There is absolutely nothing more encouraging and inspiring than experiencing a person with passion for something, be it art, politics, nature, anything. So naturally, when I watched Russell Brand's appearance last week on Newsnight, I felt both encouraged and inspired.
Often pantomimic, Brand has nonetheless swiftly become a symbolic meeting-point for those who agree, those who feel intense apathy toward a “democratic” system that arguably does not work. And yet one of the most common responses to the article is to suggest Brand is trivially apathetic. He's not; it's so plain that justification of dispassion is not the intended result of his 10-minute manifesto.
See, here is the thing: many students are undeniably a part of this demographic of people who feel unacknowledged, abused even, by the political system; I certainly do. A promise of no fee rises became the most obnoxious overnight inflation known to man, as if just because you don't have to pay it today, then it does not really count.
Funding cuts leave our lecturers worked to breaking point for less and less money, which in turn leaves us paying £9,000 per year for a paltry share of contact time. To cut to the chase, as students and future proud owners of enormous debt, we are part of the "disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented", and we ought to be acting on that.
It is clear though, that for some, Brand's passion is nothing more than an excuse, so that when someone asks them why they don't vote, they can turn around and reply, “Because Russell Brand said it's okay not to".
By expressing indifference to the way in which a system ignores us, we also by definition sign up for giving a damn about the issues that that system purports to confront and solve (Spoiler Alert – it doesn't). How can a person watch that video and then say “Brand is right; I won't vote. But I also won't do anything else”?
We students are meant to be energetic, intelligent and passionate about the things we study; universities should be the perfect breeding ground for political thought and action. Just because we might be enjoying the three-year semi-drunken haze, it does not mean that we will not have to live in the real world at some point, where the things that the government does, with or without our permission, will affect us.
And so, by all means withhold your vote; but replace that vote with action. Brand was not arguing in favour of apathy, he was explaining why it exists and telling us that because of that, we need to do something else about it. Find a problem at your university, and work towards solving it. Support your lecturers when they strike next week. Just for the love of god, find something to care about. Excuse the cliché, but as students, we are part of the future. It is time we started acting like it.