Pussy Riot: A Lesson For Canadian Activists…

One of the things I’m most sick & tired of hearing from privileged Canadian protesters is how they continuously drone on about how Canada is an oppressive and unfair country. Honestly, this sort of complaining is an insult to people who live in oppressive countries. If you have any doubt, talk to the members of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk band who today were sentenced to two years in prison for protesting against Vladimir Putin inside of Moscow’s Christ The Saviour Cathedral. (a building that Stalin originally demolished and Putin re-built a few years ago)

Collectively, the three young women of Pussy Riot have more guts than the entire Canadian Black Bloc. They knew they faced real oppression- when they burst into the cathedral, they had no doubt they would be arrested. They didn’t smash any windows or fight with the police- they simply sang a song they wrote about Putin.

In Canada, radical (union funded) publications like Rabble.ca & The Media Co-Op put a lot of effort into labelling the hooligans in the Black Bloc as political prisoners. The people who do this are entirely ignorant about what an oppressive government is- either that, or they are knowingly try to position vandals as heroes. The problem is that they aren’t.

I know a few people who had to leave Russia due to fear of persecution- not a single one of them did anything violent to get put into that position. On example, Mark Ames of The Exile had to leave the country at the last minute because his newspaper challenged Putin’s politics. Another person, and artist, was being harassed by the FSB (former KGB) for the paintings they made.

Russian protesters don’t need to get aggressive with the police- the police are scary there. I know this from experience, after having one stick a gun in my mouth while helping someone rob me. But, in Canada, protesters work hard to irritate the police with the intention of baiting them to arrest them. Here, for some demented reason, it is a badge of honour for a protester to get arrested- to the point where they try to get arrested.

Perhaps this is related to the fact that Canadian protesters don’t have to fear being put into a Russian prison. They are dark, seriously overcrowded, scary places to be. The members of Pussy Riot saw more despair in their first day of being in prison than Alex Hundret will see in his entire career as a professional agitator. Each time he complains about his life in prison he is making a mockery out of the lives of people who are truly suffering.

It’s time for Canadian activists to grow-up and stop acting like Canada is a repressive country- it isn’t. And, the only way we will get to where Russia is if activists create an environment that enables the government to take us there. Actions like the G20 are the perfect example. If the agitators in this country continue to try and escalate violence like what happened that day we will be guaranteed to have that happen…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.genuinewitty.com/2012/08/17/pussy-riot-a-lesson-for-canadian-activists/

17 comments

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  1. I agree…

    • GP on August 17, 2012 at 19:16
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    hmmm… different countries different democracies. Makes sense, police over there are extremely dangerous, but remember … criminals get away with a lot more in Russia (bribes and such) as apparently you found out. This might allow various criminals to feel “free’r” then said criminals would feel in Canada? Also it seems as though football hooliganism in Europe/world would be the label they would give for some of our BB actions in Canada?

    but hey, I guess we could be in South Africa where they just shoot us all dead?

    I understand what you’re saying but I would still like to see us compared to the Netherlands then a place we know with half ass democrazy. Compared to Mussolini, I am also a saint :)

    1. Criminals in Canada don’t have to bribe. Our justice system is so flawed that they too often get away with their crimes without much effort…

        • GP on August 18, 2012 at 18:23
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        … or because there is something else going on deeper with in the police.. that cant be so hard to believe can it, since they try so hard with petty crimes. Mischief and window breaking is garbage compared to human trafficking, arms dealing and the rest of it, who knows the level of cooperation between certain gangs and law enforcement. We can look into a small case’s like Juel Stanton or the DTES drug business. Certain corners and groups will never get trapped, to help maintain control without a war.

        1. That’s one of the most sensible things that’s been written on this blog. You make an excellent point- corruption exists, and it exists both on the left and the right. This is part of the corruption we see in our system. There is no question that we need to attend to corruption of all types.

            • GP on August 18, 2012 at 23:08
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            :) why you have gotten my ear, and possibly changed for the better.

            • GP on August 18, 2012 at 23:10
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            changed me*

    • I. Ron Column on August 18, 2012 at 17:10
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    Love your misogynistic use of the word “pussy” to be a synonym for coward; do you think Pussy Riot would approve? And, after Pussy Riot’s sentencing, the Ukrainian feminist group (and Pussy Riot ally!) FEMEN engaged in some serious targeted property destruction: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/17/us-russia-pussyriot-femen-idUSBRE87G08M20120817. Are they cowards as well? They certainly used the same tactics, after all…

    As to Canada not being repressive, ask indigenous folks, ask immigrants, ask trans folks, ask poor folks, etc. When a wealthy, heterosexual white man tells me the state isn’t repressive, i tend to think he has a dearth of experience with what he’s talking about.

