Revolution in the Air: The East, Russell Brand, Donald Sutherland & Catching Fire

Revolution was in the air in 1968, even in an excessively qualified way in the Beatles’ song “Revolution:”

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
All right, all right

The Rolling Stones were a little more daring with their 1968 tune “Street Fighting Man:”

Hey! think the time is right for a palace revolution
But where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock n roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There’s no place for a street fighting man

How about 2014 – forty-six years after hits by the Stones and the Beatles — is revolution in the air now?

The short answer is yes.

The Occupy Movement, if it did nothing else, has given us a new lens for seeing things. There’s the 1% and the 99%. You and I are a part of the 99%, the people who earn less than the Christmas bonuses of the 1%.  According to President Obama, “today’s C.E.O. makes 273 times more than the average worker.  A family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family.”

“Occupy,” says political guru Noam Chomsky, “is the first major public response to thirty years of class war.”  We all live in the Bush Jr. world of the haves, the have-nots and the have-mores.  The system (not just the Republican Party), then and now, seems to favour the have-mores.

So, what’s a poor boy to do?

Comedian Russell Brand – why do comedians seem to see more than “serious” people? Why is Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show the most incisive political critique in North America?—rants virally on YouTube.

Jeremy Paxman: What’s the scheme, that’s all I’m asking. What’s the scheme? You talk vaguely about revolution – what is it?
Russell Brand: I think a socialist egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations, and massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment… I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced. David Cameron says profit isn’t a dirty word; I say profit is a filthy word. Because wherever there is profit there is also deficit. And this system currently doesn’t address these ideas.

Brand’s comment about the environment – “massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment” – speaks to the theme of The East in which eco-terrorists hold corporate energy leaders responsible for the damage they’ve wreaked upon the environment.  In the Hamilton cinema where I watched the film the audience clapped at the end. They seemed gleeful that members of the 1% finally received their comeuppance.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire also receives audience applause because the peripheries (the districts) are fighting back against the central authority. The underclass led by heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) are resisting the tyranny of President Coriolanus Snow’s (Donald Sutherland’s) power clique.

Canadian Donald Sutherland supports a youth-led uprising against injustice in real life. “Drone strikes. Corporate tax dodging. Racism. The Keystone oil pipeline. Denying food stamps to starving Americans. It’s all going to pot. It’s not right.”

He’s optimistic about the lasting effect of The Hunger Games (two more films to come). In an interview with The Guardian (November 19, 2013), he suggests that the films are “coded commentary on inequality, power and hope.”

“It just puts things out in the light and lets you have a look at it. And if you take from it what I hope you will take from it, it will make you think a little more pungently about the political environment you live in and not be complacent.”

“I want Hunger Games to stir up a revolution,” he says in the interview. And then his inner Canadian comes out (all compromise and good sense):

The four films may have a cumulative effect, he thinks. The young may not revolt but they may effect change. “They might create a third party. They might change the electoral process, they might be able to take over the government, change the tax system.”

So maybe not fighting in the streets à la Rolling Stones.  Maybe slow, incremental progress in some cases.  But in other cases – for climate change deniers (the Canadian government), corporate irresponsibility, systemic and entrenched inequality — nothing short of a revolution will bring about change.

– By J.S. Porter