Russell Brand weighs in on U.K. riots

In a thoughtful Guardian essay, the comedian takes British politicians to task

By Emma Mustich

Published August 12, 2011 8:52PM (EDT)

Russell Brand -- whose powerful tribute to Amy Winehouse struck a chord with many readers last month -- has now spoken up in the Guardian about the riots that have gripped his home country for much of this week.

In a colloquial, stream-of-consciousness essay, Brand is quick to acknowledge that (as a movie-star expat) he may not be the most qualified to comment on Britain's domestic chaos. But he doesn't let his physical and material distance from the rioters hold him back -- and he offers a stinging critique of Prime Minister David Cameron's government.

"I feel proud to be English, proud to be a Londoner (all right, an Essex boy), never more so than since being in exile, and I naturally began to wonder what would make young people destroy their communities," he writes, adding:

However "unacceptable" and "unjustifiable" [this rioting] might be, it has happened so we better accept it and, whilst we can't justify it, we should kick around a few neurons and work out why so many people feel utterly disconnected from the cities they live in....

If we want to live in a society where people feel included, we must include them, where they feel represented, we must represent them and where they feel love and compassion for their communities then we, the members of that community, must find love and compassion for them.

As we sweep away the mistakes made in the selfish, nocturnal darkness we must ensure that, amidst the broken glass and sadness, we don't sweep away the youth lost amongst the shards in the shadows cast by the new dawn.

We celebrated Brand's "rigorous honesty" -- not to mention his good looks and good humor -- last fall. This summer, his public engagement is worth admiring.

You can read Brand's full piece here.

Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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