On the second day of May 1923 Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton died of a heart attack at the age 54.
history has somewhat bypassed Lady Constance, but in 1909 she was arrested, imprisoned and when she went on hunger strike she was forced fed. Lady Constance was a suffragette, but as a ‘Lady’ each time she was arrested she was separated from the other suffragette and released, it was only when she was arrested and gave her name as Jane Warton was she ‘allowed’ to treated as an equal (an interesting to corollary to Andrew Mitchell who allegedly called Police ‘fucking plebs’ and had I done I would have been arrested for a ‘breach of the peace’ – but he is a Government Minister).
A few days ago Yekatrina Samutsevich was released from jail in Russia on the grounds that she was not part of the Pussy Riot – I am using the Russian State’s language – incitement to religious hatred protest on the grounds she has been removed from the Cathedral before the protest took place. It seems in their haste to prosecute the Russian State forgot that to commit a crime you actually have to be there, or at least take part. I have to admit I was a little disappointed that she hugged her comrades and left prison, leaving the two other members of Pussy Riot to be taken to a detention facility. I felt cheated that someone ‘escaped’ – martyrs are supposed to remain in prison. Whilst the other member of the Pussy Riot Collective were happy to see her released, it was only a few days after that Yekatrina resumed her protest, but even better Yekatrina can now tell the story of the conditions faced my her comrades.
Thinking about this story I couldn’t help but wonder what made a martyr, what raises one protest from the crowd to spark revolutions, what made Rosa Parkes refusal set the United States on the path to the Civil Rights Movement by simply being too tired to move to the ‘black’ part of the Bus in Alabama, what was different about a Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself alight that ignited the Arab Spring and felled Mubarak and Gaddafi, more than likely Assad – what is the essential ingredient to be a succesful martyr?
Information Technology is definitely a factor, but there has to be passion, despair, there has be commitment and, unfortunately, something evil, something wrong with the society, that society has to be on the verge of collapse. Martyrdom has to illustrate the brutality of the status qou, make us and the world question.
I looked recently at the picture of Dori Rainey, the 84-year-old woman Pepper Sprayed in the Occupy Seattle, and I saw the indiscriminate brutality of capitalism, and I saw the transient nature of martyrdom in the 21st Century, Pussy Riot are yesterday’s news, the Occupy Movement flourished and died, well to those do not share the ideals of a fair society.
I ask you one question – what do you believe in so much that you would be prepared to die for, if you believe in anything that strongly?
I am socialist, and I leave you with Red Flag
Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.