Thursday, February 20, 2014

Words versus horse whips!

words versus whips!!
It is not rocket science to condemn the Cossacks for their public display of brutality against the Pussy Riot, a punk rock group committed to public criticism of Putin and what they consider unacceptable conditions in Russia. However, it is another of the many horrendous examples of how physical power, hard power cannot and will not silence the words of honest, authentic and resistant protest, especially when conditions demand that protest.
The Cossacks were only acting "on orders" from some superior officer, also reporting to another superior officer, also reporting to another and eventually to Putin himself. They were not carrying horse whips because they thought they might encounter belligerent horses. They were carrying horse whips because they were ordered to carry them, and to use them, if and when this group, or some other group, decided to give voice to their criticisms of Putin and the Russian regime.
The patriarchy, especially the patriarchy that holds fast to the maxim that if and when it meets opposition of any kind, it will use whatever means necessary and available to stamp out that criticism. We are watching a similar abuse of power in Kiev, also under Russian guidance and possibly even their orders. We are also watching a similar abuse of power in Caracas Venezuela with public protests against the current president. We have been watching the Egyptian army disperse their opposition voices for months with the use of tear gas, stun-guns, water canons and even, sadly, as in Kiev, live ammunition.
People who are protesting in Kiev are not, as the Ukrainian leader wants us to believe, "terrorists"...
People who are protesting in Syria are not, as Assad would have us believe, "terrorists" although terrorists are taking advantage of the conflict to inflict as much damage as they can, in order to establish "instability" the very incubator for their terror to succeed in setting up an Islamic state.
People in Venezuela who are protesting are not "terrorists" and the fact that those in power are using the word "terrorist" to describe their opposition demonstrates just how much the Al Qaeda terrorists and their knock-offs have imbedded themselves into the psyche of the world community.
People who have been protesting in Cairo are not terrorists, as the army leaders would have us believe.
And what is more tragic is that there seems to be a common trend among those in power, in their attempt to show strength and a refusal to be intimidated by all terrorists. It is that they resort to a kind of medieval, un-enlightened and default position of fear, neurosis and its overcompensation.
The pursuit of control, by all agents of power and authority, in schools, in family kitchens and dining rooms, in factory floors, in corporate offices and board rooms, and especially in churches, is an exercise that is totally counter-intuitive to the kind of liberated mind/body/spirit that evokes and generates healthy relationships, learning, productivity and worship respectively. It demonstrates a kind of insecurity that "things will spiral out of control" unless and until we stop the "chaos"....
In fact, it is a shared believe and perception among those in authority and responsibility that they are "in charge" and that they must exercise all options of control and repression when they are faced with opposition. It is, after all, their own positions that are being threatened, their own wielding of power in the first place that is coming under both scrutiny and critical examination and even being undermined.
All people who seek power and authority need to learn the principle of legitimacy:
When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it  matters-- first and foremost--how they behave. This is called the "principle of legitimacy," and legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice--that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can't treat one group differently from another. (Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath, Little Brown and Company, 2013, p 207-8)
We have seen, and will continue to see, precisely the opposite results from those results sought by the people in power in Kiev, and Cairo and Caracas and wherever protests are taking the bricks out of the city square to make missiles to throw at the police and the army who have been charged with keeping "control". Repression demonstrates the fear of those in authority, and incubates more protests, not fewer. Repression generates even more stridency, not less. And this lesson cannot be lost on parents, teachers, principals and those responsible for the formation of our young people.
Anyone who has been the victim or the recipient of repression, especially through the violent imposition of that repression, knows that when repressed we throw things, we shout louder, we become more convicted of the righteousness of our perceptions that power is being abused against us, for reasons that are not justified.
Young women in body suits, singing songs of protest, are not a threat to Putin, unless and until he turns them into his victims, at which point the world sees Putin administering a "black-eye" to himself, to Russia and to the Sochi Olympics, purportedly his crowning achievement. And, just perhaps, given the ironies of so many of today's political encounters, Putin's heavy-handed response to the Pussy Riot, (he would likely say the Cossacks were being restrained because they did not arrest the young women) generates a degree of reflection that we do not normally witness from people in power when they are confronted with the truth of their mismanagement and their deceptions and their seductions for the purpose of maintaining the power they have had invested in them, for a brief period, through cronyism or through rigged elections, or through votes in which the voters have been bribed with the public purse that has been turned into the campaign coffers of those already in power.
It is no accident that incumbents are returned to office in something like 90% of the elections. After all they have the bully pulpit from which to trumpet their "accomplishments" and the perks of power that present them behind podiums of officialdom, and the limousines and the serfs whose only task is to make their "masters" look good. Their opponents have none of those supporting resources.
However, increasingly, people in power need to curb their fears and their narcissism and their addiction to the power they wield and surrender much of that fear in favour of a kind of relaxed openness and a kind of soft strength that reduces, if not eliminates, their resort to the hard power of repressive control.
Models of how power is effectively used can be witnessed in every hospital nursery, in every infants bedroom, when the nurses and the mothers and fathers are completely trusting their own instincts to feed, clean and nurture those infants, whose only needs are to be warm and fed, and to enter into the relationship in a spirit of hope and joy. It is those in power, and especially those whose need for power and control has taken over the situation, who teach us deeply and profoundly, that their need for control will always trump our need for legitimacy and freedom.
Far from linking the protestors to the Hitler regime, it is the people in power who are in danger of losing the modicum of "respect for the office" that their actions have and continue to erode. And when respect for the office has dissipated, anyone holding the office becomes little more than a sylph or a ghost of the respect and the honour once encapsulated in the office, and peace order and good government are no longer even available. They have been compromised by the very people who were placed in power to protect that peace, order and good government.
And the more we have to witness the march of political insecurity, balanced on both ends of an unstable teeter-totter, with excessive power on one end, and chasms of fear on the other, the more protests we will witness, if not have to join, in order to restore a level of respect and respectability in our political offices, that only the people can restore. And they will, but only after they have endured too many incidents of horse whips attempting to silence the unsilenceable, words of truth and words of public criticism.

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