Pussy Riot: Does Democracy mean anybody can do anything?

Three young women were sentenced to serve two years in a penal colony, over “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred“.

The three members of a Russian feminist punk band ‘Pussy Riot’ had performed on “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” inside Christ Savior Cathedral, one of Moscow’s most respected churches, shortly after Vladimir Putin was elected president.

I wanted to know exactly what they sang, and found this video at ‘Free Pussy Riot!

The song the band played asked Mother Mary to send Putin away and accused Patriarch Kirill I of believing in Putin instead of God.

The patriarch, who’s reportedly credited Putin’s years in power as a miracle from God, responded that the “Devil has laughed at all of us … We have no future if we allow mocking in front of great shrines, and if some see such mocking as some sort of valour, as an expression of political protest, as an acceptable action or a harmless joke.” [Pussy Riot and Russia’s Awkward Version of Democracy – Josh Jackson]

And in response to a comment:

“If Pussy Riot was saying that Orthodox Christianity was stupid or mocking their beliefs, I’d feel differently, but they were protesting how the church had stood by Putin despite his move towards totalitarianism.”

And here are two translations of what they sang.

If you agree with ‘Careless translations of Punk Prayer obscure the song’s serious purpose‘, click here to read, Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer is pure protest poetry.

And below is the translation from ‘Free Pussy Riot’.

Punk-Prayer “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away”

(choir)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)


Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love

Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

(end chorus)

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)

Putin Got Scared

A rebellious column moves toward the Kremlin,
Windows explode inside FSB offices.
Bitches piss behind the red walls
Riot calls for the System’s Abortion!

Attack at dawn? Am not against it,
For our joint freedom, a whip to chastise with
Madonna to her glory will learn to fight
Feminist Magdalene go demonstrate

Revolt in Russia – the charisma of protest
Revolt in Russia – pissed on by Putin
Revolt in Russia – We Exist!
Revolt in Russia – Riot! Riot!

Take to the streets
Live on the Red
Set free the rage
Of civil anger

(loss on the square)

Discontent with the culture of male hysteria
Wild leaderism devours brains
The Orthodox religion of a hard penis
Patients are asked to accept conformity

The regime heads toward censorship of dreams
The time has come for subversive clashing
A pack of bitches from the sexist regime
Begs forgiveness of a feminist wedge.

Revolt in Russia – the charisma of protest
Revolt in Russia – Putin got scared
Revolt in Russia – We Exist!
Revolt in Russia – Riot! Riot!

Take to the streets
Live on the Red
Set free the rage
Of civil anger

“Death to Prison, Freedom to Protest”

The joyful science of occupying squares
The will to everyone’s power, without damn leaders
Direct action – the future of mankind!
LGBT, feminists, defend the nation!

Death to prison, freedom to protest

Make the cops serve freedom,
Protests bring on good weather
Occupy the square, do a peaceful takeover
Take away the guns from all the cops

Death to prison, freedom to protest

Fill the city, all the squares and streets,
There are many in Russia, beat it,
Open all the doors, take off the shoulder straps
Taste the smell of freedom together with us

Death to prison, freedom to protest

“Kropotkin-Vodka”

Occupy the city with a kitchen frying pan
Go out with a vacuum, get off on it,
Seduce battalions of police damsels
Naked cops rejoice in the new reforms

The fucking end to sexist putinists!

Kropotkin-vodka splashes in the bellies
You feel good, but those Kremlin bastards
Face the revolt of the toilets, fatal poisoning
Flashing lights won’t save you, Kennedy will meet you

The fucking end to informant bosses!

Caught some zzz’s, time to oppress the day
The knuckle-duster’s ready, feminism’s sharpened
Take your soup away to Eastern Siberia
So that Riot will become rough enough

The fucking end to sexist putinists!
The fucking end to sexist putinists!
The fucking end to sexist putinists!

“Raze the Pavement”

The Egyptian air is good for the lungs
Do a Tahrir on the Red Square
Spend a violent day among strong women
Look for scrap on the balcony, raze the pavement

It is never too late to become a dominatrix
The bludgeons are loaded, screams get louder,
Stretch the muscles of your arms and legs
The cop is licking you between the legs

The toilets are clean, chickens are in their civvies,
Specters of Zizek washed away in the toilets
Khimki Forest plundered, Chirikova banned from elections,
And the feminists sent home on maternity leave.

Pussy Riot

After their arrest, the band have released a new single called ‘Putin Lights Up the Fires’. Watch it here.

