In Krasnoyarsk, Russia, goths and emos are protesting the laws banning piercing, black-pink clothing and hair styles. Last Saturday, about 150 youngsters demanded that the Russian Duma should rather work on more serious things than try to control youth self-expression.
I am writing these lines from a predominantly Catholic country, Lithuania, which enjoys not just a plethora of beautiful medieval churches and their respectful congregations. But it has a very strong youth rock and goth subcultures, the representatives of which often base their belief systems on something other than Catholicism and Christianity. Some local headbangers and goths adhere to Nietzschean nihilism, Satanism, or atheism, but it seems to me that the majority seek spiritual accord with the heathen faith of their forefathers. Lithuania, last Christianized in Europe, is a fertile soil for Pagan revival. Rasos Svente, a Pagan holiday of love, is a national holiday. Romuva, a Pagan church, is officially registered. There are festivals celebrating the pagan heritage. There are rock and metal bands mingling hard guitar riffs with authentic bagpipes. Yes, folks, Lithuania prides itself in its pre-Christian tradition.
Hence, even though the dressed-in-black teens may freak out local conservatives, nobody is seriously trying to shut them down in any way. Of course, Lithuanian authorities go harsh on some intolerant rightwing groups propagating neo-Nazi ideas, but seriously… these groups are not as well-spotted here than in Russia, where some extreme nationalists infiltrated even the popular political parties.
Here’s my stance. I believe that intolerance and extremism is one thing, it should be dealt with and decisively acted upon. But let us not confuse youth self-expression with extremism.
Belarus is a good example where the most harmless youth groups are taken for some bad guys which pose some threat either to the population (that’s the officially circulated pretense) or to the regime (this pretense is not publicly spoken about but is a more probable one). An example is the Belarusian Christian Democracy. This informal group united under Christian principles and plans to register as a political party. Their leader, Paval Sieviaryniec, is one of the most charismatic young politicians in Belarus, an ex-chair of Malady Front (Young Front) and a true believer.
I am writing about this, as one of my colleagues and coauthors of westki.info, Kastus Shytal, was recently detained twice as he visited a gathering of Catholic youth and distributed there a Christian youth newspaper “Pramien” (Sun Beam). He serves on the constituent committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy and is surely on a black list in his home region of Dokshytsy.
Here’s what happens. Russian goths and emos are protesting against the creeping totalitarianism in Russia, demanding freedom of self-expression. Meanwhile, Belarusian Christians get arrested for attempts to express their views freely.
Totally different is life in Vilnius, Lithuania. Christians and goths alike can enjoy the greatness of democracy in action. Some Christians and heathens may be not quite amicable toward one another, but they can peacefully coexist. And this is the virtue of freedom.