YouTube Gurus

It’s the start of a new year and the celebrity guru Russell Brand is on YouTube offering his followers the opportunity to join up for a course that will change their lives (for the better, of course).
It’s hard, really, to knock the guy – or the message – when you see the short comments that follow his videos, how people reveal the suffering in their lives.
Russell’s main concern at the moment is that he looks at his phone device too often, especially first thing in the morning.
Does it have to be an ‘iphone’ he looks at? Couldn’t it just be any little old smartphone?
This innocent-sounding pronouncement somehow drills down to the vacuous, unthinking sludge which gushes up from beneath the crust of all these celebrity YouTube gurus.
Gabor Mate had an addiction to buying classical music recordings; Eckhart Tolle suffered depression while on a scholarship at Cambridge University.
One can hardly deny these individuals’ suffering any more than one can deny that of their followers.
Equally, one can easily see a pattern of Western privilege and a whole series of worrying paradoxes.
As an actor, entertainer and YouTube guru Russell Brand clearly relies upon his sex appeal. Ironically, after chocolate, and before heroin (apparently) he became addicted to sex and pornography.
Online porn is a freakshow that takes advantage of vulnerable individuals. (I recall bunking off school one day as a thirteen year old with a boy from the village, sitting in a Paddington café after a trip to Kensington market, and a man offering to buy us food before offering us parts in porn-films and the promise of girls with ‘leather fannies’…which we declined.)
You might express similar concerns about all the online gurus.
I mean, look at them, all dolled up or down according to the message they wish to convey and the audience they intend to reach.
Just thinking of the three above:
RB is your typical white Jesus fantasy, no different-looking to those cartoons put out by North American evangelist organisations.
ET – not his real name, but a marketing ploy (Ulrich not having the same ring) – is a non-threatening contemplative little elf in his Val Doonican sweaters.
I caught GM, by chance, in a silent pause from a videoed talk and saw your archetypal glamorously-aged rock star in his adopted stance and open-neck style (think Rolling Stones).
The awful thing is that their audience similarly conform:
The baby-boomers who largely make up RB’s following.
The white, middle-age, middle-class male acolytes of ET.
The aging affluent white women attending presentations by GB. (There is one glorious passage in a video of him giving a talk at a bookstore event, as a woman in the front row revealing a shoulder and cleavage buttons up bit by bit as the videographer actually zooms in on her – it’s hilarious, and a bit sad really.)
I could go on; but I actually don’t like writing this stuff: it seems a little cheap and nasty (and everyone is open to criticism). I’m not a journalist or social commentator, but a novelist and mystic who likes to see things from all sides.
One final irony, however, cannot go unremarked.
The very celebrity spiritual gurus who rely on bookstore signings, stage shows, webinairs and videos on Google’s YouTube are the very ones who are telling us we should eschew fame, cut down on our logical thinking and resist the alienation caused by contemporary technologies like, er, electronic devices and YouTube.
Now do you believe them?

Novels by Glyn F Ridgley

Mouth of the Ganges river, Rishikesh (March, 2019)

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