MS ZiYou Pussy Riot Posters

The freedom we take for granted

Freedom – what is it? On this blog, I talk about financial freedom a lot. To me reaching financial freedom or financial independence is the goal, where I no longer have to trade my time for money. However, that such a first worldview of someone who has a safe and secure life. I live in a developed country with a thriving economy. We have a social safety net. And free medical treatment.

Moreover, we have the political freedom to vote in our leaders. And freedom of speech and the right to protest. Both of which, to be honest, I take for granted. People say you tend to anchor yourself to what you know and treat it as the norm. And I never used to give much thought or truly appreciate this.

But not everyone is as lucky as me. At the Edinburgh Fringe, I was reminded of my privilege when we saw Pussy* Riot.

* (I never thought I’d use that word on my blog, however as it’s used in a positive reclaiming the word I reluctantly approve of its use).

Pussy Riot

Ms ZiYou Pussy Riot

And who are Pussy Riot? They are a Russian protest group – feminist, punk activists. What’s not to like about them? They came to fame with a punk prayer protest in a Russian church, playing punk music and challenging the church’s support of Putin. And this got them arrested.

Some members of the group served a few years in jail for this protest. Nonetheless, their activism and campaigning continued. As did the Russian governments’ attempts to suppress them. More recently they invaded the pitch at the 2018 World Cup final.

And in 2018, they also brought their show Pussy Riot: Riot Days to the Edinburgh Fringe.

More details about them here: Pussy Riot Wiki.

Why they protest

Pussy Riot are an anti-authorisation feminist protest group.

Their concerns in current day Russia centre on the absolute power held by Putin, and the networks that shore up that power. Hence the protest in the Moscow church, as they accuse the church of supporting his authoritative regime.

Feminism is also on their agenda, albeit feminism in modern-day Russia. They don’t agree with the Russian ideal of a women’s place and the overt sexualisation of females.

Ultimately, they are protesting for freedom. For local, more devolved government where individuals can make choices that impact them. Where power is not wielded from afar, but by a local consensus by people with boots on the ground. And where women are treated as equals to men.

Impact on me

Sadly I was not able to see them perform, but we did see them out leafleting in the rain (photo above). And they certainly made an impact on me personally. I am in awe of them; a big fan who admires their bravery and tenacity. (And one day dreams that I could be as strident and brave as them).

Here was a group whose political protests were treated as criminal in their home country. They were subject to threats and intimidation on an ongoing basis in Russia, all for non-violent political activism.

Whereas their actions were celebrated and encouraged in the UK. They were welcomed in Edinburgh and got great support from the public. And they were far from the most controversial act at the fringe.

They had no danger of arrest and were free to say whatever they wanted in Edinburgh. And even criticise the government without repercussions. Which must have felt strange and unusual for them.

Gratitude for my freedom

Moreover, seeing the group members so enthusiastically out and about campaigning made me feel grateful.

Ms ZiYou Pussy Riot

The political freedom we have is powerful. I can vote for whoever I want and more importantly campaign for whoever I want. Publically I am able to criticise and challenge politicians. Additionally, the press generally holds politicians to account and scrutinises their actions for us.

I often wonder how different my life would be if I was born in another country. Would I be able to cope with the repression? And on the feminist side, how would I cope in a country where women are treated as second class citizens and have few rights?

I’m not saying the UK is perfect (we are far from it), but I have to acknowledge that we are towards the top of the pack for individual rights and freedoms. I can be whatever I want to be – and only have to deal with the opinions of the conservative side of society, rather than being arrested and imprisoned. And that is better than most people on the planet. I am lucky.

Financial freedom is about more than the money

And onto a phrase, I’m afraid I tend to overuse. Financial independence is about more than the money to me. It’s the freedom to use my time as I want, and volunteer for causes I truly believe in. I’m privileged that I live in a country where that is considered acceptable and normal.

And in 2018, money is what makes the world go round – to achieve your basic needs of food and shelter, a base level of money is required. Financial independence will give me this base level of income and allow me to cut off that link between my time and money.

Then the next segment of my life will begin when I have removed that link. All my basic needs will be met from my investments, and my time will all be my own.

I will be free to travel whenever I want. And I plan to do so, to broaden my horizons. I want to slow travel and meet people in different communities. Then see how people in other parts of the world really live, not the sanitised version we see on the TV.

Freedom will also allow me to be more political, and use my skills to help charities and non-profits that align with my viewpoint. And ultimately it’s not just about me, it’s about making the world a better place for all that live here.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Are you also a fan of Pussy Riot?
  • Freedom – what does it mean to you?
  • Do you feel you have freedom?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.


17 comments on “The freedom we take for granted

  1. Thanks for this post – while the UK definitely has its problems, at least people can speak their minds and take to the streets. Here in Thailand it can be easy to forget that we live under a military dictatorship, but for those who are fighting for human rights and democracy, it’s a completely different situation – they face violence, arrest, and multiple lawsuits. And that’s before we even start looking at what’s happening in neighbouring countries where rights and freedoms are under attack.

  2. Great post!
    I believe there is no absolute “freedom” if we choose to partake in modern civilisation. This is because we cannot do what we want without consequence, as we are governed by the state. But there is relative freedom and financial security / independence can bring you closer to freedom. It gives you more options too!
    Not a fan of Pussy Riot (I cannot name one if their songs), but I am a supporter of free speech and the right to have a peaceful protest.

    1. Hi Leon – that’s an interesting thought that I’m taking a while to process – that modern civilisation does not offer absolute freedom.

