Thursday, October 11, 2012

OK, fine. I'll talk about Pussy Riot

I am quite appalled, frankly, at this whole thing--more so at the reaction of the international sphere than to the act itself. When I first saw the video, I was a bit puzzled, but not offended at the fact that it was clearly a potshot at Putin. But I was disturbed that it took place in a church. I don't go to church, much less worship at an Orthodox church, but I always behave respectfully when I visit one.

I found Pussy Riot's stunt more of cheap talk, rather than free speech. It was an act of hooliganism, pure and simple. Like the "hooliganism" that skinheads are often charged with (and often it is criticised for being too lenient), it too is filled with hatred, not towards a race, but to religion.

I just fail to see how this should have anything to do with Putin. Yeah sure, they were yelling out his name in their "punk prayer", but seriously? What a cheap shot that does nothing but to discredit the opposition as hysterical, impulsive, and shallow, clowns.

Maybe being raised in Singapore, offending others' beliefs is something one must never, ever do. So I'm afraid I won't change that point of view. I believe that people should have freedom to worship whomever they want, and have people respect their religious views. Without that, there can never be free speech.

Already, in the wake of their stunt, religious hatred has reared its ugly head--even though the band members claim that their protest was political, and was not of religious hatred. Well, beyond the walls of that one church, it has developed into hatred. Pussy Riot copycats started chopping down crosses across Russia. It was at this point, I had pictured someone vandalising the church, or mosque, or temple, in my neighbourhood in the name of politics. Imagine if this were supporters of the opposition party. I wouldn't be caring about the political message. I would be staring at vandalised, desecrated, places of worship, and a lot of hurt, angry citizens.

I don't think most the Russian public has a problem with two of them facing two years in jail. Just because the most vocal ones are making the headlines, doesn't mean that they're the majority, as a recent poll showed.

So, what now? Even though I think it should have nothing to do with Putin, in reality, it now has everything to do with Putin. Really, we could all have spent that energy focusing on more serious matters related to the freedom of speech and the press in Russia. For one, journalist Paul Klebnikov's murder still hasn't been solved. Neither has Anna Politkovskaya's murderer has been brought to justice. There are scores of unsolved murders of journalists. Maybe we should be returning international focus to those issues that deserve far more attention.

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