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The Pussy Riot Column

The Pussy Riot Column: It's Up to You to Make Politics Fun Again

"Politics, after all, isn't just Bushes and Clintons but also Harvey Milks and Hunter S. Thompsons."

by Nadya Tolokonnikova
Jul 7 2015, 2:18pm

Pussy Riot at the Toronto Gay Pride parade. Photo via Toronto Pride

Imagine if the world reacted to Putin's aggression in Ukraine as it did to the American aggression in Vietnam. If European and American artists, filmmakers, and activists joined Russian and Ukrainian antiwar protesters in sharply condemning Putin's aggression, culture would have won. Screening now would be modern versions of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, and next to Book of Mormon on Broadway, something like Hair would be playing, but about a Russian soldier secretly sent to his death in eastern Ukraine (and some kind of Russian hooligan like Pussy Riot would kidnap him from his military unit). Imagine.

The Kubricks and Coppolas go to work when a topic becomes unavoidable. These unavoidable topics come to life via activists, students, office workers, and schoolteachers, who at some point take war personally, very personally. The subject then becomes acute, and is then made legendary through art. It is only then that citizens actually—not only on paper or in protest chants—will have a voice and the power to force the government to end war.

Only then will I be proud to say, "We are the power."

Right now I utter these words embarrassed, insecure. What kind of power are we when not only Russian but also European and American students,say to me that they are "not interested in politics because it's boring"? Who, if not you, should make it more fun? We can hardly expect Jeb Bush to throw a drag-queen party during a rally. So go into politics and organize a campaign, just so you can throw a victory party starring drag queens and feminist DJs. Politics, after all, isn't just Bushes and Clintons but also Harvey Milks and Hunter S. Thompsons.

One night at a bar I tried to persuade Quentin Tarantino to shoot a film about the future Russian revolution. One where Putin is overthrown and the conflict in Ukraine ends. After Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, I have no doubt that Tarantino could shoot an awesome film about overthrowing Putin. And if we were all as involved in politics as during the antiwar movement in the 60s and 70s, then Tarantino would definitely make a fucking awesome film about some female superheroes who tunnel under the Kremlin and swap Putin for Lenin's mummy (in the end Putin paces around the Mausoleum, not knowing how to escape), capture the television tower, and stop the war in Ukraine.

And while there isn't a Putin in the Unite States, this country still has its problems. Fox News is the most popular news channel in America. There is the death of Eric Garner. There are countless victims of police brutality. In the US, abortion is still a question—in the minds of Russians, the right to abortion is undeniable, not even a topic for discussion. If God ever took me out of Russia and said that from now on I have to make political art in the US, I would have found a thousand topics for art. Learn to love politics and politics will love you back. Raise hell with political art actions. Help Pussy Riot in our antiwar mission.

Pussy Riot's Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina and Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova perform at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton, on June 26, 2015, in Glastonbury, England. Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage

On June 26, Pussy Riot stormed the Glastonbury music festival in Britain, bursting onto the scene in a tank, which was parked by the stage. А few minutes after the Pussy Riot performance began, a militant in a black mask and military uniform brandishing an AK-47 burst out of the hatch: "We are founding the People's Republic of Glastonbury! No more Pussy Riot with their rotten liberal beliefs! No more gay parades in the territory of our republic!" he said. "Booooo," the crowd began to heckle. Then two of the Pussy Riot grrrlz angrily tied up the militant, pulling a rainbow balaclava over his black mask before taking away his gun and wrapping his mouth in tape. Then they proclaimed the "Ten Commandments of Pussy Riot," including "Do Not Read the News, Make News," "Have a Break, Have a Riot," "Stay Queer," and "Think Different, Think Feminist."

"I admire Eve," shouted a woman from the tank in a pink balaclava. "While Adam—not a very bright person—just hung out in Paradise and obeyed all the divine orders, Eve hustled and found an apple. In accordance with the Bible it was the apple of knowledge. So, generally, we have Eve to thank for science, space shuttles, iPhones, recording studios, coffee machines, and the internet. They told us that men invent everything, but without Eve man couldn't even start to think and to acquire knowledge about the world. Is it better to take a bite from the fucking Tree of Knowledge, of good and evil, than to sit like a blissful idiot on the shoulders of the Lord? Eve is the first feminist and a generally cool gal."

Charlotte Church talks to Pussy Riot, Maria Vladimirovna Alyokhina, and Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton, on June 26, 2015, in Glastonbury, England. Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage

The girl in the pink balaclava was me, and I stood on that tank because I believe that we—you and I—have to take back arms from our governments. We have to occupy military equipment. And I'm pretty fucking sure that we can use that stuff in much more interesting ways than our governments—we can use it in art, for example, or as stages at music festivals.

The antiwar movement is in the past, and the true tragedy is that war didn't end with it. Our generation watched movies and grew up with the notion that rights have already been won, that they are given to us by default. Conservatives will continue to win power damn easily, that we will assume for now. That's why David Cameron wins elections in England and cuts social benefits. That's why the right wing grows increasingly popular in France. That's why in Hungary Viktor Orban is in power, glad-handing Putin.

If you take your rights and freedom for granted, they will flow out through your fingers. Expand your rights. Conquer new ones. Sometimes, like Alice in Wonderland, we have to run with all our might just to stay in one place. But freedom is worth it.

Pussy Riot at the Toronto Gay Pride parade. Photo via Toronto Pride

On June 28, Pussy Riot led the Gay Pride celebration in Toronto, marching through the city on a huge red rocket (or penis). The ballistic missile was a Topol-M, the same type that flows by the hundreds in the streets of Moscow during a military parade, and symbolizes the hundreds of dickish politicians like Putin, who stand only for destruction and war. The male-dominated world of politics tends to measure their penises by the extent of their power. "Look, my cock is huge!" Putin tells you by the wars he starts. Pussy Riot prefers to use cocks for love, not war, which is why we stole one of Putin's rockets and brought it with us to use in a gay pride parade. Now, it's our Pussy Riot Queer Rocket. I'm a woman, but I also have a cock and it's bigger than Putin's. Every woman has a cock.

Putin is telling the world that Russia is a conservative, backward country that is not ready for gay rights, that it is a place where children need to be protected from gays. Well, let me tell you, Mr. Putin, that's a lie. Russia is one of the most progressive countries on Earth—Russian women gained suffrage and other rights before their counterparts in the US. Russia is the birthplace of the avant-garde, not the conservative swamp that Putin is trying to make it resemble. LGBTQ rights are my family values, not their so-called traditional values, which turn out to be oppression and violence.

We don't need no wars, we don't need no gender roles, we don't need no thought control.

Russians want to see more acts of disobedience, like those of the magnificent Yes Men. I don't mean to seem immodest, but after public performances, people come up to us and say that they are very inspired by Pussy Riot's art and activism. Remember, we also want to be inspired, as we once were by the wild, crazy, and sexy riot grrrlz.

Let me be inspired by you!

Translation by Brendan Mulvihill

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