and each time we present to a community group or different organisation people say “Oh have you spoken to those guys?” or “You should list this activity” and we unearth more content for the site, so in a year from now hopefully we’ll have twice the amount of content we do now and we’ll have a greater amount of activities in regional areas.

Secondly, we want to move towards one-to-one sharing. Right now we’re still in the phase of proving the concept and raising awareness in the sharing movement, and about what the current site does in connecting groups to groups and individuals to groups or activities. But we see no reason the site can’t move towards users registering to share and borrow on a much bigger and more personal scale.

If we can achieve that, we’d see South Australia emerge as one of the places the world intrinsically associated with the sharing economy and collaborative consumption. We also hope that through connecting South Australians using our site to resources on sites like Shareable and OuiShare they get inspired by what’s happening around the world and start activities up that aren’t being done in South Australia yet or even better they dream up ideas in the sharing space that aren’t being done anywhere yet.

Given South Australia’s reputation for being thought leaders and pioneers on environmental issues and issues of social progression (it’s not just our ‘firsts’ in terms of the environment like the plastic bag ban or deposits on containers; in 1894 South Australia was the first state in Australia to give women the right to vote and the first place in the world to allow women to run for office) we hope that the next big idea in the sharing movement that transforms sharing or transforms the technology we use to facilitate it is one from a person right here South Australia.

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Cat Johnson is a freelance writer focused on community, the commons, sharing, collaboration and music. Publications include Utne Reader, GOOD, Yes! Magazine, Shareable, Triple Pundit and Lifehacker. She’s also a musician, longtime record store supervisor, chronic list maker and aspiring minimalist.

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How Prioritising Under Pressure Helps Us Understand Others’ Perspectives

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Here’s a fun engagement exercise that was used in a workshop I recently attended. You can use this with any size group, although it will be more effective with a bigger rather than a smaller group.

Step 1

Ask participants to imagine the following scenario, and write down each of these situations:

You’re home alone, and these six things happen at once:

  • a water pipe bursts in the kitchen
  • the baby is crying
  • the phone starts ringing
  • your neighbour’s alarm is going off
  • the cat has the budgie in its mouth
  • someone is knocking at your door

Augh! What to respond to first?

Challenge the participants to rank all of these events according to priority of how they would handle them – give them no more than one minute to complete this task (this is so they can’t think about it too long).

Invite participants to stand up when they have completed their ranking.

Step 2

When everyone is standing, ask them to move around the room and see if they can find someone who has these things ranked in exactly the same order. They must keep going until they find someone whose ranking matches theirs exactly.

Give the participants five minutes to see if they can find a match.

The number of matches may be none, one or many, depending on the group size and participants’ choices of how they ranked the events, and who they spoke to.

Step 3

Time’s up!

Ask the participants (or selected participants, depending on the size of the group) to share a little about whether they found a match; what others’ reactions were to their choice of task ordering; and what they thought of the choices of others who had the list in a different order to themselves.

People may report being taken aback at others’ ordering of priorities (‘you attended to the baby over saving the budgie?’; ‘you went to the burst pipe first before seeing to the baby?’), and often people will explain their reasons for doing the things in that particular order (‘the baby is just crying – the budgie is about to die!’; ‘I can check on the alarm while carrying the baby’).

Participants will have their reasons for choosing their particular response sequence.

Now – ask the participants what they think just happened.

Tell them ‘you just had a conversation about values’.

We all carry our assumptions into whatever we do, and we must remember that other people don’t always share our values.

This exercise is both a great icebreaker, and a reminder to be aware of our own values and assumptions, and our judgments of others’ values and assumptions, in any group situation.

 

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Brand Revolution

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The kind of people who can assemble huge crowds into one spot will be the major influences on mass culture in the next decade.

- Jim Morrison

Unless you’ve been on a digital detox, you’d have found it hard to miss Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman in your feed. It has gone viral across social media, with the video footage alone attracting an average of a million YouTube views a day since it was published on 23 October (currently 6.5 million and rising).

Prompted by Brand’s appointment as guest editor of this week’s issue of London’s political and cultural magazine, New Statesman, the interview began with the question “Russell Brand, who are you to edit a political magazine?”

Brand’s subsequent disembowelling of the status quo of politics, economics and corporate influence on social and environmental breakdown has set the internet alight with discussion – some of it on the points Brand made, and predictably, much of it ad hominem attacks on the messenger.

It’s one thing to read the transcript or blogs commenting on the interview, another altogether to watch it:

In the following interview excerpt, after Brand admitted he doesn’t vote, Paxman asked him “well how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?”

Brand: “Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere, for alternatives, that might be of service to humanity. Alternate means alternative political systems?”

Paxman: “They being?”

Brand: “Well I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last week. I’ve had a lot on me plate. But I say, but here’s the thing that you shouldn’t do. Shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power…”

Paxman: “…if you can’t be arsed to vote why should we be asked to listen to your political point of view?”

Brand: “You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class, that has been going on for generations now. And which has now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system so voting for it is tacit, complicity with that system and that’s not something I’m offering up.”

