Friday, 21 October 2016

'Miracle of God'

Image result for putin and kirill

The Times reports on the close relationship that has grown up between the Russian Orthodox Church and the government of Vladimir Putin.

Now of course it suits both men's interests to talk up Putin's presidency as a miracle of God, but it is no less dishonest than Saddam Hussein embracing Islam when the going got tough for the murderous Iraqi tyrant.

Putin ally patriarch meets Welby to discuss Russia tensions
By Kaya Burgess and Tom Parfitt - The Times

The Archbishop and the Patriarch acknowledged “difficult times” between the UK and Russia during their discussions - ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY WEBSITE

Tensions between Russia and Britain were discussed by the head of the Russian Orthodox church, an ally of Vladimir Putin, and the Archbishop of Canterbury during their first meeting yesterday.

Patriarch Kirill also had an audience with the Queen, during which they discussed the revival of the church in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kirill, 69, flew home yesterday after a four-day visit that raised protests from MPs due to his close links with Putin at a time of strained relations between Russia and the UK, particularly over Syria. The patriarch has previously described Putin’s presidency as a “miracle of God” and praised Russia’s military action in Syria as “noble and honest” and part of a “holy war”.

Putin and Saddam (12/05/16)

When I read this piece by Ben Macintrye in The Times I was immediately struck by the similarities between Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.

Because the Russian President as a former KBG agent and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was never a big supporter of the Orthodox Church until it became useful to him, politically speaking.

So when the young women members of Pussy Riot sang a protest song against the Kremlin in a Moscow Cathedral a few years ago, Orthodox Church leaders behaved in a furious and very un-Christian fashion which helped send these dangerous criminals to the gulag for four years (subsequently reduced to two), if I remember correctly.

In other words, the Orthodox Church became a useful political ally to President Putin as he strengthened his grip on power and began the task of isolating and removing his enemies.

Likewise with Saddam Hussein who was a famously high living and secular Iraqi President until the terrible war with Iran required him to suddenly become a devout Muslim so that he could exploit the tensions between Sunni and Shia Islam which continue to bedevil the world.

As religious leaders have shown throughout the ages - in Nazi Germany, in fascist Italy or as a supporter of General Franco in Spain - they are willing to throw their lot in with unscrupulous political leaders, if there's something in it for the faithful.      

No law can gag Russia’s champion swearers

By Ben Macintyre - The Times

Putin’s ban on profanity is an attempt to silence the country’s anarchic, supremely rude language of free expression

In the early 1980s censors in Romania attempted to ban the word “suitcase” from published works. People were fleeing the country and officials feared that the language of luggage was encouraging the exodus: if readers could not read “suitcase”, it was believed, they would not think about packing; and if they could be stopped from thinking about packing they would not think about quitting the socialist paradise of Romania.

Communist dictatorships frequently resorted to language-engineering, banning certain words or replacing them with officially approved euphemisms: in East Germany Christmas angels were stripped of religious connotations to become “year-end winged creatures” and, to take people’s minds off death, coffins were renamed “earth furniture”.

Such attempts to manipulate words may seem ludicrous, but the oppression of language is a central characteristic of totalitarian regimes: control how people write and speak and the tyrant controls how they think; at the very least a population that is uncertain what it can and cannot say will button its lip.

Of all the bare-chest-thumping authoritarian noises coming out of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, few are more disquieting than the law passed this week to outlaw swearing in films, television broadcasts, theatres and media. Henceforth, all Russian books containing obscenities will carry a warning. An official panel will rule on what constitutes profanity. Violators will be fined up to £830 for each offence and banned from performing for three months.

The film The Wolf of Wall Street racked up a record-breaking 561 separate uses of the f-word. Under the new law Martin Scorsese would be fined almost half a million pounds and Leonardo diCaprio could be banned from acting for 140 years.

The Kremlin claims the ban is to preserve the purity of the Russian language; in reality it is another attack on permissive culture, part of an accelerating campaign of cultural conservatism backed by the Russian Orthodox Church. It is also an assault on the voluminous, subversive and supremely rude Russian lexicon of profanity known as “mat”.

Russians are champion swearers; no country in the world curses so enthusiastically, and mat is probably the most expansive and expressive slang vocabulary in the world. From four basic swear words, it spins out a flood of expletives, by attaching suffixes and prefixes, into some 1,596 dirty verbs and an unlimited number of crude derivations.

“Speaking without swearing is like cabbage soup without tomato” goes an old Russian saying. The vernacular of the street, the field, the factory floor and the prison, mat is reflected in folk tales and peasant proverbs, but also deeply embedded in high culture, including the writing of Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn. Dostoevsky once wrote that the entire range of human emotions could be described using variations of the word khuy, Russian slang for todger.

Mat is free-flowing, fertile and filthy, an underground dialect that poses a linguistic challenge to the formality and order of dictionary Russian, which is why successive autocratic regimes have tried to prohibit or control the use of slang, a cynical language of nonconformity, an expression of freedom and rebellion.

Russia’s Tsars viewed cursing as a direct threat to the established order. Catherine the Great banned the word blyad (whore or bitch). In 1913 an official list of dangerous “hooligan” behaviour began with “singing uncensored songs and using foul language”.

The Bolsheviks took a similarly dim view of obscenity and launched the “struggle for cultured speech” as colloquial language came into conflict with official language. Trotsky denounced swearing. In Komsomol, the Young Communists’ League, good Marxists had to speak in the prescribed wooden vocabulary of the state, with “cleanliness, precision and grammatical correctness”. The party spoke to the people in revolutionary jargon, in direct contradiction to the vulgar mayhem of mat. Under Soviet law, swearing in public was punishable by 15 days in prison.

Perestroika, and the collapse of communism, brought with it a huge upsurge in the use of mat, the drive for political freedom echoed by the liberation of language. The obscene argot was picked up by the intelligentsia, the media, writers and artists, becoming almost mainstream.

Putin’s determination to clean up the Russian language by law is just the latest evidence of a conservative, dictatorial clampdown on freedom of expression, following directly on from laws banning gay “propaganda” and curbs on press freedom. Eradicating swearing will “ensure the rights of Russians citizens to use of the state language, protecting and developing language culture”, the Kremlin insists, a form of words deliberately reminiscent of the Soviet “struggle for cultured speech”.

George Orwell would have recognised Putin’s language laws as evidence of a new Newspeak, a language policed to limit freedom of speech and eradicate alternative, subversive forms of expression, or thought crime. The fictional state language imagined by Orwell inNineteen Eighty-Four eliminated undesirable concepts and replaced free ideas with contracted forms of words deliberately echoing Soviet abbreviations: Ingsoc, Crimethink Unperson and Minitrue are Orwell’s sharp satire on Politburo, Comintern and Komsomol.

“The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought,” Syme declares in the Ministry of Truth. “The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.”

When an autocrat claims he is perfecting the language and uses the power of the state to enforce rules of speech, then it is time to reach for the suitcase — if the word still exists.