OUR VERY OWN PUSSY RIOT

Most people will have heard of Pussy Riot, the feminist punk-rock band that staged a protest song in the Moscow Orthodox cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in which they sang ‘Mother of God, chase Putin away’. For this, they were arrested and charged with hooliganism. Bail was refused. One of them was subsequently released, but the other two are not only going to jail for 2 years, but they are being sent to Perm and Mordovia, east of Moscow, where it will be much more difficult to see their children although their lawyer asked for this to be considered.

Pussy-Riot_2339711b[1]

Compare this with what happened a couple of weeks ago in St Paul’s Cathedral. 4 women members of the Occupy movement, just before the Dean got up to preach, chained themselves to the pulpit and shouted out a list of grievances against St Paul’s and some Bible passages. The service continued as usual afterwards.

Occupy faith St Paul's

I was deeply distressed and ashamed of St Paul’s clergy over their previous handling of the Occupy protest. (http://godschool.blog.co.uk/2011/10/29/i-have-been-trying-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-12087323/ ) During this time the then-Dean resigned. A new Dean, David Ison, has since been appointed in May this year, and he handled things very differently. During his sermon he cracked a joke about his ‘captive audience’ and when it was time for Communion, the women were offered the bread and wine along with everyone else. Eventually after the service they freed themselves and left peacefully.

David Ison had already offered to meet members of Occupy and has asked them to set a date, but they haven’t responded. Wonder if they will now?

(images from http://www.telegraph.co.uk and BBC online)

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43 thoughts on “OUR VERY OWN PUSSY RIOT

  1. You know you are not comparing like with like. Seeing events like Pussy Riot through our eyes is to ignore various historical religious and cultural feelings, and what the populace of Moscow felt. There appears to be more sympathy in the west for the punk rockers than at home.

    We too move women around to where there are places, not to a convenient spot for their children and families to visit. It cannot always work out that way. Men experience a similar movement process. There is much research written up about the differing needs and experiences of male and female prisoners.

    I have seen reports in the media about the senior clergy simpering around Putin; I cannot say they are, or, they are not doing so. I guess if they want to play safe and keep their current levels of religious authority in Russia today, The senior clergy may have to keep a few people sweet. Most churches, including the great ones in Russia were de-consecrated a long time ago to suit various powerful societal influences. I would question whether a new religious edifice called St Vladimir is particularly named after Putin, as was also insinuated. There are a number of edifices named after various Eastern Orthodox saints, Vladimir being just one. The names are repeated often, sometimes with a qualification as to which specific Jim, John, or, James it is, as in, St Jim of St James, for example.

    Pussy Riot were pushing the boundaries by performing at the Altar and without taking account of the sensibilities of the congregations or the clergy. They must have known they were risking the displeasure of the political elite wherever they performed, but especially in the high profile setting they chose. It is hard to believe that in their society they did not consider, or were they blind to, the hard-line response they might bring down upon themselves. I might be able to accept they were surprised at the very firm stance the senior clergy have taken. Even so, I would posit that would have been naive.

    In a society whose moral code is somewhat different from that which is accepted to pervade in the west, I do not believe that the individuals in the group, and the group as a whole, did not think their actions would be without consequences.

    The one major development of Pussy Riot’s actions and the consequences of them, is they have obtained international notoriety for their political stance and the consequences of it, for the time being. Did they choose to manipulate this state of affairs? If they did, then these women are more savvy than we may be giving them credit for.

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    1. Excellent comment. I have been reading around this a little bit, and catching glimpses of life in present Russia from friends who have lived there. I have just finished reading an excellent little book about the responses to authority in post-authoritarian cultures – although I would question whether Russia is post-authoritarian. There is no doubt that nationalism is deep within the consciousness of the national Orthodox churches, where to be born Russian or Romanian etc is ipso facto to be Orthodox. The symbiotic relationship between that church and the state is known as phyletism. I have studied it somewhat in Romania, when the Orthodox Church there tried to get itself called the national church, and continues to attract funding far beyond any other denomination. They would say that this is inevitable. Westerners take a rather different view.

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      1. I agree with you, I too, would question whether Russia is post-authoritarian. It the present period of austerity, I would also be alert to the lurch to the authoritarian position of many Western cultures too.

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      2. Very interesting observation. It chimes with my own line of thought, following on from reading my friend’s book and what I noticed in Romania: that post-authoritarian cultures can’t wait for freedom and think that it will be a cure-all. When the inevitable disillusion comes, some start longing for ‘strong’ leadership that will not require them to take responsibility for the progress of the country, but simply tell them what to do. I suspect, among other things, that this is happening in Russia as well, and that Putin is riding this wave.

