I promised I wasn’t going to say anything about Russia or Ukraine because to be quite honest, I am not an international relations expert and my voice would provide nothing of value, especially in these early days when people were unsure what’s going on and information needed to get out there. But I guess since there’s a classic rock connection now, I guess it’s time for me to come out and stand on my soapbox and speak my mind. I think we should normalise listening and asking questions when we’re not sure, and admitting that we don’t have the answers to everything. And that’s okay. No one can be an expert in everything. I don’t know anything about international relations, but I can say this, things are getting out of hand and I’m worried about what will happen. I’m seeing worrying patterns: history is repeating itself. I’m seeing a new Red Scare. Is it the 1980s? Is it the 1950s? But with worse music and fashion (I’d rather wear 80s clothing than today’s clothing, sue me)?
As always, I am 100% anti-war. I hate systems, not people, because I was taught to see people as individuals. Looking at the news regarding this topic has made me feel uneasy. Sure it doesn’t affect me personally because I live in a country that is neutral and on the other side of the continent, far from any fighting, but it could easily turn into a WWIII and well… is this the monkey’s paw? I know I said I was curious about living in previous decades, but you know I wanted to enjoy the pop culture: movies, music, theatre as it was coming out, not the historical events and tragedies. I’m not even 30 yet and in a way I feel like I’ve lived through the 1910s and 1920s. What’s next? The 1940s? I feel so powerless. It bothers me seeing the rich pleading the working class to open up their pocketbooks and give money to this cause or that cause. Oh why don’t you pay your taxes so we don’t have to rely on degrading things like charity? Why don’t you forgo that trip, that yacht, that holiday home. The rich are the ones with money to spare! Not the poor! Giving a few thousand for them is peanuts. Also rich people (particularly thinking about George Takei and Stephen Colbert), stop telling working class people that higher petrol prices are a patriotic duty. People could barely afford day to day living costs as it was. Can’t imagine how much worse things will be with inflation and rising petrol prices. Where’s the public transport? Where’s the green energy? I digress.
Anyway, you know what’s been going on in the news. Pretty much all the multinational companies are pulling out of Russia and it’s not out of the kindness of their hearts or any ethical reasons. Everything from Russians being financially disconnected from the world so Russian freelancers and content creators can’t get paid and Russians can’t get money from family living abroad or send money to family abroad to companies denying payments from and services to people who live in Russia to multinationals with Russian branches shutting down leaving many people without jobs to Russian athletes being banned from competing. Even internationally there are effects: petrol prices skyrocketing, RT closing international operations leaving people without jobs, Russian restaurants (even ones owned by Ukrainians or anti-war/anti-Putin Russians) being boycotted, performative boycotts of Russian vodka, Russian ballet troupes (many of which have dancers from Ukraine) having performances cancelled, even Russian cats banned from competitions (because yes, cats are the ones responsible for the invasion). Ultimately these sanctions hurt the common people more than they hurt the oligarchs. By all means sanction the oligarchs, but don’t hurt the common people. At the end of the day, working class people worldwide have a lot more in common with each other than say, a working class American has in common with an American millionaire or billionaire. The colour that matters most in society is green, after all.
Think about it, would you really say let’s boycott all Chinese restaurants because of Uyghurs being oppressed? Should we boycott all businesses owned by people of Chinese ancestry? Isn’t that xenophobic? What makes Russia different?
And of course we can’t forget about Ukraine being invaded and millions of people being displaced, running away wherever they can get asylum. Those left behind are stuck in underground metro stations and bomb shelters, hoping to survive. Babies are being born in these bomb shelters and underground stations. Ukrainian soldiers risking their lives to save their country. Of course, I stand with the people of Ukraine. Any rational person would. What’s going on right now is an invasion. It’s a crime against humanity. Ukraine isn’t Russia. If they wanted to be part of Russia, they would have stayed part of Russia, but they didn’t. We all know that what Ukrainians are going through is awful, but we can’t forget about other groups of people being screwed over. Just because one group is going through something that’s “worse” doesn’t negate other groups’ suffering.
