When Russell Brand comes to Dublin to play his sell-out show next week, he will once again ride into town on a wave of publicity. Thanks to his Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman last week, he has been held up by The Huffington Post, Salon, The Guardian and others as a sort of Che Guevara in eyeliner, a pop culture revolutionary to lead us out of the dark. As Paxman's eyebrows hovered somewhere above his head, Brand told him that he has never voted because voting was "a waste of time".
That got our attention and Brand held it. "It's not that I'm not voting out of apathy," he continued. "I'm not voting out of absolute indifference, and weariness, and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and has now reached a fever pitch, where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that [is] not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system."
The chorus of "right ons" on social media was deafening and, listening to Brand talk, I wanted to be persuaded. For one thing, he's often right – his stance on drug laws is a breath of fresh air, for instance. For another thing, he's funny, and truth, so the maxim goes, is the soul of wit. But the real reason I wanted to believe him is that not engaging at all with politics and hanging around, waiting for the revolution, is just the type of civic non-strategy I love the most.
This is because it involves the least effort on my part. Like most Irish people I vote on what people who study this kind of thing call, "an intermittent basis". I might possibly put on my coat on polling day for a general election but not always. And definitely don't bother me with a referendum. Most people my age are the same. We're not apathetic, just disengaged.
Lately I've found myself waving my hand at the television screen and saying, in time honoured Irish fashion, "they're all the same". And when I switch off the television and read the depressing news that my generation will be the one to suffer longest from the bailout, I really just want to go back to bed – and save face by calling it a revolution.
It is long past the point where any of us should do this. Not voting, or disengaging from politics, is a luxury only a very rich country, such as we once thought we were, can afford. When things get this bad, we all have to take an interest again and force ourselves to stay awake while Lucinda Creighton or Michael Noonan is speaking. It has been said that every country gets the government it deserves – well that is exactly what happened to us.
Politics can only be as smart as the people who vote for it. There's no point having the greatest intellects of all time running for the Dail (hey, we can dream), if they have to reduce everything down to a glib, TV-friendly soundbite just so they can get the attention of the idiots in the back.
It is incumbent on all of us who feel dissatisfied with the way the country is to ask ourselves: have I accidentally become one of the idiots in the back? Do I understand, exactly, why we needed the bailout? Did the narrow, local issues that won my vote in previous elections help push that 22-year-old into the dole queue?
Am I so sedated by consumer society and media dross that I don't know one end of opposition politics from the other? Noam Chomsky (who once refused to go on Brand's radio show because "life is hard and I see no place for comedy" prompting the short-lived item, "Cheer Up Chomsky") wrote about what he called "the manufacture of consent".
He was talking, mainly, about the effect of media on attitude to government, but unless we actively participate in the democratic process and educate ourselves a bit about what exactly is being decided right now on our behalf, our consent will always be manufactured. Politics may be dull, but it's not as dull as working longer hours for less, or having your medical card taken away because you didn't care who was in charge until it directly affected you. That is playing into the hands of those who would maintain the status quo.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that "the revolution", if it ever comes, will not be led by a verbose multimillionaire with Amy Winehouse hair. Quentin Crisp described 'charm' as the ability to persuade without logic. It can only be his generous surplus of charm that has persuaded TIME magazine and others to call Russell Brand "one of the thinkers of our time" this week.
Brand is a great comedian (and a surprisingly brilliant writer) but we can do better than his nebulous, logic-free sloganeering, even as a "starting point for discussion". The Occupy movement which he constantly referenced in the Paxman interview petered out precisely because its aims were too vague for most people to understand.
It's time to roll up our sleeves and get involved. "Don't vote" or "nothing will ever change through politics" may be seductive ideas but, at the moment, they're jokes we just can't afford.