Voices from Russia

Monday, 2 January 2017

2 January 2017. Now, Here’s a Read n’ Heed… Brian Eno on 2016/2017

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2017

Andreas Walsh

2016

Andreas Walsh is a local painter who lives in the Hudson Valley south of me and north of NYC. The scene appears to be the Catskills… it may be the hilltop near the Buddhist monastery up the road from Woodstock…

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The consensus among most of my friends seems to be that 2016 was a terrible year, and the beginning of a long decline into something we don’t even want to imagine. Indeed, 2016 was a pretty rough year, but I wonder if it’s the end… not the beginning… of a long decline… or at least the beginning of the end… for I think we’ve been in decline for about 40 years, enduring a slow process of decivilisation, but not really quite noticing it until now. It reminds me of that thing about the frog placed in a pan of slowly heating water…

This decline includes the transition from secure employment to precarious employment, the destruction of unions and the shrinkage of workers’ rights, zero hour contracts, the dismantling of local government, a health service falling apart, an underfunded education system ruled by meaningless exam results and league tables, the increasingly acceptable stigmatisation of immigrants, knee-jerk nationalism, and the concentration of prejudice enabled by social media and the internet. This process of decivilisation grew out of an ideology that sneered at social generosity and championed a sort of righteous selfishness. (Thatcher: “Poverty is a personality defect”. Ayn Rand: “Altruism is evil”). The emphasis on unrestrained individualism had two effects:

  • creating a huge amount of wealth
  • funneling it into fewer and fewer hands.

Right now, the 62 richest people in the world are as wealthy as the bottom half of its population combined. The Thatcher/Reagan fantasy that all this wealth would “trickle down” and enrich everybody else simply hasn’t transpired. In fact, the reverse happened:

  • the real wages of most people have declined for at least two decades
  • their prospects (and the prospects for their children) look dimmer and dimmer.

No wonder people are angry, and turning away from business-as-usual government for solutions. When governments pay most attention to whomever has most money, the huge wealth inequalities we now see make a mockery of the idea of democracy. As George Monbiot said:

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the purse is mightier than the pen.

Last year, people started waking up to this. A lot of them, in their anger, grabbed the nearest Trump-like object and hit the Establishment over the head with it. However, those were just the most conspicuous, media-tasty awakenings. Meanwhile, there’s been a quieter but equally powerful stirring… people are rethinking what democracy means, what society means, and what we need to do to make them work again. People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together. I think we underwent a mass disillusionment in 2016, and finally realised it’s time to jump out of the saucepan.

This is the start of something big. It’ll involve an engagement… not just tweets, and likes, and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too. It will involve realising that some things we’ve taken for granted… some semblance of truth in reporting, for example… can no longer be expected for free. If we want good reporting and good analysis, we’ll have to pay for it. That means MONEY… direct financial support for the publications and websites struggling to tell the non-corporate non-establishment side of the story. In the same way if we want happy and creative children, we need to take charge of education, not leave it to ideologues and bottom-liners. If we want social generosity, then, we must pay our taxes, and we must get rid of our tax havens. Moreover, if we want thoughtful politicians, we should stop supporting merely charismatic ones. Inequality eats away at the heart of a society, breeding disdain, resentment, envy, suspicion, bullying, arrogance, and callousness. If we want any decent kind of future we have to push away from that, and I think we’re starting to.

There’s so much to do, so many possibilities. 2017 should be a surprising year.

1 January 2017

Brian Eno

Facebook

Sunday, 25 December 2016

The Revolutionary Hope of Christmas

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Christmas time can be so depressing. It brings out some of the worst features of capitalism and rubs them in our faces. You can’t escape, whatever your philosophical or religious belief. Advertisements spur on feelings of guilt if you don’t buy enough of the right kinds of consumer products for people you love. They offer creative financing so that lenders can make even more profit. Moreover, it’s an environmental disaster… we produce, cart about, and dump into landfills, vacant lots, and incinerators more plastic, cardboard, and packaging at Christmas time than at any other time of the year. Yet … nearly smothered beneath piles of gift catalogues and sale circulars, nearly drowned in a sea of synthesised elevator-music Christmas carols, in a locked theological vault guarded down through the centuries by legions of preachers, priests, and pontiffs, there burns a persistent secret flame. It’s the flame of a revolutionary hope… hope for a better world, a more just society, where we turn the social order upside down so that we can feed the poor and relieve the rich of their ill-gotten gains. What’s more, it’s something that working people of any culture, any religious or philosophical background can relate to. What does Christmas have to do with the class struggle? In a word… EVERYTHING. The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, in a land far away on the edge of a great empire, there was a people with an ancient culture, a storied past, and a great literature, but a technologically advanced imperial power conquered them. Foreign soldiers occupied them; corrupt local despots who collaborated with the foreign oppressors ruled them. There were periodic revolts of local peasants and slaves, but the occupiers put them down mercilessly. In the midst of all that, a young unmarried girl became pregnant out-of-wedlock. You might think she’d regret this development, but on the contrary, she found in the anticipated birth of a child a reason to rejoice and to hope for a better world. In her joy and determination, she sang an ancient song of liberation:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me-He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

Gospel according to St Luke 1.46-53

She and her fiancée then had to make a difficult journey whilst she was in the last weeks of her pregnancy, ostensibly to comply with the demands of their imperial rulers to register for a census. Local inns denied them lodging. Homeless, the young family took shelter in a stable, where the mother went into labour and gave birth to a baby boy among barnyard animals. This was hardly an auspicious beginning for a child in whom his mother had placed such hope. Yet, things get worse. The local ruler, a collaborator kept in power through the occupation army, decided on an act of terror. Convinced that a revolt was brewing in the village where the young couple had just had their baby, he sent in death squads to kill all the male children under a certain age. Fortunately, someone tipped off the young family; they fled into a neighbouring country. There, they waited until they received news of the death of their corrupt local despot; afterwards, they came back to raise their son in their hometown. When he grew up, the boy became a carpenter. As if to fulfil the revolutionary hope expressed in his mother’s song, he went on to organise a movement for social and economic change. It was a coalition of fishermen, reformed prostitutes, the unemployed, and low-level public servants, with a cross-section of men and women, and people of different ethnic backgrounds. The aims of the movement were clear from the beginning:

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight.