Loved this video…

Do you think “Democracy is not the thing where you can do whatever you want to do?” (Andranik Migranyan, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation.)

Edited to add: Ever noticed how such lines are used the most by those who are trying to encroach upon other people’s Democratic rights?

22 thoughts on “Pussy Riot: Does Democracy mean anybody can do anything?

  1. THe answer is YES , especially in india.. we see it day in and day out everyone is doing whatever they want without giving two hoots to anyone else ..

    Although in this case the ladies are singing against whatever they are facing in their country.

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  2. No, in a democracy people are not allowed to anything where ever you want. The freedom of the individual ends where it hurts others. In this case however the charges were twisted and turned to even make a case against them and everybody knows the whole trial was a farce. In the end that does the accussed little good because they will be sent to jail anyway and the whole thing will have little to zero impact on the democracy and freedom tooting countries relationships with russia. As for now..but maybe in the future..

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    • Invariably such lines are used the most by those who are encroaching on other people’s Democratic rights.

      Andranik Migranyan, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation said this while defending these young women’s arrests – “Democracy is not the thing where you can do whatever you want to do?” (in the video)

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      • So? I saw that. And i believe that statement to be true. However regarding THIS specific example to say that is idiotic. For one russia is not really a democracy in my defintion of it. Even people as prominent as chess world champion kasperov get arressted for simply displaying a dissenting opinion. So this pussy riot arrest plus trial is neither suprising nor unexpected,just sad. However i dont understand how this relates to democracy. There would have to be a true democracy there first in order to make the statement apply.

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        • Oh btw look up that institute on wikipedia,very enlightening particularly the first paragraph under response”little more than an image building tool for the kremlin…” How true.

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    • Okay, we need to define hurting others also. People may be hurt becuse someone is gay. Some claim to be hurt because i wear short clothes. Parents may claim to be hurt because their children did not go through arranged marriage. Family may claim hurt they are hurt because we do not follow the rituals and religion.

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  3. All these are sham democracies run by megalomaniacs, who are in turn supported by a corrupt system. See our own didi. It was sickening to read about that poor farmer who was thrown into jail because he dared questioned her. The police booked him under non-bailable offences. As the only bread earner, and a poor one at that – he’s got no support from hotshots who can put pressure on the govt to release him. The way the whole media and academic community revolted against the professor’s cartoon episode; not a peep this time. He’s just a starving farmer, who will now rot in jail without trial. In a true democracy, Mamta would have answered the farmer’s questions; she would have laughed away the cartoons and she would not have the guts to brand a student as a maoist. In a true democracy the farmers of that village would have risen in revolt against the Siladitya’s illegal arrest. In a true democracy the police would have booked a case against this woman for trying to frame false charges and misuse of legal machinery.

    I for one believe there is no true democracy anywhere. Nowhere in the world, the true power rests with the tax-payers and the man/woman on the street. The political class is so cut off from the real issues that it borders on the psychotic sometimes. For example, imagine the sheer amount that is spent on weapons and associated technologies. And of course the ‘side business’ of supplying weapons to volatile groups and then crying hoarse about terrorism, and pouring more money into counter-terrorism. We are probably looking at a trillions and trillions here.

    And yet, the reality is that in 2012 – a time when we’ve landed on Mars, there are more than 925 million who are starving. Not because the world does not produce enough food – but because it does not reach these people. And over 60% of this starving population is women – young adults and mothers. According to the world hunger report, hunger is the largest killer – ahead of aids and cancer. But it seems to be a non-issue. WHy? Because cancer and aids can hit anyone irrespective of wealth – so better to have cures for that. Hunger will not touch those with money, and certainly not those in power. So what if millions perish without food – they mean nothing to anyone.

    But an even more fundamental question is that do we follow democracy in our own lives? I am talking of the Indian context. I don’t think so. I don’t think we understand the responsibility and power of free speech and action. How can we when our cultural setup gives extraordinary powers to ‘elders’ even if one is an adult? We’ve grown up ‘giving’ power to someone else – parents, teachers, spouses etc. and thus, someone else makes decisions for us, and we follow whether we like it or not. Why will it be different in our political system?

    It looks like just because we vote – it does not mean we all enjoy democracy.

