RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Brand writes: "Sometimes there is a news story that has a power that reaches beyond the material facts, even if those facts are in themselves potent. Glenfell is such a story."

English comedian, actor, radio host, author and activist. (photo: BBC)
English comedian, actor, radio host, author and activist. (photo: BBC)

Austerity Is Not Frugality, It Is Brutality. It Is Violence

By Russell Brand, Russell Brand's Facebook Page

16 June 17


ometimes there is a news story that has a power that reaches beyond the material facts, even if those facts are in themselves potent. Hillsborough was one. The drowned Syrian toddler another. The discernible reality alludes to a deeper truth and invites us to consider the real meaning.

Glenfell is such a story. The image of a burning tower is loaded with significance both modern and ancient. The facts, the deaths, the suffering are in themselves appalling yet the meaning of this story, due perhaps in part to its timing, is quickly becoming revealed.

We already know that residents had organised to protest about the dangerous conditions of their homes. We know that the building was masked by a deadly facade that likely hastened the conflagration. We know that the conglomerate that owned the building had been negligent. We know that we have a government that refused to responsibly regulate housing for the poor. We know that we live at a time where poor people are being continually maligned by austerity.

Austerity is not frugality, it is brutality. It is violence.

Whilst the Conservatives are in government they are not in power. They are allied with an extremist, minority group with whom their increasingly unacceptable agenda is now shared. The election result and the success of Corbyn's Labour, I believe is the beginning of an awakening.

This fire, at this time, is a grim omen indeed.

We know that firefighters have long been saying they are not sufficiently funded to adequately do their job. We know that public services are being deliberately eroded and we are beginning to understand that for many years power and wealth has been seditiously syphoned upward. It began in its contemporary form with Thatcher and has continued with successive governments, under a variety of banners ever since.

They lied about Hillsborough, they lied for decades but the truth was revealed. Ineptitude, prejudice and corruption killed the 96.

We recognise that the contempt of refugees and gleeful printed cruelty lead to the death of little Alyan Kurdi.

Grenfell has portent beyond even the unthinkable suffering of its victims. It was a pyre of ordinary people whose voices and needs had been ignored. Whose cause had been maligned. The flames of the fire fanned by the constant damnation of this government and its media partners.

If it proves true that the edifice applied to conceal the decay of the building and improve the vista of newly erected luxury apartments exacerbated the fire then we can succinctly decode the dreadful meaning of this awful event.

The Grenfell residents were sacrificed for greed and comfort. This burning tower and the screams of its residents are an urgent call for change.

When I first saw the image, like a well trained citizen, I thought 'terrorists'. And of course, in a way, it was. Surely for the occupants it felt like terror. Like a horrific assault that they could do nothing about in spite of trying to prevent it. I don't imagine that as they were immolated they thought "Well at least this fire was caused by corrupt landlords and a complicit government".

These terrorists can only be beaten by defiance, disobedience and solidarity. By direct involvement in politics and by supporting progressive leaders that want real change and are willing to confront the powerful. Perhaps then this tragedy may have a meaning beyond corruption and neglect, it could be a chance to tear down the facade and face up to the world we are living in. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+128 # mashiguo 2017-06-16 12:47
I like this guy and have nothing to say except it is an excellent and well written post.

Why aren't US citizens taught to write like this?
How can we make intelligent decisions if we can't even write a coherent paragraph or develop a logical argument?

The question is not a gratuitous distraction, it is the core of our problem. Our incompetent educational system (not the teachers, but the system) is organized towards the training of serfs.
It is not in place to create free thinking individuals who can rise to the responsibility of intelligent participation in a democratic society.

Absent massive reforms away from 'the parents know best', the situation will not improve.
We are dooming US to manipulation and slavery for all time if we don't solve this problem.
+16 # Michaeljohn 2017-06-16 14:01
Quoting mashiguo:
I like this guy and have nothing to say except it is an excellent and well written post.

Why aren't US citizens taught to write like this?
How can we make intelligent decisions if we can't even write a coherent paragraph or develop a logical argument?

The question is not a gratuitous distraction, it is the core of our problem. Our incompetent educational system (not the teachers, but the system) is organized towards the training of serfs.
It is not in place to create free thinking individuals who can rise to the responsibility of intelligent participation in a democratic society.

Absent massive reforms away from 'the parents know best', the situation will not improve.
We are dooming US to manipulation and slavery for all time if we don't solve this problem.

Yes, yes, yes
+7 # fernly2 2017-06-16 14:29
Presently we are a nation based on life, liberty and protection of property--prope rty being in part human chattel. We can change and to survive, must. What a wonderful challenge we face!
+22 # Observer 47 2017-06-16 14:53
I heartily agree! I, too, was struck by the eloquence of Brand's writing. Also, he pulled no punches, made no attempt to use euphemisms or cut anyone slack. We in the U.S. simply don't write that bluntly anymore. And, of course, we don't write that well, either.