I mean if these companies were all about ethics, why not pull out of Saudi Arabia? China? The United States? Israel? Britain? Why are countries still buying petrol from Saudi Arabia, a country that oppresses women and has committed genocide on Yemen? No country is innocent and all countries have dark histories, because people in general, regardless of where they come from, are awful. There’s not one country you’ll find on this planet that’s free of prejudice and injustice. So don’t try to act smug because you’re not from the US or China or whatever other world superpower. And even then there are people in these big countries who hate what the government are doing. There are brave people in Russia taking to the streets and protesting. There are many American anti-imperialist voices. There are many Chinese people who hate the CCP. It’s wrong to generalise about any group of people. We need to stop and question ourselves when we feel these knee-jerk, reactionary, prejudiced thoughts coming. Take a step back and remember that we’re all human at the end of the day.
I think the same thing about companies doing “activism” when it comes to them changing their colours to rainbow every June for Pride Month. It’s just a cynical ploy to distract from injustices: the exploitation of workers, the destruction of our planet, how they’re corrupt and lobby governments. Pinkwashing. I have no problem with rainbows and genuine celebration of LGBT people and people actually doing substantial things to help the LGBT community, I’m part of that community. But I have a problem with companies co-opting revolutionary imagery to hide that they are oppressing people and harming the planet.
Anti-Russian sentiment is growing and I see a lot of people saying irrational things about people based on the part of the earth they were born on. You know the expression ‘history repeats itself’ – well, we’ve been seeing it for a long time. Mainstream media banging on about Russia for the past five, six years, that primed people, manufactured consent for the sanctions and upcoming war. When you hear something over and over again you start to believe it. All over the media, even in pop culture, you hear “Russia bad” over and over again, you’re conditioned to think that. If you dare to deviate from that opinion and think “hey maybe we should treat Russian people as individuals and people aren’t their governments” or “hey maybe not everything in the world is Russia’s fault, I mean how much free time do you think Russia has”, you get shamed and called an “apologist” or “sympathiser”. I’m exhausted.
I’m worried about people starting to accuse Russian-Americans of having dual loyalties. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Look at how Jewish Americans are treated – “because they’re Jewish, they must be loyal to Israel and they’re not true Americans”. Jewish people will sometimes get an unsolicited “Free Palestine” in their comments sections even if they’re not talking about Israel or they’re not Israeli. It’s definitely happened to me. Jewish people often feel uncomfortable in left wing spaces (*raises hand* Even though I left the religion a long time ago, I still feel uncomfortable seeing Gentiles generalising about Jewish people and oversimplifying or just getting things wrong about Jewish history). Look at how Japanese-Americans were treated during WWII. It didn’t matter how Americanised they were or how many generations their family were in America. Their loyalties were questioned and without due process, Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps and had their freedom taken away from them. Yes, even American born ones, even third generations. All because of their ancestry. Who knows how far this will go? I wouldn’t be surprised if third generations get their loyalties questioned. Russia was an even larger country at the turn of the century and Russian territory extended into the Baltic countries, Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Poland, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. So depending on when your ancestors immigrated, you might be targeted too if America uses the same approach that they used against Japanese-Americans. It’s not the largest diaspora so I can imagine a lot of blood thirsty war hawk Americans won’t give it a thought. America’s not the only country that interned people of Japanese descent either. Canada did as well. While less talked about and to a much lesser extent, I think we should note that German-Americans and Italian-Americans were imprisoned in internment camps.
Sure, Russians for the most part are white and would blend in visually among other white people, but it doesn’t mean there’s no prejudice.
