Voices from Russia

Friday, 17 August 2012

17 August 2012. A Point to Ponder… The Rat Race… Are You Working More and Enjoying Life Less?

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THIS is what the “world”, BOTH “conservative” and “liberal” puts up as a “good”. To speak frankly, I find it more than slightly barmy and ridiculous. Is THIS what you want? Do give it a thought before answering…

BMD

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Patriarch Kirill’s Visit to Poland: Provocations and Obstacles on the Way to Russo-Polish Reconciliation

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The unprecedented visit of Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the MP, to Poland is going to be a historic occasion. The Patriarch will meet with the leading Catholic bishop in Poland, and they’ll jointly promote reconciliation between Russia and Poland. I hope that this noble step will help to dispel at least some of the negative publicity that’s swirled around the Church (and Kirill himself) in recent months. The scandal surrounding Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, as well as several smaller PR sallies against the Church, somewhat overshadowed a much more important fact. Namely, Kirill is, indeed, a very important reformer of our church, who, amongst other things, is seeking to build bridges between Russian Orthodox Christianity and Western churches, primarily with the Catholics.

Formally, the Patriarch is coming to Poland on invitation from Sawa Hrycuniak, the Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland, the First Hierarch of the Church of Poland. However, he’ll also meet with Polish President Bronisław Maria Komorowski, Bogdan Michał Borusewicz, the Marshal of the Polish Parliament, and Metropolitan Archbishop Józef Michalik of Przemyśl, the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference (Catholic). The heads of the Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic churches will issue a joint appeal to the Polish and Russian nations, urging them to take steps towards a true reconciliation, healing the wounds of the tumultuous twentieth century. The appeal will also call on both nations to build a common future together.

If everything works out, this will certainly be a historic event, since it’d be the first visit of a Russian Patriarch to Poland, and the first joint statement coming from the heads of the two churches. Moreover, what’s important this time is that the Russian side covered most of distance dividing the two churches. In mid-July, Patriarch Kirill started his “peace crusade” by making a personal small pilgrimage to the burial site of the Polish officers executed on Stalin’s order in 1940 near the village of Katyń in Smolensk Oblast (Western Russia). There, Kirill consecrated a small church dedicated to the Resurrection, devoted to the memory of those victims of Katyn who were Orthodox Christians. This visit, widely covered in the Polish press, somewhat corrected the image of the head of the Russian Orthodox church, who’s currently demonised in the media of many countries, including Poland.

Can there be problems and obstacles to the visit? Of course, there are such obstacles. Furthermore, the problem is not just Polish nationalists, although Monika Olejnik, Poland’s foremost television commentator, already noted in Gazeta Wyborcza that some leaders of the nationalist Law and Order (PiS) Party would view any meeting with the Russian patriarch as “treason”. However, this time, the main problem isn’t PiS and its main anti-Russian voice, Adam Macieriewicz.

Now, the main problem is that the Patriarch is scheduled to make his appeal on the same day, 17 August, when the district court in Khamovniki in Moscow will start reading the verdict in the case of Pussy Riot. The three female members of the group, who called the Patriarch “a bitch” and “God’s excrement” in the Holy of Holies (before the Royal Doors of Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral), were lionised by nearly all Western press. Unfortunately, most Polish media outlets didn’t make an exception. Many of them made the wrong claim that the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Patriarch himself, called for a severe punishment for the perpetrators (which was not the case… in reality, the Church just refused to get involved in the trial on either side). So, the Pussy Riot action, viewed by many Orthodox believers as a provocation, in truth, couldn’t hit harder… the punks not only insulted the Patriarch, they possibly marred the day that was scheduled to become a day of Russo-Polish reconciliation. If the girls get the punishment of three years demanded by the Prokuratura, it could easily unleash a surge of hate against the Patriarch in the foreign media. The only hope of avoiding embarrassment is that reading the verdict would take more than one day. Then, the Patriarch would face the inevitable barrage of questions on the verdict, not on the reconciliation day, but, probably, 1-2 days later. Patriarch Kirill, being a media-friendly figure, almost never refuses to give press conferences or answer questions.

