Reprinted from yesmagazine.org, Oct 29, 2013
You might know Russell Brand for his off-color sense of humor and his rocky relationship with his sometimes-employer MTV.
But last Wednesday, he showed a more serious side of his personality in an interview with BBC Newsnight's presenter Jeremy Paxman, in which he said our society needs a revolution. The video has gone viral, with over 8 million views from BBC's official upload alone--and has generated responses ranging from glowing praise to withering scorn.
The nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States have accrued over $654 billion in total revenue.
Brand came on the show to discuss the issue of the New Statesman he guest-edited and the article he wrote for it.
During the interview, Brand spoke passionately about the state of our government and economy: "The planet is being destroyed," he said. "We are creating an underclass, we're exploiting poor people all over the world, and the genuine legitimate problems " are not being addressed by our political class."
But when Paxman asked what an alternative would look like, Brand's answer was a little uncertain. "Well, I've not invented it yet, Jeremy," he said. "But here's the thing you shouldn't do. Shouldn't destroy the planet, shouldn't create massive economic disparity, shouldn't ignore the needs of the people."
Brand went on to say in his interview that the Occupy Movement "made a difference" because it brought these problems to public attention. But an awareness is only one step in the process. "I'm calling for change," he said. "I'm calling for genuine alternatives."
What Brand didn't mention was that already-existing movements are working to create those alternatives--both by fighting against corporate exploitation and by creating more just and sustainable ways of doing things. There are more than we can list, but here are five of the most significant:1. The climate justice movement.
It's hard--and perhaps unfair--to contain a description of the climate justice movement to just one paragraph. But that's testament to how complex and far-reaching it has become. Activism fighting climate change has taken several manifestations--from NGOs like Climate Solutions, which help communities transition to more sustainable energy sources, to groups like the Tar Sands Blockade that use nonviolent direct action to slow or stop continuing construction of the Keystone pipeline.2. Building rights for low wage workers.
Both rigorous studies and personal testimonies show that the current minimum wage isn't enough for people to live on. In fact, a recent report by UC Berkeley's Labor Center revealed that the only way corporations like McDonalds can sustain the low wages they pay is through enormous government subsidies, such as food stamps and Medicaid. According to the report, 52 percent of fast-food employees have to rely on these safety net programs in order to provide for their families.
Movements like Fast Food Forward and OUR Walmart have been fighting to push major corporations to provide all their employees with a livable wage and affordable healthcare, and bring these issues to public attention. They haven't won any concrete victories yet, but they've organized strikes and walkouts that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.3. The cooperative business movement.
Cooperatives are democratically structured, mutually owned enterprises that present an alternative to centralized ownership of business. Although they take many forms (worker-owned and consumer-owned are just a few), their cooperative structure leads them to be more equitable with their wages and more ethical in their practices. Vancity, Canada's largest credit union, for example, divested from natural gas company Enbridge over concerns about its proposed oil pipeline.
Co-ops are doing well economically, too: the nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States have accrued over $654 billion in total revenue, and account for approximately 2 million jobs.4. Move to Amend.
The Move to Amend Coalition is fighting to create a constitutional amendment that will end corporate personhood and limit campaign contributions. "America has progressed through ordinary people joining together--from the Revolutionaries to Abolitionists, Suffragists, Trade Unionists and Civil Rights activists through to today," writes David Cobb, a spokesman for the campaign. "Move to Amend is a long-term campaign to make the U.S. Constitution more democratic."
Move to Amend has been endorsed by hundreds of different organizations. The coalition has held several action campaigns to raise awareness about the issue, and it's gaining traction. Over 315,000 people have signed the online petition so far, and the number is climbing!