Gospel according to St Luke 3.4-5

He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord.

Gospel according to St Luke 4.18-19

Therefore, when you look at the Christmas story closely, you find a story of working-class people living in difficult times, in circumstances not too different from those faced by millions of people today. These people are aware of their history of struggle. They draw strength from the lessons of the past and nourish hopes and dreams for a better world. Mary, the young mother in the Christmas story is supremely confident that the future will be better. Her song, known as the Magnificat, is nothing less than revolutionary. You can also find this revolutionary aspect of Christmas in the popular Christmas carol O Holy Night (Cantique de Noël). The French socialist Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure wrote the words and the American abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight translated it into English. Adolphe Charles Adam (a friend of Cappeau), a Jew, wrote the music. One verse of the carol states:

Truly, he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease!

Some reactionaries in our own country well understood the political ramifications of this carol and it continues to be controversial. For years, many conservative churches in the USA banned the song and many radio stations in the South refused to play it. So, whenever you get weary of the holidays and all the claptrap that surrounds them, do remember the young family of the Christmas story, how they hoped and dreamed for a revolutionary transformation of their country, and how they persevered in the face of oppression. Whoever you are, have a Merry and Revolutionary Christmas. Furthermore, let’s then enter the New Year resolved to wipe out homelessness, poverty, racism, and injustice once and for all!

22 December 1999

Rev Tim Yeager

Peoples’ World

http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/the-revolutionary-hope-of-christmas-3/

Editor:

Although it may seem otherwise at many times, the Church isn’t an ally or tool of the crapitalist oligarchs (rightwing oligarch-enablers such as Tikhon Shevkunov are noisy, indeed, but they’re not indicative of the entire Church). Indeed, our Holy Patriarch showed the way by his sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Castro family on the death of Comrade Fidel. A new and vibrant synthesis of the best of Christianity and Marxism is aborning… the USA wants to strangle it. It wants to suck out Orthodoxy’s inner reality and replace it with godless “Evangelical” goo. It wants to replace a godly concern with social welfare and social justice with bootless “Pro-Life” placard-waving and empty demonstrations. We should stand for the Real Christ… the Christ who went to the Cross because He pissed off the powers-that-be and the “religious” of His time. We have them with us still… people such as Victor Potapov, Rod Dreher, and John Whiteford are Caiaphas’ willing successors. However… do remember Our Lord Christ’s warning in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares… we can’t remove these rightwing elements without doing undue harm to the Church. Let them be. Let them shout. Let them rant. The Truth WILL out… especially, if we give it a warm welcome in our hearts and souls.

The illustration is the original one in the original post… it’s in the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem (in Palestine). I thought that you’d like to know that. Communism and Christianity are coming together, not only in Russia. Remember what Comrade Zyuganov said… “Christ was the first Communist”. It’s time for us to do likewise… do ponder that…

BMD

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Sputnik International Presents… Moscow Kicks Off Winter Season with Opening of Colourful Skating Rinks

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A fireworks display at the opening of the skating rink at the VDNKh exhibition centre

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The VDNKh rink can accommodate about five thousand people; its area is almost 70,000 square metres (753,474 square feet) (7 hectares: 17.3 acres).

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At the VDNKh rink, the largest in Russia, the decorations have an “Arctic” theme, with figures of Northern animals and imitations of the Northern Lights.

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Fireworks display at the VDNKh rink opening; DUNDU, a famous German light theatre, provided a fantastic Momentum of Lights performance that spectacularly climaxed the celebration

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Theatrical performance at the opening of the skating rink in the Ermitazh Garden

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Visitors took pictures at the Ermitazh Garden rink opening

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The Serebryany Lyod (Silver Ice) skating rink opened at Izmailovsky Park; on opening day, it gave all comers free admission, which was true at many other municipal skating rinks as well

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Skaters at the Lyod (Ice) skating rink in Sokolniki Park

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Winter season officially started in Moscow… massive festivities celebrated the opening of the outdoor skating rinks at the city’s main parks. A beautiful light show took place at VDNKh’s skating rink, which was the largest ice rink in Europe for the third year in a row. Those who attended the opening show of the Ermitazh Garden’s skating rink enjoyed a Venetian carnival. Due to the unique technology used to create it, the Lyod skating rink at Sokolniki Park is one of the most colourful and modern rinks in Moscow as its artificial ice doesn’t depend on the weather.

28 November 2016

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/photo/201611281047914527-skating-rinks-opening-celebration/

Saturday, 5 November 2016

5 November 2016. GREETINGS FROM THE EVIL EMPIRE! Kids WILL Be Kids… And Parents… Parents

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I saw this on a friend’s wall on vK. I did a Google Search by Image, and it seems that this little one is viral all over the RuNet. Those of us from colder climes do remember how our parents wrapped us up during the winter…

The text is a translation of what my friend posted on her wall along with the image.

BMD

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