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Adding to the Bookpile

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]
  

Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq by John Dower 

Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-1941 by William Shirer

Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh 

Picked up a few more books for the antilibrary.

Dower is best known for his prizewinning Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, which unfortunately, I have never read.  Berlin Diaries I have previously skimmed through for research purposes but I did not own a copy. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany was an immensely bestselling book which nearly everyone interested in WWII reads at some point in time. I would put in a good word for Shirer’s lesser known The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940 . It was a very readable introduction to the deep political schisms of France during the interwar and Vichy years which ( as I am not focused on French history) later made reading Ian Ousby’s Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944 more profitable.

I am a fan of the vigorous prose of British historian Michael Burleigh, having previously reviewed  Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism here and can give a strong recommendation for his The Third Reich: A New History.  Burleigh here is tackling moral choices in war and also conflict at what Colonel John Boyd termed “the moral level of war” in a scenario containing the greatest moral extremes in human history, the Second World War.

The more I try to read, the further behind I fall!

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On eating one’s enemy

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron -- not good branding, not Islamic, dumbstruck? -- not a whole lot else to say ]
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Commander Abu Sakkar / the Farouq Brigades logo


Let’s take the bald facts first:

Commander Abu Sakkar of the Farouq Brigades, Free Syrian Army, had himself videotaped this month cutting open and seeming to eat the flesh of a just-killed Syrian soldier loyal to President Assad — to send a message. According to a New York Times “Lede” blog-post, he preceded this act with the words:

I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs — we will eat your heart and livers! … God is great! Oh, my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!

His rhetoric as reported speaks of eating the heart: in the event, it is a portion of lungs that he eats, or mimics eating.

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This has to be seen in many contexts — one of them, the branding of the Syrian rebels in general and the Farouq Brigades in particular.

This is taken from an article a couple of weeks ago on a WSJ blog titled For Some Syrian Rebels, It’s a Battle of the Brands:

Twelve activists in an office in Reyhanli, Turkey near the border run Farouk’s Facebook page, web site, and Twitter account. They’re working on the TV channel, which Mr. Awad says they’ve envisioned as a tool to resocialize fighters off the battlefield.

“The regime will fall one day,” he says. “We have 20,000 fighters–they all won’t stay fighters. They will put down their weapons, and need to integrate into the world. TV, radio, these things will help.”

The media office’s latest brand offering? A three-dimensional version of the Farouk logo, which will be used in videos and other online material.

“The guys complained the logo wasn’t nice enough,” Mr. Awad said, laughing. “They wanted a 3D one.”

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Moralizing about someone eating the flesh of a deceased enemy is pretty easy to pull off — unless one still thinks it’s a potent way to acquire one’s enemy’s courage, which is now something of a curiosity in the anthropologist’s cabinet of concepts. Here, dug up from the section on Homeopathic Magic of a Flesh Diet in Sir JG Frazer‘s 1922 edition of The Golden Bough, now long out-dated, is the picture as it used to be seen:

When Basutos of the mountains have killed a very brave foe, they immediately cut out his heart and eat it, because this is supposed to give them his courage and strength in battle. When Sir Charles M’Carthy was killed by the Ashantees in 1824, it is said that his heart was devoured by the chiefs of the Ashantee army, who hoped by this means to imbibe his courage. His flesh was dried and parcelled out among the lower officers for the same purpose, and his bones were long kept at Coomassie as national fetishes. The Nauras Indians of New Granada ate the hearts of Spaniards when they had the opportunity, hoping thereby to make themselves as dauntless as the dreaded Castilian chivalry.

Even as a cannibal delicacy, the white man’s heart seemed to have special virtue! As I say, though — that’s all a little out of date.