    1. I’ve never used that word before- but the connection being so obvious, I couldn’t resist using a play on words.

      That someone who claims to be Pussy Riot’s ally doesn’t changed what they did as individuals. I’ve watched the video of their invasion into a church, and there was no damage being done. Certainly it was disrespectful, but is that what should garners a year prison sentence? The Russian government made a mistake there- the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Think about it- in Canada, you can create a riot like during the G20 and get less than two years.

      Make no mistake, what Pussy Riot did was a deliberate provocation. But, the Russian government made a mistake taking the bait- giving Pussy Riot two years was a tactical error on their part. It is no different of a mistake then when the Quebecois government fell for the bait by implementing Bill 78.

      The people who smashed windows cheapened Pussy Riot’s message in a serious way. So, yes, I would call them cowards. If they were brave, they would have walked into their town’s main cathedral and sang a pussy riot song. Besides, they were in the Ukraine, so I can’t see how Pussy Riot can be held responsible. If they should be considered
      responsible, than the Christopher Nolan should be held responsible for what happened in Aurora.

      Every government is oppressive in some way- some much worse than others. Rather than just call Canada oppressive, suggest a solution to make it less oppressive. Bitching and whining about it won’t help. Yes, Canada can be oppressive- I myself was oppressed for writing about peacefulness. Oppression is not the monopoly of the government, it is a 360% problem. Changing the government is but a small part of making our country less oppressive.

        • I. Ron Column on August 18, 2012 at 21:58
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        Except that the guy in Colorado didn’t do what he did in the name of solidarity with Chis Nolan, nor were his actions consistent with the principles (whatever those might be) Nolan wanted to convey with his work. FEMEN’s action was both; Pussy Riot and FEMEN were both attacking the ongoing collusion between the Russian state and the Orthodox Church in creating the authoritarian nightmare that contemporary Russia is becoming.

        And who are you, a man in Canada, to say what cheapens or validates Pussy Riot’s message? You are projecting your own attitudes about what constitutes “good” vs. “bad” protest onto a situation you haven’t the faintest familiarity with; do you even know how Pussy Riot might feel about property destruction? Do you even speak Russian? I mean, c’mon…

        A riot like the G20? You mean the one where nobody was seriously hurt or killed and where the police went wild “because” of some broken windows? Sorry, but in many parts of the world, the supposedly apocalyptic G20 riot was little more than an ordinary political protest and, i’ll wager, that’s something we will be seeing more of in Canada in the next few years.

        And, finally, you even acknowledge, in this comment, that the Canadian state is indeed oppressive, completely contradicting your position in the post above. Is it as openly repressive as, say, North Korea to white, middle-class, heterosexual men like yourself? No, of course not; nobody is claiming that it is. But to many people who have experiences and identities unlike yours, it certainly is oppressive and unfair. Again, this is a question of degree; North Korea or Burma is unquestionably more repressive than Canada, all things considered, but does that mean we should tolerate the Canadian state’s repression (often applied selectively to poor, racialized and indigenous peoples) as relative good? No, of course not.

        1. Lee Harvey Oswald said he was working in solidarity with the American people- does that make them culpable in his crimes?

          I am someone in Canada who has lived many years in Russia who knows many people there- including some with connections to Pussy Riot. My Russian is rusty I must admit though.

          More people were traumatised by what happened at the G20 than by what Pussy Riot did- basically, it was only a couple of members of the clergy. Ask the people in the stores where windows were being smashed on that day if they think they had more to deal with than the clergy when Pussy Riot sang. They did by far.

          Now, if you read my words carefully- I said Canada was an oppressive country. The state is only part of that oppression- it comes from all sides of our society. Does that make sense? You can’t just get rid of oppression on one side of society and expect to see it disappear in the rest of society. We need a 360 degree solution…

          • GP on August 19, 2012 at 01:29
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          true, Europeans have to deal with the G20 Apocalypse every football derby. They did respond in London with the CCTV mayhem. Hasn’t stopped them. I still imagine what it would be if the MLS was like so.

          Its always the big question, unfortunately Canadians have always been good at “keeping skeletons” and “washing laundry”. May bee we are all just stuck on the Trolley problem. Trying to ask people such “strong” (debatable) questions of ethics is dodgy. Supposedly this is where we come back to standards? and who’s standards? to obtain moral conscious?

          Remember most people “seem” to walk around oblivious to anything, unless the media regurgitates it, or it interrupt’s their lives. Even then our government has done an “amazing?” job at givings us outlets to green and white wash our worries away. So even though we react with our moral conscious, most will still be morally disconnected.

