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Enjoy the Winter Olympics but remember – and listen to – Pussy Riot as well.

4 February 2014

11:05 AM

4 February 2014

11:05 AM

And so to the winter Olympic Games which should not be hosted by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Sure, Putin’s Russia is not nearly as horrific as Stalin’s Russia but when that’s the yardstick for decency you know you’ve bankrupted yourself.

Was anyone taken in by Putin’s decision to release a handful of political prisoners recently? Shame on them if they were gulled by such an obvious play. Again, it is better that the likes of Mikhail Khodorkhovsky and Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova freed but they should never have been in prison in the first place. The upside, as so often in Russia, is heavily qualified.

The Pussy Riot girls – previously saluted here and here – are now at least at liberty to speak out and are currently on an international tour to highlight the nastiness and inadequacies of Putin’s Russia. They still deserve your support. There may be little that people in this country can do to embarrass Putin except this: keep highlighting the real nature of his regime. It is not enough but it is a start.

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As for the Olympics, Tolokinnikova tells David Remnick that:

“For Putin, the Olympic Games are an attempt to inflate the inflatable duck of a national idea, as he sees it. In Russia today, there are no real politics, no real discussion of views, and meanwhile the government tries to substitute for this with hollow forms of a national idea—with the Church, with sports and the Olympics.”

It is worth recalling Tolokinnokova’s closing statement at her pretend-trial, a statement that, whatever you think of a Russian punk girl band’s antics demonstrated that they were serious dissidents with a serious message. In it she despaired:

We were looking for authentic genuineness and simplicity and we found them in our punk performances. Passion, openness and naivety are superior to hypocrisy, cunning and a contrived decency that conceals crimes. The state’s leaders stand with saintly expressions in church, but their sins are far greater than ours. We’ve put on our political punk concerts because the Russian state system is dominated by rigidity, closedness and caste. Аnd the policies pursued serve only narrow corporate interests to the extent that even the air of Russia makes us ill.

We are absolutely not happy with—and have been forced into living politically—by the use of coercive, strong-arm measures to handle social processes, a situation in which the most important political institutions are the disciplinary structures of the state – the security agencies, the army, the police, the special forces and the accompanying means of ensuring political stability: prisons, preventive detention and mechanisms to closely control public behaviour. Nor are we happy with the enforced civic passivity of the bulk of the population or the complete domination of executive structures over the legislature and judiciary. Moreover, we are genuinely angered by the fear-based and scandalously low standard of political culture, which is constantly and knowingly maintained by the state system and its accomplices.

Note, again, how the girls feel they have been forced into living politically. Sometimes I think we forget that the ability to live without politics is one of the greatest blessings of living in this country. Of course there are problems in Britain but they are not suffocating ones. Ordinary actions or decisions are not questions of politics. It is different in Russia. Politics is everywhere and even negative decisions of passive acquiescence are stained by politics. Escaping that really will be a liberation.

This month, these games, is a particularly good moment to remember that and to salute Pussy Riot and other regime opponents for their courage. Acknowledging their struggle may still be a small thing but it is the least we can do.

 


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Show comments
  • Lagos1

    I guess Massie thinks that by lionising a bunch of punks who finally got what they deserved after more and more outlandish stunts, it will somehow show him to be hip and right on.

    it doesn’t.

  • Angus_MacLellan

    They were thrown in prison because of their hooligan behaviour. If Massie is so worried about the human rights of individuals, what about the Celtic supporter sent to jail for 8 months for ‘racist comments in Facebook or the 71 yr old taxi driver imprisoned for 12 hours for speaking derogatory about Pakistani’s. The list is endless.

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland/top-stories/racism-on-trial-or-a-hammer-to-crack-a-nut-1-703589

  • Mr Grumpy

    Has my latest comment got pre-moderated because it contains the word “P***y”? Something of a double standard, surely?

    • Mr Grumpy

      Evidently the answer is “yes”. I am contemplating changing my name to “Mrs Slocombe” in protest. I see no harm in mentioning my love of feline companionship.

  • pp22pp

    Enjoy the Olympics and remember the guy in Edinburgh who got ten months for attaching a piece of bacon to the door of a mosque. Where’s the difference?

  • ian channing

    “A man who threw bacon into an Edinburgh mosque has been jailed for 10 months. Wayne Stilwell, 25, was caught on security cameras attaching the bacon to the handles of the main door at Edinburgh’s Central Mosque.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-24130079

    What’s your view on this, Mr. Massie? How is it different?

    • Mr Grumpy

      Other considerations apart, Mr Stilwell is not a nice, photogenic middle class girl but, well, a man called Wayne. Here as in Russia it is important that people know their place. N’est-ce pas, Mr Massie?

  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    Ah but my girls, in one soup or another its pretty much the same everywhere. Sure in Russia they do it the less subtle way, but governments here in the West are up to the same business of control and stability by repression. It has been the remit of government since ancient times, and its hardly going to change now. I believe someone once said that a nice government is perhaps more morally damaging than a nasty government, because solidarity is at least possible in the latter.

  • TRAV1S

    I don’t seem to remember the trendies coming out and supporting Andrew Ryan when he was thrown into prison for burning a Koran in public. There was nothing but silence.

  • NotYouNotSure

    “Ordinary actions or decisions are not questions of politics. It is different in Russia”

    What are some examples of this ?

  • Grey Wolf

    The entire vile globalist-progressive-moral brigade is ranged against Vlad Putin. They can’t stand him and his administration. And he is proving a tough adversary so the globalist-prog-moral ar$*holes get even more frustrated.

    I recommend Peter Hitchens’s lecture on why he likes Vlad Putin’s politics to all the Speccie readers. It’s on You Tube.

  • Augustus

    “They will appear onstage at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, on February 5th, with Madonna, the Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons, and Lauryn Hill, at a benefit concert for Amnesty International. They will not perform their music, but they will have things to say.”

    And then it’s on the plane to protest in Iran, then on to Saudi Arabia. Oh, wait …

    • MikeF

      “They will not perform their music”. That’s actually because they don’t have any music – they just jump up and down and shout – and if they tried to ‘perform’ they would be booed off-stage even by an audience of ‘progressive’ trendies.

    • La Fold

      Nice to see they are willing to share the stage with a woman who once said she hated the fact that white people bought her music. So censorship bad but blatant racism is okay? They’re a befuddled lot.

  • Mr Grumpy

    So if I walk into a mosque while prayers are in progress and start chanting obscenities as my way of protesting against human rights abuses committed by Muslim states, you’ll be right behind me, Alex?

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