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Eating one’s enemy, however, is a distinctly un-Islamic behavior, whatever century we’re in. One early Islamic narrative concerns Hind bint ‘Utbah avenging deaths in her own family by eating the heart of a great Muslim warrior, dear to the Prophet — far from being an example of what is permitted in Islam, she’s an example of what Muhammad was up against by way of enemies in the early days of his preaching:

Hind Bint `Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyaan, ordered Wahshiy to bring her Hamzah’s liver, and he responded to her savage desire. When he returned to her, he delivered the liver to her with his right hand, while taking the necklaces with the left as a reward for the accomplished task. Hind, whose father had been killed in the Battle of Badr and whose husband was the leader of the polytheist army, chewed Hamzah’s liver hoping to relieve her heart, but the liver was too tough for her teeth so she spat it out and stood up shouting her poem:

                    For Badr we’ve paid you better
                    In a war more flaring than the other.
                    I was not patient to revenge the murder of
                    `Utbah, my son, and my brother.
                    My vow’s fulfilled, my heart’s relieved forever.

Hind did eventually become a Muslim — but on account of this very event, was never fully included among “the Companions of the Prophet”.

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I don’t want to moralize over Commander Abu Sakkar‘s act, not having been in his shoes — but it is vile under pretty much any moral standard you might choose. A problem arises, though, when one attempts to use it to justify one side or another, in a conflict in which brutality of one kind or another seems to be present on both sides. As Sakkar himself told a Time correspondent:

You are not seeing what we are seeing, and you are not living what we are living. Where are my brothers, my friends, the girls of my neighborhood who were raped?

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Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch is quoted giving another kind of context to the affair:

Abu Sakkar is just one man, and there are many other armed fighters in Syria who reject such sectarian actions and would be horrified by the mutilation and desecration of a corpse — let alone an act of cannibalism. But he is a commander in a decisive battle in Syria — hardly a marginal figure.

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Not without reason did Kurtz whisper at the end of Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, as in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now:

The horror! The horror!

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Red lines and the credibility arms race

Friday, April 26th, 2013

[The views and opinions expressed here are solely the responsibility of Lynn C. Rees. They may not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Zenpundit] 

To deter, Barack Obama has publicly drawn a red line between tolerable and intolerable. We now watch to see and (perhaps) learn if open signaling of red lines has deterrent effect.

Open red lines intended to stave off the intolerable without ending in blows are as ancient as territorial instinct. Red frequents coloration of animals who’ve evolved warning signals embedded in their anatomy. Lines, though marked more by scent or suggested by signal, are also abundant among Man and nature.

“Bear”, my brother’s late Shar-Pei, vociferously defended my brother’s chain-linked fence line. All his toing and froing facing down suspicious pedestrians even wore a second line into the front lawn that paralleled the fence. His vigorous bark emerged from wolven ancestors to draw lines red in tooth and claw in wolven mind so it didn’t come to lines red in tooth and claw in wolven reality. 

But, if bluffs are called and barks prove to have more volume than bite, a red line will prove only as substantial as the bite and fight beyond it. If warning is not credibly conveyed and things fall apart, nothing may remain except bite and fight.

Bear’s bark proved a poor red line. While it sounded loud and formidable, when you opened the front gate and entered the yard, Bear would casually mosey up, sniff you, and promptly return to the barking line. Shar Peis are renowned for even-tempers. Bred as guard dogs in China, they often had to be brutalized or drugged into fight and bite. Bear was neither brutalized nor drugged so he lacked credible fierceness.

There is no certain calculus in drawing red lines. My calculus teacher wisely taught that variables have only one invariable certainty: they tend to vary. Man is not only variable, he is contrary. His contrariness not only votes present, it votes with real impact. If it were otherwise, you’d have a sort of Clausewitzian “red line by algebra: tally up one side of a red line in one column and tally the other side in another column. Then, when clearly displayed in public, those on either side would be forced to agree on how substantial the red line was and openly acknowledge its deterrent psychology.

Politics, the division of power, varies most in the intensity in which its division of power escalates confrontation toward violence. Some political contestants’ escalation is too hot. Others’ escalation is too cold. For others, their escalation will be just right. Some draw red lines and aggressively escalate political intensity based on broken red line theory: one small crack in your red line, like someone publicly urinating on it, means the entire red line will be stripped down to its bare chassis overnight if small infractions aren’t predictably and promptly punished. Others use them to draw folks along, perhaps as bait, perhaps as stalling tactics, while they do something else somewhere else. Some red lines are implicitly understood by all as being for entertainment purposes only.

