Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

In Russia, a Church is Just Another Government Building

August 19, 2012

Personally I think this style of worship would really bump up the numbers at the church box office.  I’d go!

I’ve been reading, and really enjoying, Spymaster by Oleg Kalugin, former KGB big baddy. So this morning, in the wake of the 2 year “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” sentences handed out to agit-prop activists Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a bent Russian courtroom, when I came across this passage: “the KGB’s nearly total control of the Russian Orthodox church, both at home and abroad, is one of the most sordid and little known chapters in the history of our organization”, it had extra resonance.

Hmmm, I thought. Didn’t Putin start out in the KGB? And aren’t former KGB still liberally populating every aspect of Russian power politics?

I looked around the Web for articles about the hooliganism verdict that touched upon this aspect of the long-standing collusion between the state and the church (try Pussy Riot + KGB) and to my surprise, found that the only big UK paper explicitly going into it was the Telegraph who is lucky enough to have the excellent Daniel Weiss, of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, on its masthead. I was really surprised that neither the Independent nor the Guardian were carrying this story, with the Independent even going so far as to analyse the situation totally the wrong way round and characterize the verdict as a sign of the church’s power when it is in fact a sign of the church’s corruption in service of Putin’s power!

Here’s the link to the Weiss piece.  Highly recommended.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaelweiss/100177054/pussy-riot-hit-putin-where-hes-seldom-hit-his-manipulation-of-russian-orthodoxy/

I then looked into the pre-revolutionary history of the Russian church to see how far back the collaboration between religious and political institutions went.  Sure enough, the church’s history as a tool of the governing authority goes back at least to the time of Peter the Great (early 18th century) who incorporated the church into the administrative structure of an absolutist state, with him at the top.

When I read the Guardian’s rather thin analysis of the situation, as well as those on other sites, I couldn’t help but notice the comments from those people (you’ll know the ones I mean) who can’t resist the opportunity to respond to any undemocratic outrage anywhere in the world by saying something along the lines of, “it’s just as bad in the UK/USA!”  These are really tortured comparisons, to say the least.  It reminds me of a passionately pro-Palestine activist I once knew who tried to convince me that Iraq had better quality of life under Saddam Hussein by insisting that the social restrictions, post-US Invasion “made Saudi Arabia look like Amsterdam”; surely one of the most head-scratchingly-OTT, bad analogies, of all time.  (Don’t even try to work it out. It hurts the mind.)

So I posted the following letter, in an effort to address both topics, and thought I’d re-post here as I know a lot of people, especially friends in the USA who probably haven’t been getting news coverage of this until recently, have been somewhat puzzled about what is behind this case.

*

Why doesn’t the Guardian point out the long-standing collaboration between the Russian Orthodox Church and repressive forces within government? During the Soviet Era, the Church was almost 100% controlled by the KGB. Today’s Russian government is still full of ex-KGB men, like Putin, and so is the Orthodox Church. So-called religious values are being shamelessly exploited for purely political purposes. After all, how can insulting the president be “motivated by religious hatred” simply because the stunt takes place inside a Church? Only if, as some of the more knowledgeable readers on here have already commented, the faux-religious ideology associates political leadership roles with the Godhead. This is indeed the case in Russia, ever since Stalin deliberately appropriated religious iconography for use in his enormous propaganda machine, creating images that baldly equated the leader of the new godless state with a sort of divine super-dad.