    • I. Ron Column on August 19, 2012 at 18:10
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    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=159104313 – thought you might be interested in this, given your comments above. Pussy Riot espouse a love for Kropotkin, a belief in prison abolition and encourage Russians to throw cobblestones at cops, while discouraging voting. It sounds like Pussy Riot actually have a lot in common politically with the black bloc anarchists you contrast them with. You might want to rethink several of your comments.

    1. I judge them by their actions- and, so far they were peaceful. Kropotkin was peaceful too as far as I know…

        • I. Ron Column on August 19, 2012 at 19:20
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        a.) Kropotkin was an advocate of revolutionary violence, no two ways about it. He stood in stark contrast to the more Tolstoy-influenced anarchist pacifism that dominated the turn-of-the-century Russian anarchist scene. One quote from a pamphlet from the 20’s, just after his death: “He did not condemn deeds of violence, particularly the assassination of tyrants, but considered them useful acts in the struggle toward liberation. Civil war he regarded as inevitable in the conflict of classes, though he wished it to be limited to the ‘smallest number of victims and a minimum of mutual embitterment.'” Seems pretty inarguable to me.

        b.) It’s laudable to judge people based on their actions, but this seems mildly inconsistent with several of the positions you’ve articulated here. Pussy Riot encourage violent protest, more or less full stop; there’s no way throwing cobblestones at cops can be construed as anything else. I have no problem with this because i believe legitimate political protest can be violent. You, it seems, do not. But, wrt actions, what actions did the majority of G20 defendants (i.e.: those charged with conspiracy, etc) commit that allowed you to brand them as domestic terrorists? In fact, they largely did what Pussy Riot does in some of their songs: encourage militant resistance to power. Neither group committed violent acts, but they did encourage others to do so. So how is it that, if they are both essentially doing the same thing, one group is fine and the other is criminal?

        I think this has a lot to do with “Chris Hedges Syndrome”, whereby activists hold struggles in other parts of the world as somehow better than the fights happening in their own backyard. Chris Hedges denounced anarchists as “the cancer of Occupy” and said black bloc tactics are always unjustified, mere months after he lauded out of control street protests in Greece as positive and inspiring. Here, Greg, you’re saying Pussy Riot are brave and their politics are sound, but when people here in Canada make the same or similar arguments, you label them as criminals or hoodlums. You need to make sure your political ideas are consistent. Myself, I support Pussy Riot, G20 anarchists and anyone and everyone willing to struggle against the state and capital.

    • The Hammer on August 20, 2012 at 10:53
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    I was sick and tired a long time ago of listening to spoiled Canadians cry about how oppressed they are or how hard they have it. For the most part it is a psycological thing. Middle-class kids grow up hearing about oppression elsewhere and want to feel oppressed themselves either out of guilt, a way to get attention or to make excuses for themselves.

    I can remember being in a theatre lobby in Kitchener after the movie 8 Mile got out. There was a group of young, white, teens talking. They were talking about how they can relate to the movie because of their lives. Almost competing to see who could be the most “oppressed” out of all of them. One even said “Well, you know the neighbourhood I live in.” comparing it to the neighbourhoods in the movie. I can tell you, I have been to Detroit many times and there are no neighbourhoods in the entire province of Ontario that come close to what is in Detroit. Not even Regent Park.

    This is how many Canadian children grow up. That group would be well into their 20s by now (that is, if they managed to survive growing up on the mean streets of Kitchener, Ontario)and the same age as many in the black bloc now. This is how they grow up. It is cool to be oppressed. That is why someone like Kelly Pflug-Back, who grew up in a supportive upper-middle class family, likes to talk about “having” to live on the streets.

    I did once get to witness one of those “I have it so hard” kids get it. While living in the Philippines I was out one morning for beers (we worked overnights and this is normal there, they do not have a nanny state that tells you when you can and cannot have a beer) with two co-workers. One was a Canadian in his mid-20s and the other, his boss, a Filipino in his early 30s. The Filipino maanger was trying to have a frank coversation as to why this younger Canadian was screwing around and missing work. The Canadian went on to talk about his hard live, how his family never had much money and how he did not get along very well with his step-father. The response from my Filipino friend was priceless. It started with “F#$k you” and he went on to ask him how he can use that as an excuse while sitting in the third world. And that he has no idea what “having it hard” really is and that he would be happy to take him to some places and show him. It went on for a while like this.

    Too bad more young Canadians cannot be so fortuate to get such a talk. It would do them well to get a little perspective.

      • GP on August 20, 2012 at 11:15
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      nice… assumptions with ignorance, I thought we got passed that crap, but then again its all perspective.

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