More years ago than I like to admit, I was a college English major whose goal was to teach writing and literature. However, in that long-ago time, there was a glut of teachers, and I was told it would be years before I would get a job. Worse, my high standards---and my desire to help students achieve the same standards---lab eled me as a radical. Professors said that students should not have grammar and mechanics corrected, because it would "stigmatize" them. Instead, they should be encouraged to express themselves in any way they wanted. There were no "wrong" answers. And...two generations later, the majority of citizens can't write a coherent sentence to save their lives. Dumbed-down, indeed.
+6 # chrisconnolly 2017-06-17 08:35
Television with all its silly advertising that suggests we can't be any good if we don't use the right oven cleaner or maintain the best erection. Then there are the dumbed down sitcoms and zombie revivals that present american life in anything but realistic situations. Our children are emulating television more than reality. Then there are the endless streams of first person shooter games occupying most waking hours outside of school of our youth. And wow, how about those infotainment news cycles that whip up ignorant indignation over contrived assaults against our Americanism. I hope we can overcome this before the corporates destroy every reasonable possibility for healthy life on Earth.
+5 # MidwestDick 2017-06-16 15:00
Can't teach talent. Russell just has it.
+15 # mashiguo 2017-06-17 02:33
Talent is a word invented by the lazy.

Writing is taught differently in England.
I have attempted to use those methods here only to be endlessly harrassed by parents and administrators for actually teaching.
0 # JayaVII 2017-06-17 07:54
I'm curious -- what sort of methods? I agree that writing is taught poorly in the U.S. and that the worst writers are those with the most "education" -- or should I say schooling.
+16 # economagic 2017-06-16 15:22
Excellent comment, one of your best, and written in the very style you long for in our society.

You are not alone. There IS a revolution in progress, in education as in food production. It is largely below the radar and as yet small. But from pre-K at least through the secondary grades more humane schools are being established, some under the charter rubric, others more radical. Are you aware of "non-coercive education" as a guiding principle?

And from book circles to subversive teachers in community colleges, adult education is also on the move -- because it has to be. As I continue to recuperate from several years trying to teach honest economics in a CC with hostile administration, new educational structure outside the official academy are at the top of my list, along with local food and neighborhood organization.

This is all part of a worldwide movement of movements that I first recognized five years ago. Now I see others using the same terminology. My mother didn't tell me it would be easy -- or fair. But it is being done, and we might just squeak by.
+8 # hd70642 2017-06-16 15:30
If you have not noticed there is a dummed down media as well. Social promotion and teaching for the test have have sabotaged the educational severely . I can remember a show like Jerry Springer, Steve Wilco, Maury. Povich and those hordes. of judge shows never would have been considered for tell lie vision. programming!!
0 # John Escher 2017-06-17 06:28
Here hear.
+16 # Working Class 2017-06-16 14:02
I agree with you Mashiguo. On education in the US the "real" education that takes place is the method not the content. Our system all too often teaches to a test. Memorize someones else answer to someone else question. The educational program is to fit in - uniformity - be a good cog in the system. This does not teach critical thinking or put another way, how to take information and come up with your own independent conclusions. This helps maintain what is in place in a society, but it does not help society adapt to change. It surrenders direction to those who are in power, which incidentally is not the masses. Having said all that, every once in a while we see an opportunity in history to break out of the mold. This may be such a time in history - we can hope. The fundamental question that needs to be addressed is do the masses exist to serve the economic system or should the system only be allowed to exist if it serves the masses (not the few)? Not a new question, but we sure as hell need a different answer than the one we have been fed.
0 # Caliban 2017-06-19 13:00
This over-reliance on testing is the most pernicious and longest lasting product of George W. Bush's so-called "No Child Left Behind".

It is past time for the development and promotion of newer and more creative methodologies These must come from the interaction of university researchers and working teachers. And they must be supported by local and state education boards.

Unfortunately the latter group [which their hold institutional power jealously] are often the least informed about - and most politically resistant to - current, progressive work in public education theory and practice.

That said, activist citizens can make themselves heard by persistent grassroots efforts to help both teachers and progressive reformers by positive change and put Bushie education in the rear-view mirror.
+21 # JayaVII 2017-06-16 14:18
Righto, Mashiguo. Russell Brand, booted from school at 15 or 16, was unmaimed by higher education and is thus capable of clear thought and readable writing. In the U.S., the worst writers by and large are those with professional degrees. These folks know that by regurgitating cliches and avoiding critical thinking they show themselves as loyal, promotion-worth y employees.