Paxman: “Well why don’t you change it then?”

Brand: “I’m trying to.”

Paxman: “Well why don’t you start by voting.”

Brand: “I don’t think it works. People have voted already and that’s what’s created the current paradigm.”

Paxman: “When did you last vote?”

Brand: “Never.”

Paxman: “You’ve never, ever voted?”

Brand: “No. Do you think that’s really bad?”

Paxman: “So you struck an attitude before, what, the age of 18?”

Brand: “Well I was busy being a drug addict at that point, because I come from the kind of social conditions that are exacerbated by an indifferent system that, really, just administrates for large corporations and ignores the population that it was voted in to serve.”

Paxman: “You’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug problem?”

Brand: “No, no, no. I’m saying I was part of a social and economic class that is underserved by the current political system. And drug addiction is one of the problems it creates when you have huge, underserved, impoverished populations, people get drug problems. And, also, don’t feel like they want to engage with the current political system because they see that it doesn’t work for them. They see that it makes no difference. They see that they’re not served…”

Paxman: “Of course it doesn’t work for them if they didn’t bother to vote.”

Brand: “Jeremy, my darling, I’m not saying…the apathy doesn’t come from us, the people. The apathy comes from the politicians. They are apathetic to our needs, they’re only interested in servicing the needs of the corporations. Look at..ain’t the Tories going to court, taking the EU to court, because they’re trying to curtail bank bonuses? Isn’t that what’s happening at the moment in our country? It is, innit?”

Paxman: “Yeah.”

Brand: “So what am I gonna do, tune in for that?”

Paxman: “You don’t believe in democracy. You want a revolution don’t you?”

Brand: “The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we’re exploiting people all over the world and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.”

Paxman: “All of those things may be true.”

Brand: “They are true.”

Paxman: “But you took…I wouldn’t argue with you about many of them.”

Brand: “Well how come I feel so cross with you? It can’t just be because of that beard, it’s gorgeous.”

Paxman: “It’s possibly because…”

Brand: “And if the Daily Mail don’t want it, I do. Because I’m against them. Grow it longer. Tangle it into your armpit hair.”

Paxman: “You are a very trivial man.”

Brand: “What you think I am, trivial?”

Paxman: “Yes.”

Brand: “A minute ago you were having a go at me because I wanted a revolution now I’m trivial, I’m bouncing all over the place.”

Paxman: “I’m not having a go at you because you want a revolution, many people want a revolution, but I’m asking you what it would be like?”

Brand: “Well I think what it won’t be like is a huge disparity between rich and poor where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as the 85 million poorest Americans, where there is an exploited and underserved underclass that are being continually ignored, where welfare is slashed while Cameron and Osbourne go to court to defend the rights of bankers to continue receiving their bonuses. That’s all I’m saying.”

…within the existing paradigm, the change is not dramatic enough, not radical enough. So you can well understand public disturbances and public dissatisfaction, when there are not genuine changes and genuine alternatives being offered. I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?”

Paxman: “Because by the time somebody comes along you might think it worth voting for, it may be too late.”

Brand: “I don’t think so because the time is now, this movement is already occurring, it’s happening everywhere, communication is instantaneous and there are communities all over the world. The Occupy movement made a difference. Even if, only in that, it introduced, to the popular public lexicon, the idea of the 1% versus the 99%. People for the first time in a generation are aware of massive, corporate and economic exploitation. These things are not nonsense. And these subjects are not being addressed. No one is doing anything about tax havens, no one is doing anything about their political affiliations and financial affiliations of the Conservative Party, so until people start addressing things that are actually real, why wouldn’t I be facetious, why would I take it seriously? Why would I encourage a constituency of young people that are absolutely indifferent to vote? Why would you? Aren’t you bored? Aren’t you more bored than anyone? And you’ve been talking to them year after year, listening to their lies, their nonsense. Then it’s this one that gets in, then it’s that one gets in but the problem continues. Why are we going to continue to contribute to this facade?”

Paxman: “I’m surprised you can be facetious when you’re that angry about it.”

Brand: “Yeah, I am angry, I am angry. Because for me it’s real, because for me it’s not just some peripheral thing that I just turn up to once in a while to a church féte for. For me, this is what I come from. This is what I care about.”

At first I thought that Brand was running rings around Paxman (or someone in a G-T state and someone in a D-Q state missing each others’ points).

But on reflection, I don’t think that Jeremy Paxman was in any way taken down or apart by Brand – I suspect it was a well crafted piece of theatre in that Paxman played Devil’s Advocate with Dorothy Dixer questions that enabled Brand to take flight with his responses, which I believe to be completely genuine (not ‘acting’ as some of his detractors have claimed).

In this short clip, Brand has encapsulated and communicated in minutes – MINUTES – what activists, concerned citizens and change agents everywhere, whose work spans a wide array of issues, have been on about for so long, in a way that has both gripped people and resonated with them.

