That epiphany from the ‘60’s would seem just as relevant today in separating the grey suited establishment war mongers from the more enlightened artistic underclass- if one is to follow the travails of the Russian all girl punk band, Pussy Riot.
MOSCOW — The face of dissent in Russia was once that of the outcast intellectual such as Nobel laureates Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Then it was the oligarch who grew rich in the post-Soviet chaos and used his wealth to challenge the Kremlin.
The torch was passed again on Friday.
A Moscow court convicted three young punk rockers, members of the provocatively named group Pussy Riot, of “premeditated hooliganism” and sentenced them to two years in prison. The crime: a February “punk prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in which the balaclava-clad, mini-skirted rockers appealed for the downfall of President Vladimir Putin.
The litmus test for any societies tolerance for free speech and freedom of expression has for several decades been vulnerable to exposure by punk music. Designed specifically to shock and mobilize awareness, the overclass has historically been unable to process the messaging intrinsic to this form of expression, as its unformed, inchoate rage is destabilizing to a political economy that requires compliance, conformity, and coercion in addressing normative society.
A fiction writer from the Golden Age of Russian literature could never have dreamed up a scenario as absurd and a story as far-fetched as the persecution of the punk rock band Pussy Riot,” two activists with the Human Rights Foundation, chaired by Kasparov, wrote in an article for Forbes magazine’s website.
Sneering at the faux teen rebellion embodied by the ‘50’ and ‘60’s rock music movement, the punk movement disavowed any necessity to even play a musical instrument, as listening to a track or two from Pussy Riot will bear witness.
This result is confusing, and at the same time profoundly disturbing to the criminal overclass (deservedly) hypersensitive to the ground swell of unpredictable social movement as evidenced by recent OWS protests, riots in Paris suburbs, and similar uprisings across the world. These flare ups are symptomatic of a deep and profound buildup of rage that is slowly recognizing, en masse, the failure of capitalism and the rapidly manifesting loss of social mobility perhaps best expressed by the two word anthem of a violently nihilistic generation – No Future.
In an apparent show of solidarity, an apartment dweller across the street from the courtroom blared one of the group’s songs loud enough to disturb the judge’s reading of the verdict. Police scrambled to cut the electricity to the apartment and silence the protest.
Relatives, friends and other spectators in the courtroom shouted, “Shame!” when the judge imposed the sentence. Outside, police detained supporters thronging the building, roughing up and arresting at least 60, independent Russian media reported, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
A generation that has lost hope is a dangerous generation indeed.
With its origins in places like Manchester, England, New York, and Los Angeles, disenfranchised youth banded together under the auspices of loud and violent music to commiserate, and at the same time ventilate, pent up fury upon discovery of the grim future first posited under the Reagan and concomitant Thatcher administrations. Lashing out first at any authority figures, the diffuse wave of anger soon settled on corporations and neo-liberal figureheads such as Reagan and Thatcher to receive the brunt of the vehemence.
This renewed focus soon enjoined the intelligentsia, always watchful for a grass roots movement to carry forth a sympathetic political message, the poli-sci majors and other college students soon joined their working class brethren to reject the on campus messaging of the likes of the Young Republicans and other social groups and class structures designed to advance the education, furtherance, and maintenance of the rentier class.
Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter theorized in the late ‘30’s that Marx’s prediction of a revolt initiating from the working class was wrong, he disagreed, suggesting instead that the spark would come from déclassé intellectuals-a point furthered by Chris Hedges’ assertion that this movement would be joined by under utilized (and unemployed) professional workers.
Though the rockers’ plight could fade from public attention over time, they represent “a potential spark out there,” said Paul Gregory, a Russian scholar at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, pointing to the power of international cultural figures in the volatile political atmosphere in Russia.
But if something were to happen to one of the young rockers in prison, like a suspicious death or suicide, that could be “the kind of thing that could bring millions of people out on the streets,” Gregory said.
With names like The Slits, The Raincoats, Pylon, Au Pairs, Blood on the Saddle, Kleenex, and the Bush Tetras, the pioneering girl punk bands of the late ’70 and early ‘80’s brought a notable message to the scene.
The torch has been passed.