It is especially sad that Pussy Riot’s provocation, made global by some of the Western pop singers with their copy-cat support for Pussy Riot, hit at the time when Patriarch Kirill was possibly preparing to stretch his hand to the head of the Roman Catholic church, a move long awaited by supporters of Christian unity. In July 2012, during a meeting with the visiting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, widely seen as a preparation to his visit to Catholic Poland, Kirill said that his church and Vatican were linked by a “unity of views on many problems in the sphere of religious guidance and morals”. He called for a joint defence of Christian values by Roman Catholics and Orthodox, along with the world of business, culture, and science. Otherwise, Kirill said, “our modern civilisation will become vulnerable and exposed to attacks”. It already is exposed, unfortunately. The Pussy Riot case proved it to everyone.

10 August 2012

Dmitri Babich

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_08_10/Patriarch-Kirill-s-visit-to-Poland-provocations-as-obstacles-on-the-way-to-Russo-Polish-reconciliation/

Editor’s Note:

Again, one must reiterate that the moral positions of the Church and of the papists are NOT identical… although they’re similar. The two main differences are that the Church is more lenient regarding marriage and artificial birth control, and that Orthodox canons aren’t the same as papist “canon law”. All too many konvertsy interpret the canons with an acerbic and overliteralistic emphasis, destroying the inner meaning of the guidelines. Two main differences separate us from the papists. One is the papacy itself. To restore communion, the papacy would have to renounce all of its errors introduced since 1054… that’s not going to happen, no way, no how. The other obstacle is the legalistic juridical mindset of the papists… that’s not going to change, either.

So, what can we do? We can exchange gestures of sincere friendship… we can stand for the moral right… and we can, at least, not attack one another. More than that isn’t in the cards. I say, “Let’s grasp for what can be realised… let’s throw out all the bloviating ‘ecumenist’ sods who talk big and deliver little”. Unity? That can’t be, without one or the other party becoming what it’s not. Charity? The front gate is unlatched, and the key’s under the mat for all people of good will. Don’t forget to bring the church key and corkscrew, if you will…

BMD

Are Web Abstainers Abnormal?

Some “web abstainers” simply prefer “real life” to “virtual life”… fancy that…

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An article recently published in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reveals a worrying fact. It says that, in the USA, many employers may fire an employee or not give a job to a person if he or she… has no personal page on the Facebook social network. Moreover, such a person may attract the attention of police and doctors. The reason is that people who have no account on a social network are suspected to be antisocial and hard to communicate with. Russian psychologist Nikolai Tumanov totally disagrees with this, saying, “Some people just feel no need to socialise on the Web, preferring live contact with people. Socialising on the Web is a rather special way of communication, and it’s only natural that some people don’t like it. It is everybody’s personal business whether to socialise on the Web or not”.

However, German psychologist Christoph Moller claims positively that a person who lacks an account on a social network is mentally abnormal. Mr Moller’s opinion is based on the examples of the Norwegian Anders Breivik and the American James Holmes, who killed many people for reasons known only to them. Allegedly, both of them had no accounts on any social networks, which, according to Christoph Moller, is evidence that both are antisocial and misanthropic individuals.

Tumanov is strictly against labelling a person as antisocial only because he or she doesn’t like socialising on the Web, noting, “In my opinion, on the contrary, it’s more logical to suppose that a person has some psychological problems if he or she prefers socialising on the Web to personal contact. There are grounds to suppose that such a person finds it hard to communicate with people personally. Besides, social networks are a new phenomenon, and at present, it’s a bit too early to make any conclusions about their influence on people’s psychology. I believe such conclusions might be made only about 20 or 30 years from now”.

Another Russian psychologist, Maria Starkova, who specialises in the psychology of suicide, spoke in even sharper terms about Christoph Moller’s conclusion, “I believe that this conclusion is absolutely groundless, I’d even say it’s stupid. I have many friends, aged mostly over 30, who never socialise on any Web networks, but all of them are absolutely normal people. It is everybody’s right not to socialise on the Web”. There’s another reason why some people don’t socialise on the Web. It’s no secret that, in some countries, social networks are checked by intelligence services. Thus, it’s small wonder that some people don’t hurry to reveal too much information about themselves on the Web.