      I’m not a fan of pussy riot for their music – just for their activism alone. Hence I didn’t go to their show – 3 hours of punk rock it not really for me!

  3. I think that we choose our freedom and choose our captivity. To say that there is no absolute freedom in modern civilisation forgets that Ms ZiYou probably travelled to Edinburgh by modern train or plane to Edinburgh as did Pussy Riots and the thousands of other performers and attendees at the fringe.
    The infrastructure of modern society gives us now greater freedom than at any point on our history and don’t forget that. Getting caught up on government control is about as silly as moaning about being governed by gravity meaning hillwalking is pointless when we should all be able to float to the moon.

    1. Some good points there GFF – although I’m pretty certain I have much more freedom than Pussy Riot & the opposition to our government is not likely to be murdered.

  4. I was at the Fringe this weekend too – seeing the equally contentious Nick Cope with is funny songs about Poo and Dragons!
    I was going to post about it but think that it might just bore everyone.
    The book festival was great though (if you like books).

  5. Because of the political situation in the US and my background as a second-generation Asian-American immigrant of Taiwanese descent, I’ve given some real thought to my political freedoms, and whether, er, there’s a possible scenario where they’d take away the citizenship of people like me. They’ve done a lot of things in the immigration area that were previously unthinkable, the family separation, the plans for a “de-naturalization force”, and the first formulation of the travel ban. The most extreme possible formulation of something that takes away birthright citizenship (penned by a former Trump administration official, though, to be fair, his stance is not accepted by even ultra-conservative legal commentators, search for Michael Anton’s editorial in the Washington Post), that the children of noncitizens should not be citizens, technically means I won’t be a citizen either. My parents were legal permanent residents/Green Card holders when I was born, and weren’t yet naturalized citizens themselves. To be completely fair, he noted that people like me are protected by SCOTUS precedent, but well, precedents can always be overturned, though probably not one like that. So I think the “only citizens’ children are citizens” thing is sloppy wording on his part that overstates his point…

    Nonetheless, as an attorney, I’m trained to think about even very unlikely worst case scenarios, so yes, I have thought about where I’d go if forced to leave the US, and between where I thought I could find work and where I could get legal status, it’s most likely Hong Kong or Taiwan, maybe Mainland China…

    And that opens up a whole other can of worms on the political freedom front. I spent a lot of time working in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2012, and there’s been a pretty dramatic reversal to their fortunes when it comes to long-term hopes of political freedom and technical independence from Mainland China/the PRC. In 2009, it was unthinkable to me that their freedom of speech would ever seriously be eroded (they’ve never really had universal suffrage and that’s probably still off the table). Since then, previously unthinkable things that don’t bode well for long-term freedoms have happened: the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders, the disappearing of certain bookshop owners, including (possibly, it may be disputed) from within HK itself and Thailand. Anyway, I clearly have an atypical perspective and an excessive tendency to catastrophize, but one of the big lessons from my undergrad specialty (Chinese politics and history) was that no scholar in the field thought, before it happened, that the PRC state would crack down on the Tiananmen Square protestors the way they did. (It may only have been my advisors, who were already established academic at the time, that thought this, I’ve never researched for myself to confirm, but they were very emphatic about this point.)

    1. Thanks for sharing Xin – that is such a good reminder of all the privileges I have living in the land of my ancestors.

      And wow – I am impressed at all the thought and planning you have put into this – that is an amazing analysis of the situation in the US and HK.

      1. Haha I realized my comment could come across a bit intense (and the US and HK situations are ultimately very different things). Should the outlandish happen on the US immigration front to me, or people like me, I don’t think there’s a scenario in which it could be permanent, but it’d take at least a few days to hash out in court, probably mostly by the ACLU, maybe, and a few weeks for the dust to settle (and months after for the lawsuits to be fully litigated).

        And the situation in HK is just sad, and I don’t think it gets enough international attention. That the issue would eventually come up was probably foreshadowed by the terms of the handover from the UK to China, but I really feel like people still had no idea of what was actually coming and what it would look like as late as 2012-ish, at least on university campuses there. I definitely didn’t think that by 2017, university administrators would be telling their students that it’s illegal to even discuss wanting HK’s political independence, which is just shocking to me in a society that so recently had what seemed to be completely free speech! (HK is still a place where tens of thousands, possibly more than 100,000, people come out every year to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, so…)

        1. I agree Xin – I think we tend to overlook the HK situation and pretend it’s all as we left it under UK rule – when without the rose tinted glasses the reality is really much, much closer to mainland China.

          1. I’ve followed some of Pussy Riot’s exploits on the news but apart from knowing that several members of their group had been imprisoned, I don’t know a lot else about them.

            I don’t often think of my own situation as a second generation immigrant and the freedoms I enjoy – perhaps i blindly assume that all will be ok for me here in the UK.

            Various members of my family took part and fully supported the peaceful ‘Umbrella Movement’ protests in Hong Kong in 2014 – As @Xin mentions, free speech and democracy in HK is being eroded by ‘Motherland China’. If it ever got too bad, my family I guess would just relocate back to the UK. Oh but wait…see second paragraph!

            When UK handed HK back to China in 1997, there were visions of everyone being ‘one people’ again, albeit separated by language. I doubt very much that China ever imagined that the word ‘independence’ would really ever be uttered by Hongkongers. However, it’s very much a ‘them and us’ situation there – there is no ‘one people’.

          2. Hi Weenie – yes, that’s such a difficult situation in HK – and at least your parents will always have options.

            And the visions of one people do seem very naive – with such different lived experiences and freedoms how can that be possible?

What do you think?