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A Russian artist nailed his genitals to pavement in Red Square as an act of protest

The considered opinion of the world’s top intelligence agency is that the Russian government had meddled in several elections, most famously in 2016. In that year’s closely contested election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Kremlin chose the former and, according to both domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, tried to put their thumb on the scale for Trump. It should come as no shock that a country who has no problem trampling all over citizens’ rights in other countries could be honing those skills on their own people.

That’s why stories like the one I just read about an artist in Russia who nailed his genitals to the pavement in protest of his country’s “police state,” I’m less than shocked. As reported by The Independenta Russian news site got footage of a young man who decided to strip down, walk into the middle of street and nail his junk to the street.

Pyotr Pavlensky, who sat for an hour and a half outside the Lenin Mausoleum with the nail through his testicles yesterday, described his ‘Fixation’ act as “a metaphor for apathy, political indifference and [the] fatalism of modern Russian society”.

Pavlensky obviously has balls, but he clearly has them in the metaphorical sense as well. The way in which Russian law enforcement operates is no big secret to the rest of the world. Members of the anti-Putin, anti-oligarchy punk rock band Pussy Riot have been harassed and jailed by their government because their songs challenge Putin’s authority. Locking people up for artistic demonstrations is not in any way out of the norm for the Russian government, and Pavlensky could have even faced a couple weeks in jail for his act.

The 29-year old performer, who timed his stunt to coincide with Police Day yesterday, faced spending 15 days in custody but was freed today. It is not yet clear whether he will be re-arrested, after a judge ruled that documents had been presented incorrectly in court.

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This wasn’t Mr. Pavlensky’s first public display of dissent in his performance art, either. Earlier this year he staged another protest in front of the Russian parliament building. 

In May, protest artist Pavlensky attracted attention by wrapping barbed wire around his naked body outside St Petersburg’s parliament, a symbol for human existence inside a “repressive legal system”.

In fact, back in 2012, Pavlensky put his body through more physical pain and potential scarring to support Pussy Riot when some of their members were put in jail.

In July 2012 he sewed his lips together and stood outside St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral in support of the jailed Pussy Riot protesters.

Things are NOT good in Russia. While there might exist some partisan reasons for pretending that Russia isn’t so bad — particularly if you voted for and still support the D-list reality TV game show host in the Oval Office. But facts are facts and stories of their government’s rampant human rights abuses of its own citizens should give everyone pause before deciding that getting cozy with Vlad Putin is something we want to do.

“As the government turns the country into one big prison, stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, is bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction.”

This story does make me wonder, though, how Trump would handle someone protesting him this way. Sure, he’d probably never see it, because his handlers would make sure of that. But if he loses his Trumpian mind over kneeling NFL players, imagine how apoplectic someone nailing his balls to the street in a big “F You” would be to him.

Let’s hope for all our sake that things don’t get so bad here that nailing our happy bits to the streets seems a better alternative to the status quo.


Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.

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