Unfortunately, we’re armed with only a few rules of thumb to guide us in drawing and escalating red lining, most centered on creating intrinsic credibility:

  • …every power ought to be commensurate with its object…
  • …the means ought to be proportioned to the end…
  • …there ought to be no limitation of a power destined to effect a purpose, which is itself incapable of limitation…
  • A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
  • As the duties of superintending the national defense and of securing the public peace against foreign or domestic violence involve a provision for casualties and dangers to which no possible limits can be assigned, the power of making that provision ought to know no other bounds than the exigencies of the nation and the resources of the community.
  • As revenue is the essential engine by which the means of answering the national exigencies must be procured, the power of procuring that article in its full extent must necessarily be comprehended in that of providing for those exigencies.
Beyond that, it’s a matter of converting intrinsic credibility into fully mobilizable and then field-deployable credibility. Angelo M. Codevilla writes:

John Quincy Adams, a student as well as a practitioner of statesmanship, believed that governments understand their own and others’ interests quite well. His involvement in diplomacy, which lasted from 1778 to the end of his presidency in 1829, convinced him not that negotiations are superfluous, but rather that they ratify the several parties’ recognition of existing realities regardless of agreements or lack thereof. Diplomacy can make it more comfortable to live with reality by clarifying mutual understanding of it. On the other hand, Adams’ magisterial notes on his 1823 recommendation that America spurn the invitation to join Britain in a declaration disapproving any attempt to recover Spain’s American colonies—that jointness would have added nothing to the reality of parallel British and U.S. opposition to such a venture—underlines the central fact about diplomacy: though it conveys reality, it does not amend it.

In 1968, Fred Ikle published How Nations Negotiate, which is used by diplomatic academies around the world. Too many graduates, however, forget its central teaching, which is that the diplomat’s first task is to figure out whether agreement is possible on the basis of “the available terms”—in short, whether both sides’ objectives, though different, are compatible. Only if they are can negotiations proceed according to what Ikle calls “rules of accommodation”—making sincere proposals, honoring partial agreements, etc. If the objectives are incompatible, the diplomats may choose to walk away, or to “negotiate for side effects”—to use the negotiations to undermine the other side’s government, sow dissention among its allies, deceive it, pocket partial agreements and renege on commitments, buy time, gather intelligence, etc. Disaster looms when one side follows the rules of accommodation while the other negotiates for side effects. The essence of Ikle’s teaching is that the negotiator’s primordial job is to judge correctly whether the other side is negotiating for “available terms” or is waging war through diplomatic means, and hence to choose whether to negotiate for agreement, walk away, or treat the diplomatic table as a battlefield. That choice is “perpetual,” he writes, because human motives are variable.

When the president publicly drew his red line:

Michelle and I have used a strategy when it comes to things like tattoos — what we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decide you’re going to get a tattoo, then Mommy and me will get the same exact tattoo in the same place,’” he said. “And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. And our thinking is that it might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that’s a good way to rebel.

He’s made his “primordial job” as a parent public. Under public scrutiny, he has to “judge correctly” whether Maliah or Sasha are negotiating for “available terms’ or “waging war” through tattooed means. He has to publicly choose whether to negotiate for agreement, walk away, or treat tattoos as a battlefield. As a parent, his choice is “perpetual”.

His credibility in deterring tattooed rebellion does have some fight and bite behind it. The Christian Science Monitor observes:

They’re still kind of young. Malia is 14 and Sasha is 11. They’re not marching into any tattoo parlor near Sidwell Friends School in upper northwest DC. First, there aren’t any – they can’t afford the rents there. Second, you’ve got to be 18 to get a tat in the city, we believe. The City Council approved that move recently.

This move may represent sufficient “provision for casualties and dangers to which no possible limits can be assigned” coupled with “the power of making that provision”. But whether tattoos escalate to where parent-child disagreement knows “no other bounds than the exigencies of the nation and the resources of the community” is the other half of Maliah and Sasha’s measure of President Obama’s credibility amd the deterrent quality of YouTubed shame over their coming teens.