Russophobia doesn’t just affect Russians, but also anyone mistaken for Russian. Many Eastern European people get mistaken for Russian, similar to Latin Americans getting mistaken for Mexican (that’s happened to me a lot). Prejudice is never okay. Hate systems. Hate governments. Don’t hate common people. All war is going to do is hurt the working class. That’s the message of CCR’s “Fortunate Son”. The rich want to fight each other but they’re too chicken to do it so they send the poor as their little GI Joes to fight each other. There are no true winners in a war. Each side loses people. The young men dying on each side were “Some Mother’s Son” as The Kinks sang in 1969. Russophobia won’t end the war. It will only give ammo to Putin. Closing off Russian people to western things will only further propagandise people. We absolutely should take Ukrainian refugees, and we should take Russian refugees too. We should have for a long time because of the homophobia and antisemitism in Russia. Russophobia won’t encourage Russian soldiers to defect, and isn’t that what we want so the war can end?
And I am sick and tired of people race baiting in all these discussions. Just stop, it’s only going to increase tensions. People can care about more than one thing and for people in Europe, this invasion is going on in their backyard. Of course they’re going to be talking about it a lot! I have family from Venezuela (many of whom are refugees), believe me, I don’t think they want people race baiting when it comes to refugees. It’s not helping anyone. It’s not a productive discussion. Oppression Olympics never goes well.
And finally we get to the title of this blog post, Pink Floyd and Russia. Pink Floyd are a political band no doubt and as I’m writing this, I’m brainstorming and planning my socialist classic rockers blog post for International Workers’ Day. David Gilmour and Roger Waters will be talked about in that post, alongside a bunch of other musicians, some you’ll know for sure and others you may not know about. Overall I like their political views, but no matter how much you idolise a celebrity, you need to think critically and “Think For Yourself” (that’s a Beatles song). You don’t always have to agree with your idols. You’ll never 100% agree with anyone. You may remember that earlier this year, I wrote about the feud between Neil Young and Joe Rogan. At first I mistakenly thought Neil Young was taking a principled stance on an issue that matters to him and personally affected him as a polio survivor and the father of disabled children. I reacted a little early and didn’t take the time to really unpack everything and see what happened after his music was removed from Spotify. He promoted Amazon Music. Now, Spotify are not an ethical company. They pay musicians poorly. Amazon though, they’re no paragon of ethics. I think what Neil Young did was a virtue signal. Absolutely. It was to get attention. Surely on Amazon or Apple Music, there’s content by awful creators and podcasts by anti-vax quacks, but I don’t see him complaining about that. He has every right to remove his music from whatever platform. Free speech goes in multiple directions. I can call it out as a virtue signal.
Now, not all of Pink Floyd’s music is being pulled from Russian and Belarusian streaming services. Only their music from 1987 onwards (Roger Waters left the band by this point) and David Gilmour’s solo work. This is where I think David Gilmour differs from Neil Young. I think David Gilmour is sincere and wants the world to be a better place. Generally speaking, I like to assume good faith of people, until I see otherwise. It’s just better for my mental health. I don’t know how pulling your music out of Russia will help anything or is anything substantial for solidarity with Ukraine. It’s just window dressing. It’s like restaurants getting rid of Russian dressing or telling people to stop spelling Kyiv as Kiev. Feels like Freedom Fries over again. I think the better move is to donate any money made in Russia and Belarus to helping Ukrainian refugees (certainly getting banned by Putin is more of a statement than leaving on your own volition). Music brings people comfort and Pink Floyd’s music has a great message. To be honest, I think a lot of the cultural and business boycott of Russia is from pressure and not because people really want to do it, it’s not about morals, it’s about PR. You can’t touch Russia these days without getting cancelled. Guess I better stop listening to Kino, even though Viktor Tsoi would never agree with what’s going on now. One of their best known songs is an anti-war song “Gruppa Krovi”, translates to “Blood Type”. Give it a listen (English lyrics here):
As Pink Floyd sang in 1979 on The Wall, “Bring the boys back home”.
To reiterate. I hate war. I hate Biden. I hate Putin. I think they’re both war criminals. I hate prejudice. I hate violence. I hate imperialism. I want peace. I want equality. We’re all human. I am always on the side of peace and love.
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