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    • Totally agree. I have not seen democracy in its true form anywhere. I am not even sure that it is practically possible to achieve that (though I hope it is!). For democracy to be in effect in every day life, we do need to be true to ourselves, we do need to eliminate greed and selfishness and increase the “human” aspect in us. Keeping in mind the needs and wants of other people as well. Only when we are successful (or even somewhat successful) in looking inside our own self and questioning the very basics of existence and harmony that we can truly achieve democracy. Where the system will really be what the people want. And the people will be capable to to decide what system is the best for them as a society. Voting rarely signifies democracy, especially in times when votes can be bought by the lure of money, television sets and mobile phones!

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      • This is a mistake: Democracy, like most other concepts, is not something that exists in a binary state of “on” or “off”, “true” or “not true”, instead it is a analogue concept where the relevant question is not “yes” or “no”, but “more” or “less”.

        Thus there’s *more* democratic governments, and *less* democratic governments, but no such thing as a ideal “true form” democracy – nor even any agreement on precisely what that would mean, or if it’d be a good thing or not.

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  4. Ofcourse not. I ain’t seen anyone arguing that either, so it’s a straw-man.

    But in a democracy, punishment is proportional to actual harm done, and is not influence by whether those in power approves of the message or not.

    2 years in prison, for singing a political song in a church, is ridicolous. Sure, a fine for “disturbing the peace” or some such other minor transgression would be in order, but that’s a long way from prison.

    What they did was annoying for those present, but there was no damage (if there was, it’d be fair to ask them to pay for it), no danger, and no lasting negative effects for anyone. As such this was a minor crime, certainly less serious than (for example) driving too fast. (people are *killed* by people who drive to fast afterall, people don’t die from hearing a provocative political song)

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  5. Democracy is truly not meant for the people or by the people. At least in India Democracy is a sham. It is a facade that covers oligarchy. Protests are part of civic rights. To the power hungry, even peaceful protests rake up their insecurity.

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  6. Disturbing the peace, indeed.

    I wonder if the court would have found them so troublesome had they been singing the praises of the political establishment instead.

    All the serious issues of freedom and liberty aside, I wonder why so many political ‘leaders’ don’t seem to have a sense of humor. If I was in that church, and I saw a group of people get up and burst out with this:

    Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
    Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

    (Chorus)

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
    Become a feminist, become a feminist

    (end chorus)

    The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
    The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
    A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
    Go to class – bring him money!

    Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
    Bitch, better believe in God instead
    The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
    Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

    , and right under the priest’s nose too, I would probably half-die of laughter at the whole situation, before I’d even begin to appreciate the lyrics (which I am a little bit in love with, by the by).

    Authoritarian leaders are a varied bunch. They can be tall or short, illiterate or with a Doctorate in hand, anti-religion or deeply religious, yadda yadda. But the one thing they seem to have in common is an inflated sense of stuffy self-importance, and a marked hatred for other people enjoying themselves.

    Mr Khap Sarpanch, are you listening, sire?

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  7. Trick question. Democracy should mean that anyone can do or say anything so long as it doesn’t physically impinge on another person’s right to do the same.

    So the answer is strictly – no. You can’t do absolutely anything.

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    • Absolutely agree. Especially in case of people talking about something you dont like, the decision is YOURS to feel hurt by it. It is not like physical hurt where you cannot choose to not feel hurt by it.

      So yes, speaking whatever you want, however hate fueled it may be, is your democratic right as long as you are not forcing people to listen to it.

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      • And by extension of their “logic” that it was hate filled anti religious sentiments, what about my feelings? I am agnostic and absolutely do not believe in religion. I find every religious program on television an insult to my views. Should those people also not be arrested?

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      • Actually making physical threats absolutely does impinge on my freedom to move about freely. Fear for one’s life is a very valid physical fear. Just like stalking is illegal as well.

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  8. I believe in free speech even when I don’t agree with the speaker, with a strong exception in regards to inciting violence and hate speech. Pussy Riot were making legitimate complaints against their leader, and it just goes to show how decency laws inevitably are used to defend the status quo whether that is legitimate or not.

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  9. They arrest LGBT people. They still refuse to accept that it isn’t a disease. It is really disturbing and wrong. I used to like Russia a lot, but Putin does need to go. Livejournal is, for example regularly attacked by Russian govt because it has Russian news blogs that the govt doesn’t approve of. There are a lot of other things too. I really commend these girls courage. They knew how tough the situation would be for them and they still went ahead and protested.

    Like

  10. Pingback: “If I was born somewhere else, sometime later, in a more liberal family, in a more equal world.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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