The CSM doubts it. Conceding the president’s stratagem is “sort of based on assured mutual deterrence. Or preemption – you could call it that, too” and that it’s “interesting, in the sense that it’s a fairly coherent and intellectualized way to approach this common parental problem”, it observes:

…the real reason the preemption strategy probably appeals to the Obamas right now is that their daughters still listen to them. They can process cause and parental reaction and weigh options. They haven’t entered that period where common sense gets suspended, and they focus mostly on their own needs and wants, because that’s what teenagers do…

Once they are 18, they will be away from daily parental authority and tattoos might seem like a better idea. At that age, they don’t really think about long-term consequences, so they might get body art just to spite their parents. Or because they forgot their parents’ we-will-do-it-too vow. Or because they don’t care. Or just because… 

And then what happens? The president of the United States will probably feel obligated to get a tattoo of a butterfly at the base of his neck, because he vowed he would; and if he does not follow through, opponents will doubt his strength of will, or something like that.

I disagree. Rather than being “obligated”, the president retains his God-given agency. America’s greatest strategic thinker of the last fifty years will give him some advice:

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table,
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done

His choices as a parent are there “because human motives are variable”. As such, they will tend to vary, moment by moment, place by place, tattoo by tattoo. The president should carefully consider where and when he draws red lines, especially in public and especially when publicity is a key component of his red line’s hypothetical deterrent effect. Better to learn to gauge when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em now before the sarin calls of adolescence come around. Only then maybe there will be time enough for counting when the teenage years are done.

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Introducing the Person / Position Paradox

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron -- ye olde war of science vs religion embodied in Rep. Paul Broun, with sundry comparisons to human rights, UN, dominionism, JFK, creeping shariah etc ]
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Lest we forget, Muammar Gaddafi‘s Libya, in the person of Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji (above, left), was elected to preside over the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2003:

The Commission on Human Rights — meeting this morning under a new procedure two months in advance of its annual six-week session — elected Najat Al-Hajjaji of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as Chairperson for 2003, along with three Vice-Chairpersons and a Rapporteur.

And as recently as May 2010, still under Col. Gaddafi’s rule, Libya was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and only suspended in February 2011.

Might we call this an instance of a Person / Position Paradox?

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You know I like what I term “forms” as analytic tools — this would be another one to keep an eye out for, a particularly intriguing sub-type of the self-referential paradoxes I discussed in an earlier post.

It isn’t, of course, an analytical breakthrough for me to recognize the paradox inherent in a brutal dictatorship gaining the chair of the international Human Rights Commission at this late date: the United States protested Libya’s nomination at the time, which is why there had to be a secret ballot in the first place.

Let’s look at some of the accompanying language. Here’s Ms. Al-Hajjaji herself:

In an address following the ballot, Ms. Al-Hajjaji said among other things that the Commission must send a message that it would deal with human rights in all countries, and not just some of them; that it would take into account in its activities the world’s many different religious, cultural and historical backgrounds; and that among its tasks was to affirm the universality, indivisibility, and complementarity of human rights

Who could complain about that? And here’s the UN High Commissioner, praising the system that got her elected for its wisdom:

High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, also speaking briefly, reviewed his recent mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to Angola, lauded the Commission’s new procedure for early election of a Bureau, and said it was important for the Commission to demonstrate that it could manage with wisdom, speed and restraint its procedural business so as to create the best possible spirit and conditions for addressing and resolving the many substantive issues on its agenda.

The lesson I learn here?

Paradoxes of this kind lead to a divergence of words from truths — in line with de la Rochefoucauld‘s maxim:

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.

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Now comes the potentially contentious part.

