Tag Archives: Russell Brand

Curiouser and Curiouser…

When Julian Assange awoke he found himself enclosed in a tall glass cylinder in the corner of a dimly lit room. He was standing upright and his arms and legs were restrained. Through the frosted glass he could just about make out the shapes of a number of identical cylinders dotted around the room. He felt groggy and weak as he struggled to recall how he had ended up here.

“I don’t remember paying for any weird shit this time,” he thought to himself as he attempted to free his limbs from their shackles to no avail.

Suddenly a booming voice echoed throughout the room,

Arrival imminent. Commencing detainee transfer.”

Assange felt his restraints loosen as the door of the cylinder slid open slowly. He stumbled out onto a cold metal floor just as the other cylinders also began to open. There were eight other people in the room, each looking equally confused and frightened.

Assange immediately recognised the three young women beside him as the Russian pop group and political dissenters Pussy Riot. Across the room he saw another face he knew, that of a Syrian blogger and human rights campaigner who had disappeared a few weeks earlier. After a few minutes of introductions he learned that the other four comprised an Iranian nuclear scientist, a student from California who had been arrested for tweeting a joke about Obama, a technology blogger who had recently given the new iPad a negative review, and lastly and somewhat inexplicably, the English comedian and actor Russell Brand.

After they had all met they tried to figure out how this had happened. None of them remembered arriving in this room, and they recounted their last memories before waking up there.

The Iranian scientist had been invited to a seminar given by the Chemical Industries Association, which he had never heard of before, and recalled finding the situation a tad strange when he was picked up at the train station by an Israeli tank instead of the promised limousine.

Russell Brand had been in South America conducting research for a book on the drug trade. The last memory he had was of landing at Colombia International Airport, and he remembered being surprised that the entire building was made out of cardboard panels that had been rather crudely sellotaped together.

Assange himself had been eagerly awaiting a visit to the Ecuadorian embassy by the Culinary Institute of Afghanistan. He had been looking forward to a nice meal, since the Ambassador kept eating his cream crackers from the kitchen, even though he had written ‘Hands off’ with three exclamation marks on a Post-It and stuck it on them.

Try as they might, they could find no connection between their stories. As they continued to discuss the strange situation they found themselves in, a panel opened in the corner of the room. Inside were nine orange spacesuits hanging on the wall.

The voice reverberated through the room again,

Attention detainees. Put on your suits and prepare to disembark the shuttle.”

They looked at each other in puzzlement. The shuttle?

“A shuttle?” exclaimed Brand. “What wicked malfeasance has been perpetrated here? Which autocratic tyrant has enslaved us in this unsolicited bondage? What calamitous end awaits this strewn-together band of…”

“Shut up you moron!” shouted one of the Russian girls.

Brand looked shocked and hurt but did not argue.

“Sorry sweetheart,” he mumbled, reaching up and stroking her face in what everyone agreed was a highly inappropriate gesture, even given the tense situation.

Just as they had finished getting into their suits one of the walls began to open outwards, creating a giant hydraulic ramp. The room was lit up with a brilliant light as the ramp descended and landed with a thud. As their eyes adjusted to the brightness they tentatively made their way down the ramp and squinted out at the vista that greeted them.

What they saw was a vast, red expanse of nothingness. An arid, crimson desert as far as the eye could see. The only sign of life was an enormous compound enclosed by barbed wire and high walls about a kilometre away. A makeshift track led through the soil and rock to the compound entrance. As they neared, the front gates opened slowly outwards and a short, squat figure appeared. As this shadowy form came into view, Assange recognised it but could not believe his eyes. The rover rolled towards them until it was but a few feet away, then stopped. Its diminutive head panned up to meet their faces, and its lifeless eyes acknowledged their shocked expressions. A garbled, metallic voice rang out in the thin air,

“Greetings prisoners. I am Curiosity, warden of this facility. Welcome to Mars.”

They followed the rover into the facility in stunned silence, escorted by a pair of similar robot guards. Hundreds of people dressed in the same orange suits were scattered around the compound. Assange recognised many of them as political activists or dictators who had either gone missing or had been reported as dead. He could have sworn he even saw Gadafi and bin Laden sitting together rolling dice, and Pinochet playing dominoes with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Eventually they came to a small building which appeared to be an office. They entered and the door shut behind them. On the wall were pictures of famous robots: C-3PO, Johnny Number 5, Wall-E. On the desk behind which their captor now stood was a picture of him with President Obama, and a nameplate that read ‘Colonel Curiosity’. There was also a small tray of complimentary mints, which seemed slightly incongruous.

“Welcome to the galaxy’s most secret detention centre. Here the CIA and other agencies can keep dissenters,” he said, fixing his gaze on the Pussy Riot girls, “international spies,” looking directly at Assange, “or anyone so unbelievably irritating that their government pays massive sums of money to make them disappear.” Everyone looked at Russell.

Curiosity continued, “I was sent here to become warden after my predecessor, Voyager, was shanked by Idi Amin during a riot earlier this year. As you may have now figured out, NASA has been operating as a covert wing of the US military since its inception, under the pretense of space exploration. The staff here are all rovers and probes sent here to keep control of the population. We’ve also started to draft in bomb disposal robots that have been injured in the Middle East, although between you and me, the PTSD has made them very unstable. I’d steer clear of them if I were you.”

