Pussy Riot: Music can change the world

Pussy Riot by Igor Mukhin via wikipedia

Pussy Riot have been found guilty, and the world has changed. It’s a cause that has united Gorbachev and Madonna, Paul McCartney and the German Parliament. I can’t think, within my lifetime, of any situation in which a music act has affected the political landscape so profoundly. 

The Russian feminist punk rock collective were arrested for “hooliganism” after performing a protest song in a cathedral. Were it a simple act of nuisance, in any “civilised” country they’d have received, at most, a nominal fine. In Putin’s Russia, these young women – two of them mothers – face several years in jail. Their crime? To protest against the insidious role the Russian Orthodox Church plays in supporting Putin’s increasingly dictatorial government.

From the start, it has been a show trial, and today’s “guilty” verdict was sadly inevitable. For one brief, happy moment, Putin was faced with a choice: if he had taken Gorbachev’s advice, he would have listened to the voice of Russia, and heard the wave of anger against his corrupt regime. He could have gracefully bowed out, and been remembered as a great leader rather than a tyrant, but he did not listen. A single protest sparked the Arab Spring, and it’s possible that this one act of defiance could shape the future of Russia.

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St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
(end chorus)

Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love

Holy s***, s***, Lord’s s***!
Holy s***, s***, Lord’s s***!

(Chorus)
St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist
Become a feminist, Become a feminist
(end chorus)

Church praises the rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
In school you are going to meet with a teacher-preacher
Go to class – bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, you better believed in God
Belt of the Virgin is no substitute for mass-meetings
In protest of our Ever-Virgin Mary!

(Chorus)
St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
(end chorus)

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It’s as crassly reductive to say this is about any one cause or issue  – like saying Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation was about having his gear stolen – as it would be for me to speculate what will happen next. Chances are, absolutely nothing will happen, and the status quo will be as miserably upheld as it was in China post-Tiannemen Square. But we’ll know. The eyes of the world are fixed on Russia, now, and the glossy PR surrounding its leader is shattered.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has been arrested outside the court-house – he was simply there as a spectator – but again, it’s not something that happened in the dark. There were witnesses, photos, and the global glare of outrage. In Putinist Russia, world watches you.

All we can do is sit back now and wait for the drama to unfold, but it’s impossible not to be moved by this. Today, a band has changed the world.

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:edit: This, on the Guardian’s website, is interesting:

In a previous reader call out asking who is allowed to lead prayers in Russian cathedral we’ve received this from Kevin Maurice Alton Honeywell:

I was made a Reader in a parish in England of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Church in 2003 but following the Bishop who “tonsured” me I left that Church three years later for another Orthodox Jurisdiction.

I am not aware of any canonical rule which says that only clergy may lead prayers in an Orthodox Church. Public prayers may be led by anyone who has a blessing from the bishop or priest in charge of the church. Lay people can of course pray privately in a church in whatever way they wish, and are not required to follow the texts of official prayer books.

As far as I can make out from the youtube videos of the Pussy Riot “event”, these were lay people praying in a rather unusual way, but they said nothing disrespectful against God, Christ, or the Virgin Mary, even though they used some coarse and rather vulgar words.

The girls did not go behind the Screen which is reserved for the clergy and servers.

Musical instruments are not used in Orthodox worship. I am puzzled as to why these women were allowed to bring their guitars and equipment into the Church.

I did not particularly like what these women did, but they did not interrupt any service, damaged nothing, and assaulted no-one. I feel no sense of offence at their behaviour, and they have apologised for any offence they did cause, and that really should be the end of the matter. In that I am at radical variance with the views of the Moscow Patriarchate which has been demanding severe punishment. That is an abomination.

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RT @PennyRed: So, #pussyriot get 4 years for staging a protest in a church. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to have done that once? Bloody hooligan.

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:edit edit: The BBC reckons Putin will actually capitalise on international condemnation to enlist the support of Russians who distrust the West.

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