Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

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