Irreverent Leaders Speak Truth to Power: WWPRD (What Would Pussy Riot Do?)

Pussy Riot is a brilliant, controversial model for a viral art movement, irreverent, organized and leaderless. In honor of the madness of today’s full moon, here’s an inspiring and irreverent cartoon from the Guardian.

Adapting the phrase WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), popularized in the 1990s by Dan Seaborn, Jeffrey Lewis has created a cd, What Would Pussy Riot Do? and published with Rough Trade a related book celebrating the Russian punk rock activists.

In his cartoon he proposes a kind of ethics of Pussy Riot, looking at different situations and proposing a punk democratic solution. It’s a combination of silly game and political commentary, proposing a revolutionary leadership on all levels of society, modeling a masked, brave and anonymous action. Of course, for most of us, even for Pussy Riot, with three members in detention, anonymity is a luxury that can’t be maintained.

But the proposal for irreverent leadership that speaks truth to power is one that Pussy Riot and their supporters believe is a good solution to open up greater solutions. It’s the “knowledge is power” theory.

And in some ways, Lewis is taking the courageous followership of radical leadership and asking influential and visible leaders to step up to the revolutionary ethics of leaderless activists.

You be the judge whether this kind of radical play is a call for leadership, or something else.

Jeffrey Lewis - What Would Pussy Riot Do?: frame threeHere’s his solution for whistleblower-on-the-run Edward Snowdon….

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Jeffrey Lewis - What Would Pussy Riot Do?: frame two*

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Here’s his solution for ending homophobia one star athlete at a time…

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Jeffrey Lewis - What Would Pussy Riot Do?: frame one*

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Here’s his punk plan to demonstrate the power of social media “gossip” revealing backstage secrets about politics and media protection…

Jeffrey Lewis - What Would Pussy Riot Do?: frame four*

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Here’s his proposal for transparency in manufacturing, again via social media and Apple Computers.

Jeffrey Lewis - What Would Pussy Riot Do?: frame five*

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Finally, he turns the lens on himself, opening up the question of cultural debate and transformation, and asking, “What Would the Guardian Do?”

In some ways, this kind of leadership strives to break the box rather than build solutions from within. It’s a controversial stance, probably better fitted to challenging dictatorships or cultural problems through popular culture and mass movements.

Check out these other examples of this kind of performance protest : the Yes Men , the Guerrilla Girls, and the Interventionists. It may not be nice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not leadership. And I suspect this kind of revolutionary push against the status quo is here to stay!

2 comments

  1. […] to dedicated activists like Pussy Riot, the women fighting for free speech through punk music, theatrical interventions and eloquent oratory.  In a move widely interpreted to mollify international human rights […]

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  2. […] wake-up call. Read. Think. Lead. Because if Harry Potter can defeat evil, if Nathan can heal, if Pussy Riot can bring international attention to oppression in Russia, if Jesus can change the way people […]

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