Russia is a broken country that has been getting it consistently wrong, when it comes to rule of law and society, for several hundred years at least. For this reason, it’s intellectually wrong to equate this type of show-court verdict with those unfortunate miscarriages of justice that still do occur in Western Europe or the USA. Whereas Russia has spent the last few centuries going from a nearly Arabian-style bloated aristocracy vs. impoverished peasant class society, through a series of harsh communist dictatorships featuring mass imprisonments, concentration camps and a heavy emphasis on espionage, followed by a disastrous entry into global free trade economics that turned into a botched social reformation under the helm of Russia’s new nouveau riche and now a return to the old order in disguise; the UK (and then as an outgrowth of it, the USA) has been developing fairer legal instruments and court processes for centuries. The intellectual traditions of legal justice and a separation of church and state have a long and detailed record of establishment here in the West and however imperfect it may sometimes be in application (and religious fanatics are always getting in there and trying to mess with it), time and again we find that the built-in mechanisms of checks and balances in Western law can frequently be employed to reverse bad decisions when they are made. I would say the UK probably still has the fairest court system in the world. (There are plenty of laws I disagree with, and regularly disregard, but that’s a different subject.) Russia, in stark contrast, did not spend the last few hundred years developing a system of law built on the ideal of finding the best balance between individual liberty and societal protection, with an increasing emphasis on the rights of the individual but rather has a long, long, history of law courts essentially being theatrical devices designed to punish enemies of the ruling powers, be they Tsar, Papa Stalin, or Putin. This is what people need to understand.

***

So friends, at least maybe now, in the wake of this decision, the still well-kept “sordid” secret of KGB infiltration into and control of the Russian church will finally get out there and expose the reality of how much of the former Soviet “apparatchik” is still in its same position of power as under hard-line communism.  The international community ought to suspend recognition of Russia as a democracy at this time. The charade has gone on long enough.  “Former” KGB officers have crossed international borders and carried out assassinations in broad daylight, with the release of a radioactive poison in a public London tea room being just the most outrageous of a number of hits on opponents of Putin as well as oligarchs and enemies from all sides of various internal Russian power struggles.   The country really is being run by something equivalent to the Mob and I just really feel that Russia does not deserve the veneer of respectability as a contemporary democracy that it has attained since the Glasnost era, just because they have voting devices.  There is more to a democracy than that and freedom of speech is one of the non-negotiables.

We have to continue to foil Putin’s PR-driven efforts to present Russia as having transitioned into anything resembling open society. It’s a sham and their status must be downgraded.

Finally, this case is a perfect example of why religious orders must ever be kept out of adjudication proceedings and why legal tenets must forever remain free of adherence to doctrines based in religious texts and ideologies, rather than common sense.  The “crime” of offending this or that person is one that appears to be on the rise in all countries, yes even here in the UK which also has some of the worst (most unfair) libel laws in the world, that favour liars with something to hide.  One of the problems with laws of “causing offense” is that not only do they create a new and ill-defined zone of risk but that this vagueness is actually intentional so that the law may be deployed willy-nilly, and also, perhaps even more nefariously, as a means of putting a pre-emptive curb on people’s exercise of free speech.  Most people will err on the side of extreme caution and muffle their dissenting voice if they think their joke may get them in trouble.

I think it is really awful, for example, that when I recite a satirical poem of mine that shreds on the history of the veil (We’re the Bare Naked Burkas), one of the most common reactions I get it is, “Oh no, but you can’t say that! You’ll get a Fatwa on your head!”  And this is after they’ve wiped away their tears of laughter.  It’s very clear to me that there is no hatred in my poem (one of the refrains is “don’t care who your god is, if you’re sexy, what your race is / but I love all my sisters and I wanna see your faces”), hatred of anything but outmoded systems of gender discrimination against women that is.  Hatred that “cultural sensitivity” is the wimpy excuse that keeps getting trotted out when some dare to complain of seeing Burkas gliding silently down the streets of Western Europe’s fashion capitals in the 21st Century.  Yet it is suggested that I ought to feel it would be reckless of me to perform the piece and that therefore I should what, self-censor in order not to trigger an irrational person to commit an act of violence against me? And so then what?  If I do perform it (I will) and I do get attacked (highly unlikely as I intend to require anybody wanting to hear the poem to be strip searched – hey, ya win some liberties at the cost of others…) then it is my fault, for provoking an imbalanced fanatic?

