In Conversation With|Jolyon Rubinstein

Jolyon Rubinstein is a very modern political activist: his weapon is satire. His first video was Fishing for Bankers, in which he put a £5 note on the  pavement in the City of London and pulled it away with a fishing line whenever a banker leaned over to pick it up. Through series and documentaries such as The Revolution Will Be Televised, An Idiot’s Guide to Politics, Revolution Presents: Democracy Dealers and Make Lying in Parliament History Campaign, he campaigns for change to the political system.

He studied at University of the Arts London, graduating with an MA in Performance, to add to a BA in Politics an International Relations in Sussex, and is a BAFTA winner for The Revolution Will Be Televised on BBC Three.

“The great phrase that we use is: If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.”

A concern of his work is trust, especially among young people who he argues, despite being overwhelmingly liberal, progressive and concerned about issues such as the environment, are increasingly turned off politics.

He traces this collapse of trust in politicians to the Iraq war, when 1.5 million people came out on to the streets in protest, but Britain went to war anyway.

Money, too, plays a part: “From the banking crisis we learn that we really live in a ‘corpocracy’ not a democracy where the needs of multinational corporations who are the larger donors to political parties are probably more important nine time out of ten than voters, and when donors are more important than voters the democratic system is in crisis.”

Reasons I want the Tories out.

A video posted by JolyonRubs (@jolyonrubs) on

He sees anti-austerity groups like Podemos in Spain, which emerged as a response to the rigours of austerity, as a hope for the future: “It is the beginning of a new political culture that has nothing to do with the stereotypes of people how have been in bed with the big business. They don’t look like politicians, they don’t talk like politicians and they don’t act like politicians. They act like people who have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of other people.”

A further appeal of Podemos is that they seem to represent a genuinely digital approach to politics, which Rubinstein believes is capable of driving enormous social change: “If you look at Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement in general, that is all happening because of the internet. It would not have been possible before, so we are starting to see this change happening.”

“Politics is not just about voting. It is about getting involved with every area of your life. You work locally to do something collectively on a bigger scale, but it starts with you.”

Watch Fishing for Bankers:

Words by Barbara Lanzafame

Featured Image by Richard P. J. Lambert via Flickr