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Pussy Riot VS Vladimir Putin

By Gavin Haynes

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By now, you would have heard that notorious troublemakers, Pussy Riot, have been sent to jail by notorious lover of democracy, Vladimir Putin.

One-nil to Vlad, surely? Of course, Pussy Riot are claiming victory because they've raised international awareness of Putin’s Russia’s attitude to free speech, and spoken out against the patriarchy of the church.  I don’t know much about Patriarch Kiril of the Russian Orthodox Church, who was the subject of the naughty song they sang when they stormed into the Christ The Saviour Cathedral, mid-service, but Pussy Riot do not like him at all.

It's a beef into which various celebrities have plunged their oars, with very mixed results. Bjork is behind them. Win. Madonna has spoken for them. Lose. Paul McCartney has come forward, too. Probably a draw. Yet strangely no one worth knowing has yet come forward to support Putin's continued iron grip on the country.

The other big winner has been Westerners who can do a right-on tweet of support and bask in the afterglow of it for half a day. Our governments have been able to bask resplendently in this anti-Russian fury, as we’ve all quietly sat around feeling smug that NOTHING LIKE THIS COULD EVER HAPPEN FURTHER WEST OF THE EVIL EMPIRE. But couldn’t it?

Before we get too high and mighty about the whole thing, it's worth considering this: If they'd sung a song about Benedict XVI's scrotal fungus on the floor of St Peter's in The Vatican, would Italian public opinion be swinging firmly behind them? Less likely. And before your chest is swollen with pride for great Great British justice, let's all remember that we recently jailed the son of David Gilmour for swinging from the Cenotaph.

He should certainly have been jailed for being the son of David Gilmour. That goes without saying. But a 19-year-old, high in his first riot, distresses a flag, and instantly he's in the big house? Really? And before you complain about the conditions in which they're being kept, let's have a quick interview with Bradley Manning, who, I quote, says: “Nothing at all, because I am being kept in solitary confinement and sleep-deprived by the US Government.”

Tonight, Vlad will be sweating the stresses of the day away in his Cristal-filled hot tub, eating caviar off of caviar and toasting his success. Meanwhile, these three girls will be trying to explain feminist performance art to cellmates as they decide which bread weevils look the most protein-y.

It’s a nasty world, but let’s not pretend that our shitty corner of it is that much better than theirs. Right now Britain is planning to storm a foreign country’s embassy to extradite Julian Assange into a judicial process that may end up killing him. So let’s not get too righteous. 

What’s happened to Pussy Riot is atrocious, but let’s not let their suffering be a stick for our governments to beat their rivals with. 

Free Pussy Riot.

For more on Pussy Riot, read about when we spoke to them in February and the coverage of the protests that followed their arrests over at VICE.

Words by @hurtgavinhaynes
Illustrations by @SPTSAM
 

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