Sing. Dance. Shout.

We must not be silent while the “Pussy Riot” activists go to jail. Their dancing and singing has been stopped – and Russia readies itself for another, much more frightening kind of dance.

For some time I wondered how to express my solidarity with Pussy Riot. I wrote a little text I thought about posting on my homepage, along with a photo of myself with my mouth taped over or with a paper bag over my head. I didn’t do it, in part because activism is not/no longer my thing, but also because I realized that I could do anything to support these women, while they have been denied their basic right to do what they did: perform publicly in a church (oh Lord! And you, most blessed Virgin Mary! Come, we’ve known each other for so long, ever since the convent school, say: do you feel disgraced now? How can this affect you, dear Lord, you who always were, always will be, and always are in the process of becoming, while pop-stars are either becoming famous or are in the process of being forgotten as soon as people stop asking about them. Whether or not one asks about the Lord and his Mother, he will always be the same; He, he cannot be defamed, he is Being in and of itself, and people need him as they are not Being in itself, but rather belong to it. This does not mean that they also belong to Him, the Lord. People decide for themselves whom they want to belong to. They were placed there and say what they have to say, for in the beginning was the word and the word belongs to anyone who takes it and then that word is also given to them. A god in the process of becoming frees up the very space that is himself, in his own silence, but his people may and must be loud, if and whenever they want to be).

It is up to the people to stand up (without being beaten or wounded) to the act of wrenching the word out of the Nothingess (or Creation) that they come from and to say what they have to say.

These three young women Pussy Riot sang in a church, as it should be, and danced wildly in a Saint Vitus-like dance, again as it should be, for in a State on its way towards totality, people must take certain liberties to be heard, which is difficult because all the drawers are already locked, the door is barred so that you have to kick hard against it to free up some space, that openness in which you may, no, must, speak, sing and dance so as to be heard (and not overheard); and they spoke out against Putin, their president, in a church, imagine!

They tried to mobilize the Lord’s mother against Putin, whom did they blaspheme there? God or Putin? Or are these two synonymous? Whoever offends Putin also offends the Lord? His mother? The Church? You can’t even call the protest legitimate nor the right to protest a human right because a protest, any protest that speaks out against the threat to fundamental rights, is an obligation, not a right.

The young women had to dance, sing and shout; they were left with no other choice. There was nothing else left to do if they wanted something left of them, of everyone. A dangerous point is reached when propaganda is no longer needed within the system, for everything is already streamlined. Hannah Arendt differentiates between the State doctrine, which no longer requires propaganda within the movement, and pure propaganda meant for the outside world. All speech, song, dance, and shouting beyond the realm of propaganda must be formally contained by the pressure of a streamlined outside world that at any moment can swing into terror and where propaganda is ultimately no longer necessary because everyone is threatened; and that’s why we must hold out against this, whether as critics of the regime from within the country or as critical observers from other countries who cannot stand to watch this, who cannot tolerate this.

And so we stand and shout as well (we’re not as good at the dancing and singing part, at least as far as I’m concerned), even though we’re not citizens of this State that, in persecuting three young musicians—two of which are mothers of young children, what do you say about that, holy Virgin, they only took your son when he was already grown up!— has taken a step along the path of terror, insofar as it sees a declaration of war in the shouting, singing, and dancing of these three young women. And here we have an assistant, a sort of evil nurse, the Church, which, like a giant sideshow (and unfortunately even in the West, blasphemy has reappeared as a criminal offense, I can hardly believe it! It’s incredible!) slides in front of the ones, or the one in power, waving gold-woven flags and speaking of “religion-hating hooligans,” now that I call an unholy alliance!

It’s not a long way from this alliance to the groups of bloody dissenters who, not being of the same opinion as their rulers, are rounded up and bludgeoned. In a land of deadly silence, concentration camps, prisons, and penal colonies, propaganda is no longer necessary because terror has been perfected to the highest degree. In the Nazi concentration camps, propaganda was actually forbidden; to squander it on the living dead was considered a waste of time and energy, energy needed for the abuse and murder of people. Propaganda may be the most important instrument in dealing with the outside world, but terror is the deepest, most intimate essence of total control. Once terror reigns, it does so independently of everything else, including opponents of the regime. Then there is nothing left but terror. This must be avoided.

At the time I scribbled this down, I couldn’t imagine that these women would actually be condemned. It was unthinkable to me. Since Putin, the merciful tsar, publicly stated that he would be satisfied with a mild penalty (one still being necessary, right?, but “only” two years for each one, rather than three!), as he appeared to believe that it was up to him to influence the trial, which wouldn’t have existed in the first place without him, I did not publish this text at the beginning of the trial for fear of harming the three women. Now the women have been harmed. I, at the very least, can no longer harm them (nor can I help them, sadly). All I can do is write this. This I am free to do.

The incarceration of these three young women (and its conditions, which clearly border on torture, a term they have used themselves) is a tipping point. The country can still take a step back into the domain of rights that must always be fought for, yes, with singing, lurching, dancing, shouting, everything that can be seen and heard. But if the three women of Pussy Riot are in fact jailed, then Russia also locks itself up. And the dance floor, wherever it may be — it can be anywhere, indeed it should be everywhere – is also shut down. And another kind of dance begins, the thought of which already makes me shudder. For what once was must be known forever. And this, we have already had this once. More than once.

Translation by Anna Polonyi

Read more in this debate: Alexander Kissler, Christian Böhme.

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