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      3. You say that Putin is riding the wave of required authoritarianism. My own view is that he may have distorted the political voting process and is protecting his own position with an updated version of the Russian time-honoured manner of a tough and authoritarian crack down.

        I have yet to return to a meticulous analysis of past social and cultural behaviours and how they translate in what we see in modern Russia, (apply much to its ex-satellite countries of USSR). It is called The People’s Tragedy, it is a substantial piece of research, and is written by Orlando Figes. It is evocative of the layered machinations during the Chinese Revolution and its great famine. I would guess there, the layered machinations remain.

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      4. It’s a complex situation. There is a movement against Putin of course, and Pussy Riot is one of those voices. But if the majority prefers authoritarian rule to the messiness of democracy, then the rest of us can only sit and watch.

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      5. …but if the majority prefers authoritarian rule.

        We have no way of asserting that. It was clearly stated by international observers that the elections were abused and rigged at the polling booths. What the base facts of the matter are, we are unable to prove.

        It is a complex situation involving a number of bodies and individuals who want to keep their current profiles in their society.

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  2. I did admire the way David Ison handled this protest, as you say, such a contrast to the way the Occupy protest was managed.
    It is absolutely shocking how the Pussy riot girls are being treated. Sometimes I despair of people in power.xxxxx

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    1. One of our blog friends calls him ‘Ras-putin’ :)) Those girls were very brave and they certainly have made their point, and their story has gone global. Putin won’t care.

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    1. I suspect the trouble with the Occupy movement, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, is that it was just too vague and unfocused. They need to clarify their aims so that we all know what they are trying to achieve, and can get behind them if we want.

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    1. I suspect that when they did the interviews for that job the candidates had to answer some very searching questions about how they would handle such eventualities!

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    1. I know some churches that have done that. The trouble is that the pew and the congregational structure is really not conducive to a proper debate – you’d have to decide whether you were going for the discussion or whether you were going for worship. Maybe a time of worship followed by a round-table discussion – with coffee and cake of course 😉

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      1. I suggested it on Sunday to the preacher after the service. He didn’t commit to an opinion. The Lieutenant in charge of the Salvation Army [ Citadel ] Church is sick and not able to come. Anyway you already know my difficulty if difficulty it is……….. some might say I’ve seen the light !
        I love the salvation hymns…..washed in the blood etc . there is a green hill far away …the old rugged cross ….. its just the thought of a loving God needing to be placated which offends my reasoning and ethics.

        Its much easier to think of God himself on the cross…………… then the ethical problem vanishes. David

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      2. Here’s a bit from his ‘explanation of the theme’:
        ‘Since I first studied theology, I have been concerned with the theology of the cross … this no doubt goes back to the period of my first concern with questions of Christian faith and theology in actual life, as a prisoner of war behind barbed wire …Shattered and broken, the survivors of my generation were then (in 1948/9) returning from camps and hospitals to the lecture room. A theology which did not speak of God in the sight of the one who was abandoned and crucified would have had nothing to say to us then …’

        He wrote it in 1974 but it’s a seminal work and has had a huge influence on theological thinking since. My copy is scribbled all over, highlighted and falling apart! It’s been revised and reprinted a number of times. I see there are paperback copies available on Amazon from £6.

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      3. Very helpful indeed………… will order it today…………. the phrase in the sight of the one who……….. still looks puzzling……….. as I would prefer in place of the one……… David

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      4. It is of course a translation from the German, but knowing Moltmann’s writings a little bit, his language is very precise, which is important in theology!

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      5. I may be going mental but cannot find reference to the book you recommended on the crucifixion.
        The two comments after it appear but not comment with the book name and author. David.

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      6. I may be going mental but cannot find reference to the book you recommended on the crucifixion.
        The two comments after it appear but not comment with the book name and author. David.

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  3. I feel the Pussy riot people were interrupting and shocking a religious ceremony in a way I found unpleasant but nevertheless they have been treated too severely.but here my sympathy goes more to the Occupy women.I admit though I have not studied both in enough detail to be sure but the Russian prison system in pretty ghastly [….not that ours is so great.]
    I think we may see more action as people feel the impact of disability allowance cuts,job losses etc…It’s hard to know how the people at the top don’t see how serious it can get.

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  4. i do wonder if Pussy riot really did anticipate the consequences as you believe. These labour camps are terrible places apparently, it will not be easy. Sounds like your Dean handled his own pussy riot somewhat better.

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