Rep. Paul Broun MD (R-GA) (top, right), member of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and chairman of the US House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, told the Liberty Baptist Church of Hartwell, Georgia’s Sportsman’s Banquet last month:

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

As a student of religions, I don’t find that statement particularly surprising: while the original 1611 edition of the King James Version of the Bible doesn’t include Archbishop Ussher‘s dating of the creation to 4004 BC, many versions of the KJV since 1701 have done so, the wildly popular “dispensationalist” Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909, does so… and Broun is being somewhat generous in allowing for the passage of 9,000 years since creation, where others might see the earth as entering the seventh (Sabbath) day (or millennium) about now…

As a religious belief, then, this is one of many attempts to fit chronology to scripture. I recall from my days studying the religious impact of millennial rollover (“Y2K”) concerns that one Rabbi Pinchas Winston claimed the year 2,000 (5760 in the Jewish calendar) would be a year of purification:

The secret regarding this is that, at the end of the year 5760 from creation, the verse, ‘I [God] will remove the impure spirit from the land’ (Zechariah 13.2) will be fulfilled.

For my source and further millennial date issues in Islam, Hinduism etc, see my chapter, Y2KO to Y2OK in Cathy Gutierrez and Hillel Schwartz, eds., The End that Does: Art, Science and Millennial Accomplishment, Equinox, 2006.

Politics, though — and the politics of science and science funding at that? Here’s more of Rep. Broun’s talk, explaining how Broun’s theology affects his politics:

And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

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I’m afraid this reminds me all too clearly of RJ Rushdoony‘s Institutes of Biblical Law, which opens with the following words:

When Wyclif wrote of his English Bible that “This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” his statement attracted no attention insofar as his emphasis on the centrality of Biblical law was concerned. That law should be God’s law was held by all…

Those are the opening words of Rushdoony’s Introduction to his magnum opus. And I know, I know, I’m cherry-picking from its 850-page first volume, but on p. 251 he writes:

The law here is humane and also unsentimental. It recognizes that some people are by nature slaves and will always be so. It both requires that they be dealt with in a godly manner and also that the slave recognize his position and accept it with grace.

Is this all just another version of “creeping” theocracy?

Compare John Hubbard, Arkansas State Rep, whose book Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative (not on Amazon) apparently includes this choice morsel:

… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise …

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Some possible parallels that may be worth pondering, coming at similar issues from a diversity of angles — hopefully with enough different implications to generate some questioning of easy assumptions:

Can a Catholic be POTUS (JFK, eg) without serving the every whim of a foreign Head of State? Can a Mormon be POTUS without serving the wishes of a living prophet, seer and revelator? Can a person who aspires to the highest post in a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” be relied upon if he says things like this?

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. … And so my job is not to worry about those people — I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And what if he then admits he was in error?

In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.

Is that hypocrisy (see above) — or humility? And come to that: in politics, is honesty a vice?

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But I’m sliding from religion into politics here, unless you take the Gettysburg Address as one of the central documents — akin to a scripture — of American civil religion. Or remember it was the Bible translator John Wyclif who said those words about government of, by, and for the people first…

Religion, not politics, is my concern and my “beat” — but right now, the “Warfare of Science With Theology” (to quote the apt title of Andrew Dickson White’s celebrated 1895 book) is once again in full swing, so the question of whether Rep. Broun’s positions as a a member of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and chairman of the US House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, given his views on voting according to his reading of the Bible, is also an instance of the Person / Position Paradox?

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It seems to me that questions such as these are of vital to many of us. The question is: are they vital to our democratic principles — or to our salvation?

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An Unquiet Riot

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The Master and the Minion

The Russian girl-punk rock band Pussy Riot has done something with their protest at  Christ the Savior Cathedral that prior cases of oppression, election-fraud, corruption and murder of Putin’s critics by agents of the siloviki regime failed to do – put a defiant human face on political persecution in Russia. Something we have not seen since the days of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn.


Photo credit: The Guardian 

A reminder that when men are not free, mocking insolence is a form of bravery.