Similiarly, in the case of the Punk Prayer, the international public is being asked to take a “they brought it on themselves view”, which is only true if you are using the circular logic that public exposure of the unholy alliance between church and state is likely to result in said alliance colluding on a harsh retribution and thereby proving the case against itself.  Perhaps Maria, Ykaterina and Nadezhda optimisticaally hoped they would be released after trial, with time served, under the blaze of international scrutiny. But they must have also known, after all they are activists living in Russia, that there was a strong chance they would have to serve prison sentences.

To everyone that takes issue with the content or style of their action, or doesn’t like the band name (I don’t care for it myself, by the way, and think its ongoing use to collectively refer to 3 individuals has become dehumanizing which is why I make a point of using the women’s names in this piece) or thinks they are idiots for taking this risk or in any other way sanctions the crooked verdict of the court needs to remember this important fact:  these women risked jail to make their point and now their point is being made by them being actually sent to prison for another deuce, having already served 5 months.  No matter how you look at it, I hope that everyone can see that to do so is categorically nothing short of a brave sacrifice.   It’s the kind of thing that is required to make sweeping changes in society.

Yet I’ve read cynical remarks that the band should be happy for the free publicity or that  2 years at the hands of Putin’s jailers is really not so bad of a trade-off due to the modelling prospects of stunningly beautiful Nadezhda upon release.

Please pass this article on, so that the reasons for this protest may be better understood and the verdict more effectively challenged therefore.

Let’s make sure that this pussy is well and truly let out of the bag!

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Sod The Jubilee Baby

May 31, 2012

Ever since moving back to the UK, after years of being steeped in the rhetoric of the American Revolution – which I rather like – I have been blown away at the failure of many intelligent people to recognize the inherent incompatability between basic (and I mean like, really basic) principles of democracy and a monarchical system of inherited privilege. It is truly amazing and I have even lost friends over differing views on the English royalist question. Yes, you read that right: actual living people who have had real-world friendships with me, enjoyed my company, maybe even been hired by me to do paid creative work, people like that have unhesitatingly decided to insult and dump me as a friend, in loyal preference to people that s/he will never, ever meet, except MAYBE for 5 seconds some day in a public crowd.

I do find that weird.

I have never yet heard a single convincing argument that is not based on some kind of irrational identification with an elusive sense of tradition that is neither quantifiable nor shared by many of her madge’s so-called subjects.  Certainly the piano-player I refer to, obliquely, above could not produce a rational justification for s/his intense loyalty to a bunch of rich strangers who don’t have to testify in court.  In fact, come to think of it, it was right when I offered to ease up on the barbed witticisms (I had been having a bit too much fun, true that) and consider with an open-mind any rationale s/he wanted to lucidly present, that things got really out of hand!

Instead of a calm and devastatingly inarguable articulation of exactly why I should crouch into an odd posture when in the presence of people of a certain genetic grouping imagine this: I received a furious missive that nearly scorched my laptop screen with its ire!   It  somehow managed to invoke an Italian grandmother, some kind of concentration camp experience, Winston Churchill, an unfortunate theft of sentimental jewelry that had taken place in Hackney in 1974, veganism and the importance of banning GMO corn (actually s/he made really good points about that last one that were totally convincing; only I already knew that).

I forgive myself really easily (thanks to Linda Serbu for that awesome life philosophy) and so I don’t really feel all that bad about admitting that I responded by asking s/him why and when s/he had begun dressing like Adam Ant (s/he WAS though! had just changed s/his profile pic ‘n all!) and inviting s/him to demonstrate s/his uber-patriotic fervour by leaving sunny, cheap and well-fed California to see how s/he’d fare in post-modern “Broken Britain”. I told s/him he’d gone soft and wouldn’t last a week in the damp and overpriced mould of London. S/he didn’t take kindly to that and insisted that not living in rainy, overpriced, overcrowded and confused modern Britain was a pulsating wound that would never heal; my earnest efforts to inform s/him of the wonders of transcontinental flight and how indeed, it was still yet possible to exchange the sunny vegan groves of Marin for a bedsit above a condemned kebab shop in Tottenham merely fell on deaf screens.