17 August 2012

Grigori Milenin

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_08_17/Are-Web-haters-abnormal/

Mass Shootings Reignite US Gun Control Fight

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Despite a recent stroke, Bill Badger was determined to show up in court this month to see with his own eyes the man who shot him in the head in a mass shooting 19 months ago at a supermarket in Arizona, one in a series of murderous armed rampages in the United States in recent years. Badger, a retired US Army colonel, a hunter, and lifelong supporter of the pro-gun National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby, said, “It’s changed my life. I’ve made up my mind that I want to do something to help prevent this kind of thing from happening again and again in this country”. The Arizona shooting, which left 6 people dead and 13 injured including Gabriel Giffords, then a member of the US Congress, shattered Badger’s peaceful retirement years and propelled him into the national spotlight of an emotional and peculiarly American debate on how to control citizens’ possession of guns.

With a US presidential election looming, that debate has acquired a fresh urgency as supporters and opponents of tighter restrictions on guns take their cases to the court of public opinion, even as the two main candidates, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, seem eager to stay on the sidelines. Badger’s determination to take action against gun violence was sealed last month, when another mass shooting claimed the lives of 12 people and injured 58 others inside a movie theatre in Aurora CO. in a telephone interview, referring to the Colorado shooting, Badger said, “I was just devastated. It was just like it was January 8th, 2011 all over again, because I know exactly what those people are going through”.

In the days before attending the court appearance of Jared Lee Loughner, the 23-year-old college drop-out diagnosed with schizophrenia who plead guilty to the Arizona shooting, Badger joined two other survivors in a national ad campaign called “Demand a Plan”, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The campaign calls on President Obama, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Romney, to spell out their positions on gun control in unambiguous terms… an effort to bring the policy choices on gun control into sharp focus and to encourage concrete steps to curtail gun violence in the United States. The ad states, “We demand a plan because 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president’s term. That’s three Aurora shootings every day”. Badger and his “Demand a Plan” partners aren’t alone in insisting that US political leaders turn their attention to the gun issue in the wake of all the recent deadly mass shootings.

Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in a statement, “The Tucson survivors have waited nearly 600 days for Washington to take action to end gun violence. The people who want to run this country need to tell us their plans to stop the bloodshed”. Less than an hour after the “Demand a Plan” campaign released its ad to the media, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six worshippers and critically injuring three others. Earlier this week, a gunman opened fire near a university in Texas, killing two people and wounding another two. However, despite the string of mass shootings and the renewed debate in the run-up to the US presidential election in November, experts say Badger and other gun control advocates have a slim shot at limiting either the types of weapons on the streets of America or the people who have access to them. Kristin Goss, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, and the author of , said, “Gun control is a radioactive political issue in this country and not one that either party is going to have either the courage or the conviction to address”.

Tom Mauser, whose 15-year-old son Daniel was killed in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton CO, voiced similar scepticism that Obama, Romney, and other US political leaders would attempt to change the status quo, saying, “We just go from one mass shooting to the next to the next. Our leaders are just frozen in place. I hope someday they’re more nervous about upsetting me than they are about upsetting the gun lobby, but we’re not there yet”. After the Sikh temple shooting, Obama called for “soul-searching” on gun control and Romney lamented the “tragedy”. In spite of this, neither even hinted at the more specific action gun control advocates want. Despite the pleas from relatives of victims in the recent Colorado shooting for tougher gun laws, gun sales and classes in that state are booming, and supporters of gun ownership say gun control has failed.

The two most recent mass shootings occurred in “gun-free zones” like schools, businesses, and places of worship. Those restrictions, gun supporters argue, only kept victims from being armed and able to protect themselves. Erich Pratt, Communications Director for Gun Owners of America, said, “Gun ownership probably is more American than apple pie. This truly was a cherished liberty, the right to bear arms. The Founding Fathers truly felt it was a right from God, and certainly they used their guns to throw off the tyranny of King George, so we really distinguished ourselves in our ability to defend ourselves”.

Yet, the notion that Americans have a basic right to possess almost any type of gun and to carry it in any manner they choose is being called into question, even in some unlikely quarters. Recently, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an influential conservative, said that the US “Founding Fathers” intended limitations on this right, saying on Fox News Channel last month, “They had some limitation on the nature of arms that could be borne. So, we’ll see what those limitations are as applied to modern weapons”.

17 August 2012

Maria Young

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/crime/20120817/175282470.html

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