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May 7, 2018 | by  | in Arts Podcasts |
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The Joe Rogan Experience – Episode 1021

3/5

In this episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe Rogan and Russell Brand attempt to unpack some dense subjects such as finding spiritual well-being in western capitalistic society, mindfulness, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

While listening to this conversation I was in a perpetual double take. Brand’s latest pursuits such as meditation, writing a book on addiction “Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions”, and hosting his own podcast entitled Under the Skin, differ from the rock star image he has been well known for. The conversation does discuss some worthy questions. After my first listen, I recall thinking that this was one of the best podcasts I had heard. However, upon my second listen, I realised I didn’t think much of the content.

I think I was taken in by it initially because both host and guest are good communicators and are quite eloquent – Brand exercises a large vocabulary and has a knack for knitting his sentences together. Yet, the topics that arise are oldies and I am reluctant to say that Brand’s perspectives are goodies. For instance, he notes that global capitalism has allowed for mass human cooperation, however he vehemently criticises the underlying incentives – those being humans’ most primal desires, that of survival and avarice. He imagines an alternative world where the spiritual side of existence is incentivised; a society in which human cooperation strives for some kind of spiritual bliss, similar to (so we are told) what one may experience on a DMT trip – what Brand calls “oneness”… which starts to sound a bit lava lamp, dungaree, bowl cut, and perhaps not very well thought out.

The conversation inevitably moves onto Trump. Apart from the usual criticisms audiences have come to know and love and be bored with, Rogan is led by Brand into a critique of the political systems that are in place in America and Britain at present. In particular, they mull over whether the centralization of power, not just in politics, but from the Agricultural Revolution to industrialization, has benefited people en masse. (There is of course a debate nested in here about whether the individual was better off in the hunter-gatherer state, and how to quantify this). Both men postulate that perhaps humans are inhabiting systems that they cannot handle. Brand pays lip service to the hackneyed Marxist idea that capitalism will reduce people to cogs in a machine and chisel the souls of workers to dust. The fact that communism has failed in the vast majority of nations that have experimented with it is brought up by Rogan. Brand, like many a student socialist in the prosperous corners of the world, parries these legitimate case studies with the line: “they didn’t do it properly”.

Brand and Rogan navigate their conversation effectively and entertainingly, however there is a lack of clarity in some of the terms used, such as “the system(s)”, “oneness” and “current structures”. For the first-time listener, endeavour to always think critically about what is being said – even if you find yourself nodding and grinning while it is being spoken. Brand’s heart is in the right place I’m sure, but I could not help but think after my second listening that he has come quite late to the party. It is helpful to know that Brand is currently at university and seems to be only now discovering Jung and Marx.

The podcast is grounded to some extent by Rogan. He acknowledges that he and Russell are “clubbing at the world’s problems”. The conversation’s real value is of course that it will spark reactions — like writing reviews.  

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