When I was a kid and the Cold War was on, and we all talked about what we’d do when, not if! the four minute warning went off, the Russians are coming! was a genuine threat. Well, I suppose not, strictly speaking the Russians, but the Soviets.
The capitalists and the communists didn’t get on for, oh, a hundred years, and, for thirty of those, things looked pretty grim. We thought it was all over, though, didn’t we? What with Glasnost and Perestroika, and good old Gorbachev! The ‘80s came along and everything started to look a whole lot better for the World, at least when it came to the threat of all-out nuclear war between the super powers.
It’s the little things, though, isn’t it? Or, at least, the things that seem little, but which are embedded so deeply in our society and speak so thoroughly to our character, to how we identify as people, both as individuals and as communities, that really mark us out, and alter our standing on the World stage.
In April, New Zealand passed its Equal Marriage Act. This is how they celebrated in parliament. What could possibly be nicer or more moving?
I heard, this morning that the Russian parliament, yesterday, unanimously passed a law that prohibits providing information on homosexuality to anyone under eighteen. Yes, that’s right, unanimously! There was not a single dissenting voice, not a single gay member of parliament, apparently, nor one with a single gay relation, it seems.
This means, of course, that those most in need of help, advice, counsel and compassion will not receive it. Gay teenagers will be stigmatised in a modern, first World society. Teachers could be under threat of losing their jobs if they talk to their gay students about issues they might have, or answer questions relating to their sexuality, and could end up with criminal records because of it... In the first World... in the twenty-first century.
|Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina|
of Pussy Riot in a courtroom in Moscow
If this weren’t absurd enough, this nasty piece of legislation was passed on the same day as another law, imposing jail sentences on those who offend religious believers, reinforcing the convictions, for protesting in an orthodox cathedral, of two members of the punk band, Pussy Riot.
It is hard to separate those two things in one’s mind, isn’t it? Where there is what is laughingly called religious conviction, where believers of all stripes are involved, hatred never seems very far away. It is not for the believer to be offended, surely? Didn’t Jesus, at least, teach us to turn the other cheek? Didn’t he preach love?
The latest line from the Catholic church is that if one knows about the Catholic church, but one does not join her and remain in her, one cannot be saved and go to heaven when one dies.
It seems to me that there is increasing polarisation between secular and religious communities. It worries me. Polarisation of ideas always worries me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be a little more inclusive, a little more thoughtful, a little more moderate, a little more accepting? What are we so afraid of?
Cameron and Clegg make a mess so we head to UKIP and the BNP for political solace? Why? It makes no rational sense. It’s like being in a storm and working our way out to the edges when we could try, instead, to find the calm and peace and still of the centre.
I want to be a thinker and I want to have a spiritual element in my life, and I want to respond emotionally to things. I want to feel calm and rational, and I want to respond to ideas. I can’t do that if I’m angry, and I can’t do that if I’m dogmatic and I can’t do that if I already believe that I am right about everything.
That’s what these people do, whether their convictions are political or religious; they close their hearts and their minds and they harden their souls, and every new idea and every act of love and every opportunity to change for the better bounces clean off them.
I do not know if Russia showed her true colours, yesterday. I am very sad if she did. I know that the backlash has begun. I know that the brave are already protesting for their right to be heard and to be accepted. They fought their battle for homosexuality to be decriminalised, and they won it, twenty years ago, in Russia, and now they have to fight it all over again.
I wish them well.