Thursday, 16 August 2012

Free Pussy Riot: Who are Pussy Riot and why should you care?




Can you imagine living in a world where the powers-that-be cynically use the imagery and power of the church to manipulate the populace into believing the lies and deceit of a war criminal?

You do.

As you read this three young Russian women- two of whom have children - have already been detained for three months and today are awaiting the verdict in a trial that has caught the worlds attention. Their crime? Participating in what Putin's regime have declared “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility” although the ladies in question would prefer it to be seen as a non-violent expression of their conscientiously held beliefs.


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (22), Maria Alekhina, (24), and Yekaterina Samutsevich (29) are members of Pussy Riot, a collective of young activists and feminists who engage in guerrilla punk protests. These protests take the form of pop up performances at various locations in which the masked girls sing anti-Putin punk songs which call for a separation of church and state; and then disappear back into the crowd. They are probably now the most globally recognised expression of the “Russian Winter” movement for greater democracy in Russia, which exploded last December in the wake of parliamentary elections widely believed to be rigged.

This kind of behaviour aims to shock and unsettle the general population into critically thinking about their country and its leader. A great and ambitious plan, except that when the girls staged a performance at the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a prominent Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow they were caught by security guards and detained. Charged with "premeditated hooliganism performed by organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility", they face possible sentences of up to seven years imprisonment.

Still not sure what I'm talking about? See for yourself:




Wait a minute you say, the girls might have trespassed but come on, they sang a song and ran away. Where is the crime? How could things have gotten so brutal for them? The fact is, Russia is not a nice place to live and hasn't been for some time. In the 1930's, under Stalin's leadership, millions of Russians were sent to penal labor camps, including many political convicts who opposed Stalin's rule, and millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. As if WW2 and the Cold War didnt fuck things up for Russia enough, in the 1980's, under Mikhail Gorbachev, and in the 90's under Boris Yeltsin the depression of state and economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. Millions plunged into poverty, from 1.5% level of poverty in the late Soviet era, to 39–49% by mid-1993. That is almost half the population literally starving to death.

The 2011 Democracy Index stated that Russia has been in "a long process of regression culminated in a move from a hybrid to an authoritarian regime" under Putin, and American diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks allege that Russia has become a "virtual mafia state" due to systematic corruption in Putin's governance, allegations which Putin adamantly denies.

Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state", according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival superpower.

Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus: the cables paint a bleak picture of a political system in which bribery alone totals an estimated $300bn a year, and in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of the government and organised crime.


This is the world in which you are raising your kids. I don't mean to stress you out, I am just saying that by happy accident of birth, we live in a beautiful country where we can do and say pretty much any thing we please and have no fear of retribution and find it hard at times to really grasp that in many other countries, this freedom does not exist. We are so lucky here that our government actually funds the voices of dissent! At any time during the day, on any one of the myriad ABC owned and run radio and television channels you can hear people debating the relative merits of the government’s activities. Whether you’re watching the ABC to see a no-holds barred televised debate (Q&A or Enough Rope for example) or tuning in Triple J to listen to bands like The Herd and Insurge rip shreds off our Prime Minister and our laws, you have the opportunity to openly discuss the relative merits of the activities of our government. Hell, in our country, our alternative musicians become our politicians (Peter Garret from Midnight Oil)!

To come at it from another angle, recently in the news there was an article about Bill Shorten (our Workplace Relations Minister) going into a shop to pick up a hot meat pie, only to be told there were none left. He left saying “You’ve lost business”. The shop owner panicked- in her country of origin upsetting a member of parliament could result in a boycott which would see her destitute, with others afraid to help for fear of retribution.

After fleeing China 20 years ago for a new life in Australia, Tony Zhao said the war of words was "scary" and "frightening" rather than amusing for someone who grew up in a communist state. He said his wife spent the night in tears, fearing the Workplace Relations Minister was a "big person" who could hurt their business. "That afternoon after Bill Shorten came into the shop was really sad. She started crying," Mr Zhao said. "My wife knows Bill Shorten from TV. She knows he's a very important person. "We come from mainland China, communist China. We know what big persons can do. We don't want any trouble. When he left the shop he said, 'you lose business'. She said to me, 'What does this mean to us?'. I said, 'I don't know.' It was scary."


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/bill-shorten-meltdown-not-funny-says-annie-huangs-husband/story-e6frfkp9-1226442947828#ixzz25Lt9aHaB

It is my conscientiously held belief that when I can do something to help better the world as whole, I will- and you should too. There aren't many things I can personally do to change the world, but I do have one weapon: my mind. I can teach my son about the benefits of democracy, and the value of a fair and unbiased legal trial. I can keep engaged in the world by reading the news, and researching more when something catches my attention- we have all the knowledge in the world at our fingertips when we sit at our computers.
Before Pussy Riot all I knew about Russia I had learned from watching Night Watch, tuning into the Vice Guide To Travel and drinking vodka. Now I know all kinds of unsettling things about the country, and can't help but wonder what role Australia, America and the UK play in fueling the fire that burns Russia's common people and leaves them living scarred and disfigured lives. I have no special powers, all I can do is seek out the truth and be sure to share my knowledge because knowledge is power, and the more people who know the less the darkness of corruption can grow.

While the Pussy Riot trial seems designed by Russian authorities to use a compliant judiciary to send a message by making an example of the women, it may just backfire by reinvigorating the voices of dissent. In some ways, it has- maybe not in Russia where people are apparently pussy whipped by fear, but worldwide people are sympathetic to Pussy Riot's plight. Peaches, Franz Ferdinand and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have all added their voices to the barrage of those who are generating widespread interest in and disgust at at the regime’s disproportionate response. Whatever verdict comes down, Pussy Riot will forever be a modern David, and their punk attitude a stone that knocked the the shine from the asshole Putin's Goliath armor.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, defendant in the criminal case against the feminist punk group Pussy Riot said this in her closing speech, and I think it neatly sums up everything:

I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently from the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law have been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

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