April 4, 2006

People Should Not Be Afraid Of Their Governments. Governments Should Be Afraid Of Their People

I loved V for Vendetta, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Sure there were scenes that reeked of cliché, and there were time when I was embarrassed to be sitting in the theater because of the comical way the narrative plot unfolded. Furthermore, I sometimes felt my intelligence was being insulted; I didn’t need nor appreciate some of the narrative spoon-feeding that transpired. However, I will say that the film clutched my attention from beginning to end and forced me to feel a range of emotions. The references to Abu Graib, the war on terror and the current world order were thought provoking, although, a little subtlety would have been polite. Overall, I thought the film and more importantly the message it promulgated are vital to understanding where we go next.

However foolish the occasional execution of the film may have been, it raised many important questions. The focal question I think the film asks is- What is the role of the individual in the face of an ever-growing conformity? What happens when ideals are given a chance to grow? What is freedom, and identity, and the responsibilities that go along with it? Can an idea bind enough people together to bring down governments, which control their lives? The film goes on to ask other pertinent questions: What is the line between a mass democratic revolution and a terrorist plot? In this day and age where the T word is unanimous with enemy, V for vendetta shows us that maybe sometimes governments can become so corrupt and dangerous that no amount of reform can amend them. Sometimes, maybe, governments need to be destroyed. Can we view this destruction as anything other than terrorism?

Of course the very powers that control our educational systems, financial institutions, and media, the same ones that make us file for permits before we protest, and then corral us into “free speech zones” will always tell us that any attempt to overthrow the government by force is terrorism, but V for Vendetta challenges that notion. Every revolutionary will eventually grow tired of reform. That is the definition of a revolutionary- A person who realizes that reform will no longer salvage a corrupt system and the only way to bring about change is to bring down the entire system and start from scratch. The dilemma I was left contemplating after watching this film was when and how is violence critical to this shift in power. Can there be non-violent revolution that isn’t simply another reform? Power never secedes power, so how can the masses take it back, if not by simply taking it? Can we spark non-violent revolution? And if not, can symbolic violent acts ignite the masses to act? And if they do is that wrong?

As a staunch proponent of non-violence, I would like to think that we can mobilize enough people to act without resorting to violence, but I cannot deny that the last scene, in which V destroys the parliament building, did not excite me. Watching the parliament building explode and burn as thousands of people stood watching gave me goose bumps. I found it eerie that the government in the film was based on a prototypical fascist model, but the similarities to the current administration squatting in the White House were too obvious to escape. We are not far from the days when we will have to make decisions on which side of these questions we stand. V may be the archetypal anarchist martyr who sparks revolution, but the movie makes clear he could have been anybody. I am curious to see how the world would react today to a V like revolutionary. Would we allow the powers that be brand him as a terrorist or would be get behind him and watch the buildings burn to the ground and get ready to build from their ashes? “Ideas, when they move masses of people, have great power.”

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