On another note, it's interesting that as the Grenfell Tower was blazing away, some commentators noted that it was likely to collapse. Of course it did not, as it is a steel-frame building and steel melts at a much higher temperature than a fire -- even an inferno like this -- can produce. If steel-frame high-rises could collapse due to fire, they would not be insurable and therefore could not be built.

But of course this impossible and inexplicable phenomenon did happen one time: on Sept. 11, 2001, when three gigantic steel-frame skyscrapers collapsed supposedly due to fire. Never before and never since has this occurred.

It is reassuring to know that the basic laws of physics and chemistry are back in force. They will remain so, I suppose, until those in charge need their next Pearl Harbor.
+5 # fernly2 2017-06-16 14:26
This violence of poverty enhances dehumanization including radicalism and terrorism. In 2 years we could resolve the collapse of our part of the transatlantic system. Will we find the will to do so?
+14 # elkingo 2017-06-16 14:36
And Russell, it's all traceable to capitalism, the profit motive and the sick bastards who so behave
0 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2017-06-17 16:16
Quoting elkingo:
And Russell, it's all traceable to capitalism, the profit motive and the sick bastards who so behave
You are half right. Blaming Capitalism is like blaming the Constitution for our ills. Yes there are flaws in that document but they are minor compared to the wisdom embedded therein. The main problems aren't the Constitution or Capitalism. They are that when flaws are discovered, they are ignored instead of amended. AND when the "sick bastards" lie, cheat, steal and game the system, they get off scotfree! If the home team allowed their batters to take first base on 3 balls, the game would be thrown into chaos. It's no different in government, politics or business. If the crooks aren't prosecuted, they just do it again and again.
+5 # hd70642 2017-06-16 14:58

Unfortunately the one percent can wreck havoc across. national. boundaries.
+21 # Femihumanist 2017-06-16 16:41
With Jared Kushner being investigated as a slumlord of "affordable housing" projects in Baltimore, this is all very timely.

Of course, we mourn the people and families murdered and otherwise destroyed by rich people and governments trying to save money. Just as we mourn the people and families killed in all kinds of violence.

But why do we only hear about the travails of some of those people. People in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Iran and elsewhere in the world feel pain and experience loss the same as we do.

Why aren't their stories used as examples of the horrors?
+12 # draypoker 2017-06-16 17:30
The building was "owned" by the Borough Council but "managed" by a commercial company chosen by the Tory dominated Council. There will now be formal enquiries into how the building was managed and why, for example, there was no fire alarm or sprinkler system which might have saved lives.

It is considered likely that there have been many deaths, perhaps even as many as a hundred. It will take time to search the ruins to look for bodies.

An implication of this disaster is that there are known to be hundreds of similar tower blocks that may be equally in danger of a similar disaster.
-18 # RNLDaWy 2017-06-16 19:11
Making this political as this author does not help. To blame it on one party and greed .. long stretch .. my guess is there is one building not meeting fire codes there are also others. Neglect would now be if the present government does not look into that possibility. There are slums and slum landlords in America and across the world. Question will be .. did this building not meet fire standards and if so who is accountable .. when the dust settles from this tragedy and emotions calm down .. we will find out .. any politician that attempts to game this event should be also held accountable ..
+14 # lfeuille 2017-06-17 00:07
It IS political. There is not getting around it. Funding for public housing is politically determined, as is funding for fire fighters. Buildings don't meet fire codes because managers don't want, or are not given enough money to bring them up to code. The slumlord in this case was the local government. But even with private ownership, deregulation which also leads to underfunding of safety features is a political act.
+4 # Nancy Jakeman 2017-06-17 05:37
RNLDaWy the article began by clarifying Austerity which is largely implicating "conservative" governments. I am not vilifying them, only stating what I see world wide. We need to open our hearts to each other without separating thoughts. I too wept to see the lifeless body of little Aylan Kurdy and I feel this has had an impact with many although not yet visible.Politic s, economics and class hamper our bright world.
-10 # RNLDaWy 2017-06-17 10:18
Austerity is what the EU is doing to Greece .. and the big banks .. Corbyn sought to make some political hay from this which I find shameful the bodies were not yet even cold .. they did something recently to the entire outside of that building if that is correct it was done improperly and made it the fire trap it became .. a sad sad sad sad event .. however the dust must settle and I have faith in UK government will get to the bottom of it .. May has pledged what 5 MIllion for relocating those poor all say she does not nor did not care about ..
+3 # PCPrincess 2017-06-18 10:06
Every 'action' taken by business concerns is influenced by politics. You can't separate the two. Here, politics is used in a general sense, and in the direct sense. Directly, by connecting a lack of funding to housing agencies, or to public services, and generally, because of the way politics affects the way a society acts, thinks, speaks, etc.
0 # lfeuille 2017-06-18 22:04
Austerity is also what Tories are doing to the lower class Brits. It's not just one country or group of countries against other countries, it is the elites against the working class within countries.

