Open letter from Ilya Farber to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

posted 4 Nov 2013, 07:28 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Nov 2013, 08:06 ]
29 October 2013 

Source: (info)
Russia Behind Bars has published an open letter by school teacher Ilya Farber, who has been sentenced to a term in prison, to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

"Hello, Nadezhda, 

May you have enough strength not only to survive, but to hold on to as much of your strength, health and beauty as you can.

And may your strength last for a long time yet. Because, as my mother told me throughout my childhood, nerve cells don't grow back. And our purpose is to transmit pain, by which I mean that we are now those very nerve cells. Of course, we know that pain is very important; it is through pain that we understand what has gone wrong with the body and where, and, having worked it out, can identify what stage the disease is at. And we can decide what to do to save the body from death. We remember that without nerve cells our internal organs mutate imperceptibly. This happens out of sight, hidden from the rest of the senses, if one's nerves are silent. When the problem becomes obvious, it will normally be too late to change anything or make it better. There will be nothing left to do but amputate, or bury you. There are, of course, cases that require the use of anesthesia. But in order to properly calculate the anesthesia, again, the pain and the illness that gave rise to this pain must be studied in all their facets. After all, if pain medication is taken immediately then the head simply ceases to be aware of what is happening, as it does not receive any pain signals, and it might all end tragically.

Nothing is possible without pain. Even nature does not allow childbirth without pain. For example, in one experiment, not a single monkey that had given birth under anesthesia recognised its young, as far as I recall from a birthing course. The only difference was that some monkey-mothers, not noticing, went about amongst their children, while others bit their heads off. This means that pain actually helps one to love, not just survive and recover.

Pain acts as a warning, pain offers direction. So it was that daredevil soldiers would draw fire on themselves as they went into battle. Pain is the radio operator who sends out signals from danger zones. And when the radio operator goes off air, his last coordinates remain, and sometimes you can still come to the rescue and even manage to save the person. That's if you hear, if you listen closely and act quickly, wisely and in unison. Long live pain!

Why is it that people try more and more often to dull pain? Out of stubbornness? Out of ignorance? Out of envy? Out of fear? Could it be that there is a surplus of pain itself? Perhaps it has just become unbearable for people? We well know that a constant dosage of pain medication is usually only prescribed to patients who cannot be operated on, those who clearly cannot expect much more, given that their disease has, sadly, already become terminal. Are there such weak people living in our country, then? It grieves me to think that our country, this great and singularly capable body, should be deemed incurable. In my opinion, confirmation of the diagnosis will require a thorough investigation. We must investigate! But for some reason the mass media acts very much like a painkiller: no-one must hear anything, no-one must pay attention and no-one must understand.

Your letter and your hunger strike are very clear pain signals. The very strongest drugs will be used against them. My defence lawyer told me how a female inmate was shown on TV explaining to everyone how you had invented all the violations, behaved strangely, and arrived at the colony saying that you wanted to start a riot. That’s a sort of small injection. It's like the Fool, the Coward and the Experienced One [Translator’s note: a slapstick trio of the Soviet era] using chloroform in a handkerchief to put people to sleep, but in the 21st Century. There are smart asses around who will say that the letter and the hunger strike were really just about PR. But what is PR? Public relations? The connection that each individual cell shares with all of the others, with the whole body? And that's what nerves are for. The way I see it, the only reason they didn't accuse Jesus Christ of PR was because they did not know the words. Come to think of it, all of his sermonising was PR through and through; public relations in its purest form. Although everyone knows what people did to Jesus Christ in the end... Who alone has not been accused of PR? One cretin wrote in a newspaper that I got myself put in prison on purpose so as to become famous, like Pussy Riot. If PR is taken to mean unworthy reasons to be mentioned or to get publicity, then such accusations might be put down to those 'conscientious' finger-pointers either having a lack of trust in the public or suffering from serious psychological damage. Not to distinguish an itch from a pain; that really is a clinical condition. Bad people like that are like harmful microbes or dangerous viruses knocking down defensive fortifications. Instead of the word 'PR' they might learn 'some other one', like 'Seppuku' [Translator’s note: Japanese form of ritual suicide]. And, just for once, they might move from words to action.

There is an excellent governor in the Tver remand prison where I am now spending my third year, who does not need to be cruel to command respect. There is no need to degrade or enslave anyone, no need to steal or put on a show before the commissions of inspection. Strict and fair, with unwavering principles, who respects the dignity of every individual, even a criminal. Here is one example: before New Year he went around all of the prison cells and personally congratulated every inmate on the forthcoming holiday, offering them his best wishes for the New Year. There are over two hundred cells in the Tver remand prison! But before that I had to spend a whole year of my incarceration under a different governor, and I managed to gain first-hand experience of all the things you spoke of. To my understanding, the violations described in your letter are actually typical of our penal system. I am currently getting acquainted with the 'Search Activity Concept' by psycho-physiologist Vadim Rotenberg. The way his elegant construct explains everything is simply mind-blowing: the barbaric pettiness and distinctive cynicism of misguided, inhumane prison wardens, amongst others. Why you get kicked in the kidneys for standing by the window. Or for sitting down on the bed at the wrong time. Why you get sent to the isolation cell for hours and hours of waiting, where there are no benches, windows or ventilation, and where the walls are stained with blood and teeth are scattered over the floor. That was under the other governor, and it seems like a nightmare now, but I know what it is. I know what is to be deprived of drinking water in the punishment cell. But for a girl ... I know that even the 'toughest' cellmates are afraid to speak the truth about violations for fear of retaliation from the prison administration... But, damn it, when we are talking about a girl... It is beyond the pale.

You represent a very intense pain, Nadezhda. And did you hear how these charlatans, in and out of uniform, tried to cast your efforts in the false gloom of their 'experts’s opinions' and present the pain as made-up and illusory? They themselves are the illusions, and that is why they won't get anywhere, in the grand scheme of things. Anyone who is real, who has everything sorted and is right in the head, that person knows, feels, that you are the real thing. And they believe in you. It’s a signal.

Ilya Farber,

Accused of committing an exceptionally grave crime against the state and the government authorities.

Source: Russia Behind Bars

Translated by Lindsay Munford