In a thoughtful post, Charles Cameron suggests that their performance was not a “political protest”. I disagree, though I think Charles’ examination of the tradition of “Holy Fools” in Russia is useful and culturally relevant as to how this event was intended to register with a Russian audience. Pussy Riot was being audaciously offensive in their selection of performance sites, as TM Lutas explains:

Orthodoxy is not a religion that is widely understood in the West. So it’s actually the rare pundit that catches how offensive what this punk riot group was doing actually was. There’s a subtitled version of the video that helps. The video misses the positional problems. The picture screen, called an iconostasis is something like the old altar rails of Catholicism but with fairly elaborate rituals surrounding the structure. There are three doors, the center one is called the holy doors. As a lay person you’re not even supposed to walk in front of that door. It’s viewed as disrespectful, even sacrilegious. So the people in charge of order and discipline were a bit stuck because these girls were dancing in the sanctuary, in front of the iconostasis and extracting them actually meant that they had to break the rules too. Several times a Pussy Riot girl bowed and did a full prostration. One does these things towards the altar in Orthodoxy. Reversing this as the protesters did is viewed as idolatry. Who, exactly, are they bowing to? That’s the genesis of the “devil dancing” talk in their trial.

Putin may have been a target but he certainly wasn’t the target. Their attack had a much wider range of victims. This was an attack on Orthodoxy, an attack on symphonia, the concept of church and state in complementary roles and mutual respect, and also an attack on Putin. 

In 4GW thinking, the strong lose when they are forced to fight the weak on terms that favor the weak. Pussy Riot – a group of young women – engineered a protest at a location whose significance meant that the authorities could not easily ignore or suppress it quietly with brutal thuggery in the shadows. By making Vladimir Putin the lyrical center of gravity, local officials were  made to look sycophantic and toadying, national officials petty and foolish. The Russian authorities, burly and oafish like their Soviet counterparts, have been reduced to fighting young girls while the rigged legal system that passes for justice in Russia is showcased in the unsparing glare of the global media.

By daring the authorities to make them political prisoners, Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina, Yekaterina Stanislavovna Samutsevich and Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova have made the regime look weak.

Moreover, their actions are a not so subtle reminder to Russians that the Orthodox Church is a corrupt vessel, a propaganda arm of the regime with a long tradition of KGB agents as Patriarchs and squalid informers as clergymen. The Church in Russia has not been free of the tentacles of state security since the day Lenin ordered the arrest of St. Tikhon. President Putin and Patriarch Kyrill are not peers temporal and spiritual, but fellow alumni of the same organs as the Big Lubyanka’s gaolers and policemen.

I would like to close this post by letting Yekaterina Samutsevich speak for herself:

In the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent, express regret for her deeds, or enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to voice some thoughts about what has happened to us.
That Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of the authorities was clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyayev took over as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be openly used as a flashy backdrop for the politics of the security forces, which are the main source of political power in Russia.
Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetic? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, the state-controlled corporations, or his menacing police system, or his obedient judicial system. It may be that the harsh, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; that otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more persuasive, transcendent guarantees of his long tenure at the pinnacle of power. It was then that it became necessary to make use of the aesthetic of the Orthodox religion, which is historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
How did Putin succeed in this? After all, we still have a secular state, and any intersection of the religious and political spheres should be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society. Right? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of the Orthodox aesthetic in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had an aura of lost history, of something that had been crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present a new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project that has little to do with a genuine concern for the preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, given its long mystical ties to power, emerged as the project’s principal exponent in the media. It was decided that, unlike in the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the brutality of the authorities toward history itself, the Russian Orthodox Church should now confront all pernicious manifestations of contemporary mass culture with its concept of diversity and tolerance.
Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national television for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would in fact be presented, thus helping the faithful make the correct political choice during a difficult time for Putin preceding the election. Moreover, the filming must be continuous; the necessary images must be burned into the memory and constantly updated; they must create the impression of something natural, constant, and compulsory.
Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of the media image that the authorities had spent such a long time generating and maintaining, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to unite the visual imagery of Orthodox culture with that of protest culture, thus suggesting that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, and Putin, but that it could also ally itself with civic rebellion and the spirit of protest in Russia.
Perhaps the unpleasant, far-reaching effect of our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. At first, they tried to present our performance as a prank pulled by heartless, militant atheists. This was a serious blunder on their part, because by then we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out its media assaults on the country’s major political symbols.
In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
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 than 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 has 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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