Why should he wait until people have forgotten about it to make his point. The only way to get change is to point out the consequences of the misdeeds of those in power. He is right to make inroads wherever he can. It is not some gentile game. Peoples lives are at stake every day and when the inevitable happens it is necessary to make the connection between governments actions and the disastrous result even if it offends your idea of gentile discourse. It is too important to wait. Tory policies lead directly to this tragedy - something you seem to want to sweep under the rug. It's time for them to go.
+10 # librarian1984 2017-06-17 11:16
Show us a world where conservatives want to help the poor or the middle class, want to help anybody but their corporate overlords -- then you can talk about how it's not one party's problem.

But to the extent it IS one party, it's the one with two names. It used to be just the GOP but the neocon sensibility (I would not call it an 'ethic') took over the DP, through Bill Clinton, as part of a neoliberal movement that burgeoned all over the world and imposed austerity on 90% of us for the benefit of the wealthy and the corporations.

That cruel, inhumane and disastrous mentality is being rejected after four long decades, and voters are having to decide which way to jump --- left or right.

The neos, con and liberal, seem determind to stay in power, denouncing and undercutting the left, who they see as a bigger threat than the right. The establishment would rather see people vote in RWers than progressives because they have more in common with the former, loving war and privatization, stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

And it is very amusing to see you fall back on regulation as a defense. First you gut regulations then use them as a scapegoat. Conservatives, if no longer moral, are adroit.

Of course this is political. It is VERY political. It's the politicians we entrust to enact our values, through legislation, and they have not done so for over forty years.

What shall we do with them? Hoist them by their own petard.
-5 # davehaze 2017-06-16 23:13

You obviously do not live in England. Did you even ever visit? Do you follow UK politics? Oh, you only watch MSNBC and RSN so you didn't know that there was a recent election. It was only a fire go back to sleep.
+11 # ladymidath 2017-06-17 04:16
This tragedy highlights the contempt that governments treat the less well off. People like Theresa May who had to be told to show some humanity after the horrible events that took place, is simply another in a long line of conservatives that are happy to suck the country dry while people die of malnutrition because of the frugal amount they are being forced to live on, or preventable tragedies like Grenfell.

All you have to do is look at how quickly they tried to shift the blame, but this time the people are not falling for it.

Excellent article, I do admire Russell Brand for having the guts to say what needs to be said.
+10 # IAMMe 2017-06-17 09:36
Yet PBS is to run a paid propaganda speech about Betsy DeVos, glorifying corporatization of our education system. This allows the school to teach what and whom they want. It is the corporatist billionnaire's wet dream.
+1 # hd70642 2017-06-17 16:42
What. is being done at the corporate and government level bureaucratic featherbedding nobody understands. how to get any thing done just create obstacle. courses / Labyrinth of a red. tape .
+5 # librarian1984 2017-06-18 06:56
PBS and NPR, now semi-private, take corporate money, and one of their big contributors is .. Koch Industries. Surprise, surprise.

Koch is also a major advertiser on MSDNC, and one thing media watchdog groups have quantified is that news outlets, print or tv, do NOT report on their advertisers, at least nothing negative. It's why GE et al used to advertise on the news shows. Now it's Koch.

PBS is going to run a love letter to the privatization of education so corporations can tap into school funds and bleed US dry some more.

But let's not worry about that .. because Russia.
+4 # librarian1984 2017-06-18 07:18
Another thing about austerity. It's never the rich that practice it. It's always US.

I saw a great interviewee on Morning JOE: Edward Luce, a Brit at the Financial Times who's written a book called The Retreat of Western Democracy. He makes the case that the rest of the world is doing well. Literacy rates are rising and people are being lifted out of poverty -- largely due to globalization. He said the ONLY people who are really doing poorly, bearing the brunt of this wealth redistribution, are the middle classes of Western countries.

Working class wages have been stagnant 'for a generation' (except for a blip in the 90s when the internet economy raised all boats), and that votes for Trump, Brexit, etc are a result of the pressure on the middle class, building for a long time.

He says the link between citizenship and public benefit has been broken, that when people's pensions are cut, for example, growing resentment will lead to desperation and votes for change.

Luce said he is optimistic because the world in general is doing better. Ironically, he cited one point of evidence as being a drop in infant mortality .... which is actually going UP in the United States.

He said what makes him pessimistic is politics, that we have solutions to many of our problems but not the political will to implement them, that we know what to do -- but POLITICIANS ARE STANDING IN THE WAY.

It was a bit surreal ... to hear a moral financier.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.