You get the gist.  So yeah, that was the end of the friendship and I’ll never use the mix s/he did of a song of mine.

It’s crazy how rabid royalists will get when their failure to provide a single solid argument in favour of the monarchy drives them into a sputtering rage of irrational pretzel-logic. The usual unprovable declarations of the millions earned in tourism (great, let’s check that out then – oh, royal secret privilege = total lack of transparency? so you can say anything and not have to show any evidence? your word yer honour?) – let’s just get that out of the way. And don’t forget to subtract the lost revenue from the millions of horrified residents who always flee the country when royal pageantry ensues so as to avoid even-worse-than-usual-English-levels of ineptitude that are sure to extravagantly reign in the public transportation and highways sector.  Surely that’s a few kabillion exiting stage-left?

Non?

NO no no. It’s a crock of shit, and while I’m getting all into it let me just say that every aristo I ever befriended since being here in the UK these past 7.5 years has turned out in the end to totally believe in their own inherent superiority despite, in several cases, displaying few honourable characteristics beyond superficial charm, what Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful queer stutterer in Bridesehead Revisited referred to as “the English disease”.  (Or was that meant to allude to a penchant for caning?)

Whatever.  It’s true and until I meet one who’s given up their title, I will always challenge people from the so-called gentry.  Inherited titles are fundamentally ridiculous.  Even the ones I’ve met who were big campaigners against the war on (some people who use some) drugs were Tories in the end and in the end they just view themselves differently.

After one such friendship revealed the truth of the above, one truth-telling night on mushrooms, I wrote this poem. I’ll be performing it in the street at this weekend’s protests.  I found an updated written version of it after recording it so there are a couple minor discrepancies between the audio and text but I decided to keep the improved text in written form, rather than fix it to match the audio.

Can you feel me?

I’d like to thank Paxus Calta for dubbing me “MC Hazard to the Status Quo” a buncha years ago because it’s become a sort of alter-ego for certain of my more controversial, I suppose, pieces.

The authorship of this work is definitely attributed to MC H2SQ

Monarchy in the UK!

Aristocracy

It’s got no place in a democracy

It’s nothing but hypocrisy

When some are born to reign

Let’s put on our bestest whitest sockses

Get all dressed up and go kill foxes

‘cause that’s what orthodox is

We’ve got traditions to maintain!”

It’s an anachronism

Not like Mr Rotten’s anarchism

Which shed a light upon the schism

The separation of the classes

It’s still as relevant as ever

Our little Johnny seems quite clever

And still the future dreams forever

Of liberation for the masses

My message shouldn’t be a mystery

Let’s help make monarchy history

Because my hands are getting blistery

From hanging tightly to the edge

Meanwhile privilege’s progeny

Are enforcing a homogeny

As they’re chugging Perignon for free

singin’ “We are Family!”

just  like the Sisters Sledge

Yes everybody is a cousin

They’ve got at least a banker’s dozen

And like a bee just can’t help buzzin’

They can’t help sticking with their hive

Just place a call to Lady Anne

She’ll do the jolly best she can

For any blood-related man

To keep the club of blood alive

Once knew a guy and he was posh

But still he hadn’t any dosh

We’d go and grab a bite of nosh

I ‘d pay my way and then the tip

What is the point, I’d say to me,

Of name, land and heredit’ry

If you’re cheap as cheap can be

As cheap as that proverbial chip

He sodomized me once on shrooms

At least he tried in his front rooms

If that was sex then men have wombs

I tell ya boarding schools had warped this lad

Kicked out of school and hooked on smack

He’d left the hive and not looked back

But it’s not hard to pose as slack

When all your tabs are paid by dad

“It’s important to have an emblem of

The things you want to be a semblance of

And note the family resemblance of

The lineage that shaped the past.