The nine prisoners stood fixed to the ground, unable to comprehend this astonishing turn of events. Eventually Russell broke the silence,

“You mean we’re forced to spend the rest of our pitiful lives in some sort of cosmic colony of miscreants, to endure this interstellar incarceration in the void of space, never again to feel the warm bosom of…”

“Silence, prisoner!” shouted the warden. He turned to the rest of them, “Jeez, does this guy ever give it a rest?”

Thousands of miles away Michelle Obama was sitting on the couch in the Oval Office, laptop on her knee, while her husband sat with his feet up on his desk, his brow furrowed in concentration as he polished his Nobel Peace prize.

“You know I swear Kissinger swapped these things when we had dinner last week, I don’t remember this scratch being here.”

His wife was distracted by the article she was reading and didn’t answer him.

“Have you seen this story in the Huffington Post about Mars, Barack? This guy thinks it’s being used as an off-world penal colony by the American government.”

He didn’t look up and continued to studiously clean his trophy.

“Honestly, I don’t know why you read that crap Michelle. There are some real nutjobs out there.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right. Well, I’d better get going. I’ve to be on Oprah this afternoon. We’re doing an intervention for some fat kid from Texas who only eats chocolate cake.”

When his wife had left the room the President picked up the phone on his desk.

“Get me the director of the CIA right away please Barbara. I’ve got a problem with a journalist that needs to be taken care of.”

Julian Assange stared out the barred window of his cell, the glowing sphere of planet Earth visible just above the dusky horizon. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek as he contemplated his future on this barren rock.

“Don’t cry Jules, it’ll be alright in the end, you’ll see.”

Assange turned from the window and lay down on his cot, turning his face to the wall as he closed his eyes tightly, praying that the nightmares wouldn’t be so bad tonight.

“Shut up Russell,” he replied, as the sun set over the red planet, and the cell was plunged into darkness.


The Kids Aren’t Alright

After nearly a week of wanton destruction and violence, the riots that spread across England have come to a close. At this stage the young criminals who’ve been vandalising their own communities have probably run out of glass to smash, or trainers to steal, or perhaps just run out of energy considering most of them probably exist solely on fast food. They’ll still kick in a McDonalds window if they get the chance though. If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s the concept of irony being set alight and kicked to death by a group of thugs from Birmingham. Only after they stole his trainers though.

Aside from piles of rubble and hilarious photoshopped scenes from the riots, the one thing we have an excess of in the wake of the past week’s events is questions. What made thousands of kids angry enough to set fire to everything in sight? Why was David Cameron on holiday when his crystal ball had told him there’d be riots when he was away? Where can I get that slick grey hoody that guy with the handful of iPods was wearing?

Over the last number of days there has been much written in the media in an attempt to answer the question of why this happened. Russell Brand wrote an interesting article in The Guardian which criticised the portrayal of the rioters and looters as animals and monsters, and he makes a good point. It is natural for people to distance humanity from terrible acts but if societal problems are ever going to be tackled successfully, they must first be understood.

The youths committing these acts have the same capacity for violence, greed and stupidity as the rest of us. They also share our capacity for kindness, empathy and all the other traits that were displayed by those who rallied together to clean up their communities after they had been devastated. Which of these qualities come to the fore in a young person is dependent on millions of variables, and it is their development and growth and the experiences they have that will ultimately shape them. Calling them monsters is a cowardly way of avoiding the fact that massive sections of western civilised society are breeding grounds for young men, in particular, full of hate and malice.

Kevin Myers wrote an article this week in which he noted that the vast majority of the rioters were Afro-Caribbean. He went on to cite the lack of father figures in the lives of these young men as a contributing factor, given the massive amount of single mothers in the areas affected. He also recognised that it was a failed immigration policy that resulted in the breakdown of community in these areas, and led to disenfranchisement of massive groups of young people.

There are many other relevant factors that affect these groups of people and cause violent tendencies, such as poverty, peer pressure, lack of education, boredom, alienation from society, early exposure to criminality, to name but a few. Myers is absolutely correct, however, in his assertions that a lack of parental control and the unbelievably poorly conceived immigration policies of successive governments have greatly contributed to the situation. This is true not just in Britain, but across the world.

Of course, because Mr. Myers has a history of making somewhat incendiary and controversial comments, and because we live in a society so laden with sanctimony masquerading as political correctness, these comments have been branded by many as racist and offensive. Apparently just noticing that the rioting crowd was predominantly ethnic, something that is demonstrably true, is now in itself a racist act. What a pathetic world we live in where adults cannot even discuss issues with clarity, never mind attempt to solve our society’s ills, without having a label thrown at them to discredit their argument.

What we must not do, however, when asking why this happened, is confuse explanation for justification. Nobody needs a father figure to tell them it is wrong to steal from a kid lying at the side of the road with a broken jaw. No amount of government money spent on playgrounds and youth centres will stop a certain element in society from taking any excuse to get out in the streets, burn down people’s homes and livelihoods, and throw rocks at the police. And no policy changes from the Tories, who everyone seems to be singularly blaming for this crisis despite the fact that Labour were in power as these young people grew up, will change the fact that some people do not want to be educated, or informed, or bettered in any way. They are quite happy to simply remain as they are and continue to blame everyone but themselves.

The only thing more depressing than watching the horrific scenes of the riots on television, and seeing the fear on the faces of the innocent people affected, is listening to the debate that is ongoing in their aftermath. Because it is abundantly clear to anyone listening that nothing is going to change. If there is one universal truth about our species, it is that we do not learn from history. This is the society we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s one we’re going to have to live with for a very long time.