Your Silence Will Not Protect You01-08-2023
Clem Cecil translates the speech by the Russian Poet and editor Alla Gutnikova at her trial at which she was accused and convicted of “encouraging minors to take part in demonstrations in support of Alexei Navalny last spring.” Cecil explains: “Their crime, in this case, was simply to say to students, during the period when there were demonstrations against the incarceration of Navalny, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t be bystanders! It is our legal right to express protest by any peaceful means.’” In her speech, Gutnikova says: “I would like to speak about poetry. About how to read contemporary poetry. About Gronas, Dashevsky and Borodin. But now is not the time or place. I will hide my little tender words on the tip of my tongue, at the bottom of my larynx, between my stomach and heart. And I’ll just say a little.” What she says is stirring:
Your silence will not protect you. In the Moscow metro they say: Passengers are forbidden to travel on trains going to dead ends. And St. Petersburg’s ‘Aquarium’ add: this train is on fire. Lao Tzu says via Tarkovsky: the main thing is that they believe in themselves and become helpless, like children. Because weakness is great, and strength is nothing. When a person is born, he is weak and flexible, and when he dies, he is strong and hard. When a tree grows, it is tender and elastic, and when it is dry and hard, it dies. Brittleness and strength are the companions of death. Weakness and flexibility express the freshness of existence. Therefore, what has become hard will not be victorious.
Remember that fear devours the soul. Remember the character in Kafka, who saw ‘how they set up a gallows in the prison yard, mistakenly thought it was for him, escaped from his cell in the night and hanged himself.’
Be like children. Don’t be afraid to ask (yourself and others) what is good and what is bad. Don’t be afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. Do not be afraid to scream, to burst into tears.
Repeat (to yourself and others): 2+2=4. Black is black. White is white. I am a man, I am strong and brave. I am a strong and brave woman. We are strong and brave people.
Freedom is a process, in the course of which you develop the habit of being insusceptible to enslavement.’