You’ll see them in the National Gallery

And in the spirit of equality

We’ve even put them in the part that’s free

So all can see our clan is built to last”

But the little people get forgotten

Just down the mine or pickin’ cotton

Don’t get to keep what they have gotten

Aint no statues of their kin

So if a miner was your great-Grandad

A rendering his visage never had

He never ordered war nor birthed no fad

Til the coal dust did him in

Aristocracy

Got no place in a democracy

Some may call it heterodoxy

When I call it weird and vain

These silly titles are beyond absurd

A princess is like any other bird

Got just two tits but by that single word

Our deference she can obtain

I have a dream like Dr King once said

When people everywhere blue, green and red

Mutts and well-bred, the hungry and well-fed

Will recognise we’re all the same

So let’s not rest ‘til it’s demolished

This silly system is abolished

Until the “honours list” is polished off

Cuz only that will end our shame

I’ll never curtsey and I won’t kowtow

Except to take applause I will not bow

You disagree? OK then, show me how:

You can start by kissing my ass

Me, I prefer a meritocracy

Where talent and hard graft will set you free

To be the ultimate that you can be

Cuz baby,

That’s the true meaning of  Classsss

Julia Butterfly Hill Joins Some Forest Defending Friends in London

July 12, 2011

Julia and Polly stickin' up for Khimki!

July 8th, 2011 FULHAM PALACE, LONDON

England-based forest activists held a vegan picnic at the site of an ancient Holm Oak in London’s picturesque Fulham Palace gardens, whose settlements go back to Neolithic times, in order to welcome internationally renowned forest defender Julia Butterfly Hill, on the London leg of her European tour, and discuss with her the necessity of globalizing the forest protection movement. Ms. Butterfly’s gracefully handled battle with the clear-cutting Maxxam Corporation a decade ago is the stuff of post-modern legend and is widely credited with forcing front pages of newspapers around the globe into giving column inches to her warning: namely, that unbridled free-market capitalism drives unsustainable exploitation of non-renewables; meanwhile casually destroying irreplaceable natural legacies that were millennia-in-the-making.

This media coup was accomplished by the impossibility of ignoring Julia’s headline-grabbing, and world record-shattering, tree-sit in the California redwood forests; a life-changing experience which forms the core of the best-selling book she later wrote, The Legacy of Luna (published on recycled paper) so called due to her pet-name for the Giant Sequoia that was her home between 1997 and 1999. Her unprecedented act of civil disobedience combined with her resistance to being overly identified with any one particular political group or mission has resulted in Julia’s name and word continuing to be relevant to a myriad of today’s urgent campaigns, with her public support invariably lending a certain undeniable gravitas that affirms the integrity of the cause.

Julia’s main work these days is lending her support to other worthy issues that stand to gain a boost from her involvement as well as training fellow “change agents” in various methods and techniques, from the practical to the spiritual, that will enhance their effectiveness. As part of her European tour this year, she was able to visit Italy, Germany and England where she heard about the situation in Khimki Forest, just outside Moscow. Julia was only too happy to add her voice to those protesting the corrupt resource-exploitation activities taking place there. Indeed, it is all too easy to draw the parallels between Charles Hurwitz’s ruthless exploitation of ancient forests in California and the motives of the mysterious oligarchs behind the Northwest Concession Company, widely believed to be a financial front that won its bid under dubious conditions that meant it had no competitors.

Meeting with Julia in London were: international lawyer Polly Higgins, founder of Trees Have Rights Too whose bid to have the crime of “Ecocide” become the 5th internationally recognized law (the other 4 having to do exclusively with human rights) will be heard before the UN at next year’s June 2012, eco-summit; Tamsin Omond, founder of direct action collective Climate Rush, who had a key role in this year’s successful campaign to Save England’s Forests from a crass sell-off attempt by Tory elements within the UK coalition government; Misty Oldland critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter of the award-winning ecology-themed funk album “Forest Soul” and author of the forthcoming children’s eco-adventure novel “The Golden Seed”; Alice Howarth-Booth, co-creative co-director of Climate Rush; and picnic hostess Diana Rosalind Trimble who campaigns on behalf of the International Simultaneous Policy which seeks to unite citizens worldwide in devising global solutions to global problems.

