Punk is a musical genre that mostly past this humble correspondent by. With formative years spent listening to Pink Floyd, Hendrix and King Crimson, a three power chord trick with lots of gobbing was, frankly, of little interest.
Peer pressure, however, resulted in an undergraduate hippo being dragged against his will to see an up and coming beat combo known as The Clash who performed at the student union in 1977. The gig was awful, but the realisation that writing skill and musicianship was now secondary to the outpouring of incandescent rage proved to be as significant as the two previously sensible female house mates attending the gig wearing only bin liners, garish make-up and a terms student grants worth of hairspray. Memories of that far off night and its slightly disturbing eroticism were recalled upon hearing Fiona Bruce utter the words “pussy riot” on the BBC 10 o`clock news. The fragrant Fiona, who herself once sang in a punk band, toned down the usual pouting and CTB eyes and reported on the importance of freedom of speech.
The “performance” by Pussy Riot staged at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow was blatantly offensive and not just to members of the Russian Orthodox Church. Obscene language and potential blasphemy might be possible to forgive but their “prayer” to the Virgin Mary imploring her to remove President Putin was musically dire even if the sentiment was honourable. Being caught red handed in possession of limited musical ability does not, however, warrant a two year custodial sentence and Vladimir seems keen to squash even the most basic forms of dissent and criticism. Who could have foreseen that the Russian Federation would be ruled by an individual with vast personal wealth and power prepared to consign people to prison who are found guilty of having an opposing view? Perhaps we will see the return of padlocks on the decanter, alarms on the samovar and Uncle Joe Stalin making a comeback by playing the V Festival next year.
Central to introducing gulags for the Facebook generation is the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill, who, in the midst of accusations of vote rigging, described the election of Putin as “a miracle of God” and is also alleged to have made bundle on importing duty free cigarettes disguised as humanitarian aid. This man of God described the three convicted women as “doing the work of Satan” and helpfully added that a “liberal society will lead to legal chaos and then the apocalypse”. It is worth remembering that this chap had a very expensive Swiss watch immaculately air brushed from his wrist but not its reflection in the photograph on his official website and is suspected of having very close links to the KGB during the Soviet era.
Liberal societies across the world were swift in their condemnation of the conviction and politicians and celebrities leapt to the defence of the punk band. The US State Department said it was concerned over the verdict but made no comment regarding the fate of Bradley Manning. Here in the UK, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said without any trace of irony: “I am deeply concerned by the sentencing of three members of the band Pussy Riot, which can only be considered a disproportionate response to an expression of political belief.” He offered no comment regarding the Twitter joke trial, the Simon Walsh trial, the Tommy Sheridan trial or the upcoming litigation regarding Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Madonna expressed her support for the band and was promptly accused of being a whore by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and is now being sued for millions by some crackpots who accuse her of encouraging children to take up homosexuality. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O`Brien does not appear to have made any comment regarding Pussy Riot. This silence is characteristic as he has now decided not to talk to the Scottish government because he objects to the notion of same-sex marriages. Perhaps the cardinal agrees with the Russian Orthodox Church in believing that feminism and the freedom to love another human being regardless of their gender is an abomination and the work of the devil. The cardinal should remember that it is not just Julian Assange that is accused of sexual misdemeanours and, if the charges against the Wikileaks founder prove to be true, his alleged victims were adults and not, as in the case of the clergy, children.
Faith, of whatever variety, cannot be underestimated and hooliganism motivated by religious hatred is a serious offense. Imagine if you will, some morons from the EDL working out how to plug in an electric guitar and then bellow their hatred in a mosque. As Dobby the house elf said, if Pussy Riot had attempted their stunt in certain places of worship in the Caucuses, they would not have got out alive and this is the significant point. If organised religion is strong, why does it feel threatened by three young mediocre female punk musicians, a man wanting to share his life with another man, a woman who does not wish to be beaten about and forced into subjugation or the questioning of texts written thousands of years purporting to be the undiluted words of God? As the only evidence of the existence of a supreme deity is the testimony of those that believe in the existence of a supreme deity, theism has to sadly remain a theory and not fact. As organised religion continues to oppress, abuse and, in some cases, stone, mutilate and publicly execute anyone that questions the interpretations of old men with scary beards, the idea that a rather poor punk band is about to destroy the legacy of Abraham is preposterous. The church, in all its corrupt manifestations, is killing itself.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevitch might not be very good musicians but they are young and have the potential to improve. Sadly, it is difficult to say the same regarding organised religion. If there is a heaven, imagine recently dead clerics arriving at the pearly gates only to be turned away with the sad realisation that Pussy Riot are the house band at Saint Peter`s bar and grill.
Nostrovia or, put more correctly, Na Zdorovie.