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Archive for August 21st, 2012

Pussy Riot V: Kasparov

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — the Garry Kasparov arrest ]

It isn’t chess. It isn’t, as we’d say in England, cricket. It besmirches the good name athletes like Arsen Galstyan brought Russia in the London Olympics.

It is Garry Kasparov, arrested for protesting the trial of Pussy Riot.

photo credit: Reuters


In yestrdays Wall Street Journal, under the title When Putin’s Thugs Came for Me, Kasparov — Russia’s one-time youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion — wrote:

The men refused to tell me why I was being arrested and shoved me into a police van. When I got up to again ask why I had been detained, things turned violent. I was restrained, choked and struck several times by a group of officers before being driven to the police station with dozens of other protesters. After several hours I was released, but not before they told me I was being criminally investigated for assaulting a police officer who claimed I had bitten him.

It would be easy to laugh at such a bizarre charge when there are already so many videos and photos of the police assaulting me. But in a country where you can be imprisoned for two years for singing a song, laughter does not come easily. My bruises will heal long before the members of Pussy Riot are free to see their young children again. In the past, Mr. Putin’s critics and enemies have been jailed on a wide variety of spurious criminal charges, from fraud to terrorism.

But now the masks are off. Unlikely as it may be, the three members of a punk band have become our first true political prisoners.


If it was chess, here’s what we’d have to call it: a knight hustled into a van by pawns.

Pussy Riot IV: Exorcising Madonna

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — culture clash, Madonna, Pussy Riot, Union of Orthodox Banner Carriers ]

The gentleman on the left is Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich of the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, whose t-shirt bears the rubric “Orthodoxy or Death”. In the first video, he can be seen burning the photo of Madonna reproduced to his right above.

I apologize for the fact that you will need to click through to see this video on the AFP site, but am grateful to them for making it available via YouTube.

The second video shows the portion of Madonna’s stage performance in Moscow in which she spoke about freedom, the United States, and Russia’s treatment of Pussy Riot — she speaks directly about Pussy Riot starting at 3′.15″:


I was reading an article about the “political theologian” Reinhold Niebuhr in The American Conservative yesterday, and noted with interest the author’s discussion of the delicate balancing of opposed concerns:

To read Niebuhr is to relish these tensions, to grip the fundamental balance of the moral universe. “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible,” he wrote. “But man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” The concepts gear together like great cosmic cogs. “Goodness, armed with power, is corrupted,” he wrote. But “pure love without power is destroyed.” Much of Niebuhr’s worldview depends on these balances.

Reading Obama yields a similar effect. In 2009, literary critic Andrew Delbanco pointed out in the New Republic that Obama’s books are populated by counterweighted sentences, for instance: “There’s the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the Christian woman who paid for her teenager’s abortion.” Obama expresses his worldview, Delbanco wrote, in sentences “organized around pairs of sentiments or arguments that exert equal force against each other–a reflection of ongoing thinking rather than a statement of settled thoughts.”

That’s the sort of thing I was getting at yesterday — much less elegantly, in terms that come across far too “black and white” when the continuum in question could equally be “hot and cold” — when I wrote:

How can I put this? The white swirl in the tai-chi’h symbol is shocked and appalled at the black spot in its own heart — and the black swirl has no idea how to handle the purity of the white dot that has somehow crept into and illuminated its darkness.
And yet, as Eliot says, this is all “That the pattern may subsist, that the wheel may turn and still / Be forever still.”


So pious-Charles the lover of Gregorian (or Znamenny) Chant would almost certainly have been appalled. But Charles-the-anthropologist would have to admit, afterwards, once the shock had subsided — that these actions strike deep into the heart of “sacred” paradox.

As a lover of liturgy, I understand one side of the balance, as a love of liberty I understand the other.

The paradox is perhaps most succinctly stated in the phrase “whose service is perfect freedom” — but while that’s an admittedly, profoundly and joyously liturgical phrase — one of Cranmer‘s, from the Book of Common Prayer I think — I don’t believe it is in any way dictatorial.

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