Specifically under discussion was the urgent matter of globalizing the forest protection movement by devising enforceable legal instruments deriving from UN-endorsed documents such as the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, proposed by Polly Higgins. After all, this is supposed to be the International Year of the Forest. If Ecocide, which Julia and others have been discussing in the USA for years, were to be made an international crime then it would not be left to individuals of conscience to consider risking their lives in order to assert the planetary rights of ecosystems, as is currently the worrying case at Khimki.

Polly and Julia displayed their solidarity with Khimki by being photographed at the old Oak holding a sign that displayed the slogan of the Russian campaign ХВАТИТ ПИЛИТЬ! which roughly translates to “Stop Sawing!”. However, in Russian there is an implicit double-entendre in that the word “sawing” can also be used as a slang term for taking bribes.

An approximate pun in English was eventually decided upon as “QUIT TAKING CUTS!” with the further clarifications of “SAVE KHIMKI FOREST STOP CORPORATE CORRUPTION” added below, followed by the URL for the Khimki Defenders website.

As a deal that nakedly serves a few private interests while being both unnecessary and enormously destructive, the illogical routing of the proposed road project means that Vinci Corporation has approved a cynical diversion directly through a grove of ancient and rare Oaks, purely to enrich a group of oligarchs running a shell corporation. This makes a mockery of Vinci’s self-hyped endorsement of the UN Global Compact, the toothless document which nevertheless does specifically state that corruption and needless environmental destruction are not to be tolerated. It also raises questions about the difference between the stated aims and actual practices of Vinci in light of the prominent website space given to its Corporate Responsibility department and Sustainable Development division.

Attempts to reach the head of Corporate Responsibility at Vinci UK, so that he may have a chance to make a statement to Julia, Polly, Tamsin, the other UK activists and the defenders of Khimki, explaining how the stated principles of his department were consistent with building a road through Russia’s ancient Oak grove, were unsuccessful; repeated calls to the switchboard resulted in dozens of unanswered rings, transfers to lines that went nowhere and terse refusals by the receptionist to either name anyone working in the relevant department, forward emails to said department, and/or take a telephone message for anyone.

(*It has since emerged that the Head of CR at Vinci UK is a man named Robert McDiarmiad.)

In protest at the threat to these healthy ancient Oaks, which since time immemorial have been a symbol of solid oaths and marked the site of ancient parliaments, the 6-strong group unfurled a hand-quilted banner reading “Trees Have Rights Too”. The sign included gingham scraps from the dresses of original Suffragettes, given to Polly by their descendants. In honour of those brave and mis-behaving women, precursors to all modern advocates of peaceful civil disobedience and the specific inspiration behind Climate Rush, the quilted banner was hung from the trunk of the old Holm Oak at the historic location in South West London.


Interestingly, the most famous former resident of this traditional home to the Bishops of London was the vehement abolitionist Bishop Porteus, who bravely obeyed his conscience by publicly campaigning against slavery at a time, the late 17th Century, when the establishment condoned it

Against the aural backdrop of the chiming church bells, the 6 women present officially signed a scroll dedicated to the principle that Trees Have Rights Too, in hopes that Ecocide will soon be recognized in International Law, so that activists no longer have to risk their lives to stand up for our old friends, the trees. A declaration on hand-made parchment was signed in purple ink with a quill pen made from a turkey feather, then stamped with 6 golden wax seals, in the shape of a star. Some poems and affirmations were shared and the scroll was then tied with a blue ribbon and hung high in the branches of the ancient oak, in the manner that petitions and talismans have been entrusted to these silent giants since before the time of the Druids.

For more information contact –
Diana Rosalind Trimble
https://66witches.wordpress.com