Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mother Russia, Madonna and the Prime Directive

So I’ve kind of been following this whole Pussy Riot bit going on in Russia. Not very closely, mind you; in fact, that’s going to be the entire point of this thing in a second. But, yeah, I’m aware of it - especially since Rolling Stone seems to be in love with this story (seriously, look at all the “related” links near the bottom). In fact, I kinda wonder if this story got so popular simply because they’ve been flying this flag as the “next big cause”. Yeah, you can already see where this is going, aye?

In case you’re not up to speed, I’ll keep this short. Pussy Riot is a Russian punk band that staged a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a cathedral in Moscow. (Not St. Basil’s, mind you, but just a regular cathedral.) They were arrested and tried for “hooliganism,” and a whole slew of people here in America lost their minds. Everyone from your typical internet mook looking for another cause now that the Chick-fil-A thing has died down to people like Paul McCartney, Madonna (keep that name in mind) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all waved the flag and showed support for this group, who were ultimately found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail for a simple protest.

Just to let you know now, I’m not getting on either side of whether or not them getting arrested and jailed for a simple protest is “right” or “wrong”. I don’t know that much about them and I have yet to hear a lick of music. I’m sure a lot of people are in that boat, but the difference it didn’t stop them from picking a side in this whole debate. I’m just not sure why they did.

The blunt, crass way of doing this would simply be to ask, “Why does America care?” This has to do with a Russian band in the Russian nation facing Russian laws. It would seem to me that this country shouldn’t have any involvement. Again, that’s the blunt and crass way, because I get why people do care. It’s a matter of basic human rights and the freedom of expression without being locked in a stank-ass dungeon simply for having an opinion. Totally understand that.

So, rather than do this the blunt and crass way, let’s table that for a second and look at another story that came out of that country. I told you to remember the mention of Madonna, right? Yeah, that would be because, on August 9, she played a show in St. Petersburg, Russia, and flat-out challenged another country’s gay pride ban. Again, I can see why she did it - but a group of activists that are now suing her for $10.5 million dollars don’t see her reasoning at all.

This was a story I almost completely ignored, until I read some of the quotes from the Union of Russian Citizens courtesy of their lawyer, Alexander Pochuyev. One was, "We must defend our right to normal cultural life without propaganda of values and views that contradict the Russian culture." Interesting use of the word “propaganda”; you have to remember, they remember World War II just like we do. Hell, in many respects, they had it a hell of a lot tougher than we did. But “propaganda of values and views” feels exactly what they’ve all been hit with lately, betweeen the Pusssy Riot bit and now this.

But, more hard-hitting than that? "While speaking of tolerance, she abuses the feelings of believers." Translation: “We’re God-fearing people, and this foreigner just waltzes in to our country and had the unmitigated gall to tell us our beliefs were wrong while preaching how all people should be accepted and loved.”

(AFTERTHEFACTUPDATE: Oh, and then she goes and calls on the country she just offended the hell out of to free the members of Pussy Riot. Yeah, because that'll go over with them so well right now.

So, rather than the blunt, crass way of addressing this let’s harken back to Star Trek. No, seriously. Follow me here a second.

One of the big things that Starfeeet believed in was the Prime Directive. That Prime Directive that Starfleet (aka the rule that “the good guys” based all of their actions on) was basically “that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations.” In other words, Starfleet believed they didn’t have the right to interfere with any other civilization’s development, and that civilization should be allowed, for good or ill, to progress at their own pace. The worst thing they could do would be to steer that evolution in any given direction because they had no right to impose their beliefs, no matter how well-intentioned, on others.

So, why do we? What gives us the right to tell Russia how they should or shouldn’t conduct themselves as a people or government? How would we like it if they came over here and did that to us? We’d tell them to go do something involving sexual intercourse to themselves, right? And yet we’re getting all bent out of shape when we’re getting that reaction from them?

Once again, folks, I’m not calling anybody “right” or “wrong” All I’ve ever asked for in my combined-over-a-decade of writing is that people stop and think for themselves for a second before going along with any kind of trend, movement or crowd. I just want people to do a double take and wonder if their actions are really serving the best example of mankind. Despite best intentions, it looks like Russia’s answer lately has been, “hell no.” Because, as we all know, that road to hell is certainly paved with good intentions.

Trust me, honey - right about now, Russia feels the same way about you.

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