Most importantly of all, it is because this came from Russell Brand that it has ignited. It hasn’t come from an academic, a political figure, an activist. It’s come from popular culture, which by definition has access to a greater diversity of antennae.

The messenger matters, as illustrated by this comment sourced from one of many Facebook threads:

Actually I think Brand has broken something in England. For this to be aired on the BBC is a biggy. The kids on Facebook are posting it and at last the mainstream have heard it. That’s THE most positive thing that’s been done for years. I marched in Manchester against the annihilation of the NHS the other week along with over 50,000 other people and it got two minutes. Nobody in London noticed. This will be noticed.

Like any change agent who sticks their head above the parapet, Brand has copped flak for his outspokenness. Across social media, this seems to have coalesced into several key grievances:

1) he pointed out everything that was wrong, but didn’t offer any solutions

Given the sum total of the greatest thinkers and do-ers in the world have yet to do this, or get their ideas traction, or to tipping point, it’s hardly a fair accusation.

Or as Brand eloquently rebutted it:

Jeremy darling, don’t ask me to sit here in a bloody hotel room and devise a global utopian system.

2) he’s criticising the 1% and profit, yet his net worth is $15 million

This is an ad hominem attack ie. it seeks to discredit the messenger, rather than engaging with the message. Those making this point need to remember that Brand’s message is all the more powerful coming from someone who is in this position – and that he’d already addressed this accusation in his New Statesman editorial:

I should qualify my right to even pontificate on such a topic and in so doing untangle another of revolution’s inherent problems. Hypocrisy. How dare I, from my velvet chaise longue, in my Hollywood home like Kubla Khan, drag my limbs from my harem to moan about the system? A system that has posited me on a lilo made of thighs in an ocean filled with honey and foie gras’d my Essex arse with undue praise and money.

Whether Brand is worth $15 million or $150 million is irrelevant. Not even $15 billion would address the systemic flaws raised in the interview.

3) he’s just playing it for a laugh

Brand himself, in both his interview and editorial for the New Statesman, is quoted as saying:

…first and foremost I want to have a f*cking laugh. As John Cleese said, there is a tendency to confuse seriousness with solemnity. Serious causes can and must be approached with good humour, otherwise they’re boring and can’t compete with the Premier League and Grand Theft Auto. Social movements needn’t lack razzmatazz.

Not only is he spot on in relation to competition for attention, but what many of the critics have failed to grasp is that by styling himself as The Fool, or The Jester, Brand has more scope to play with potentially dangerous material, challenge the status quo and breach taboos.

4) if Brand wants a revolution, he should get down to the ‘real’ work

Perhaps best expressed by this quote from Robert Lustig in The Huffington Post:

…he demonstrated his utter inability to offer any concrete example of what he believes we should do instead of vote. He wants fundamental change but has no idea how to achieve it…by writing thousands of words of political junk in a respected weekly magazine, he sets himself up as someone with something to contribute to an important debate. The truth is that he has nothing to contribute, other than the self-satisfied smirk of a man who knows he’ll never go hungry or be without a home.

See #1, #2 and #3 above.

If he really wanted to encourage the development of a genuinely revolutionary movement, he would start organising one. He would knuckle down to do really, really boring things, like handing out leaflets on street corners, launching petitions, holding meetings, just like the early trades unionists and labour activists he professes to admire so much.

Er no. That’s not the best use of his platform.

Attention is a currency, and like it or not, celebrities in our era have that currency to spend. Instead of criticising him for doing so, or nitpicking about his linguistic style – which I find a fascinating mix of Shakespearian vocabulary meets My Fair Lady grammar and dialect – let him spend it in service of those who, as Brand already noted, are people who have:

…alternative ideas that are far better qualified than I am, and far better qualified, more importantly, than the people that are currently doing that job.

It’s not his job to fix the world. It’s our job. All of us.

In fact I’d be more worried about many of the people offering Brand ‘solutions’ to champion than I would anything Brand had to say.

I personally don’t 100% agree with all the points Brand made, for example, I think the 99% meme was useful for awareness (and it sure feels good to metaphorically sink the boots into banksters now and then), but ultimately we are all – including the 1% – in this together. I think the idea of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics is no longer relevant, and those labels bog us down. But it doesn’t matter.

IT DOESN’T MATTER.

What matters is that people everywhere are talking about this.

Russell Brand wins the internet right now.

Brand is one of the most fascinating characters of the modern era – he’s independently wealthy (which makes him beholden to no-one), he has a massive public profile AND all his skeletons are already out of the closet.

These things put him in an enormously powerful position of influence.

He’s opened a Pandora’s Box for himself, with armies of change-makers now seeking everything from support for their initiatives to a chance to further ‘educate’ him. No doubt he’s going to continue his already impressive learning curve, but those who he referred to as ‘far better qualified’ also need to let him be who he is.

Russell Brand on stage with a megaphone

Let him sing the social consciousness equivalent of ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

Let him be an alarm clock and a megaphone.

Brand has delivered changemakers a signal interruption of epic proportion. How best to use it?

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