It’s the 5th of November — the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Treason and Plot day. That particular story has very little personal interest to me except as an historical oddity.
On the other hand, the date came alive again to me recently as I re-watched the really outstanding movie V for Vendetta
The film focuses on V, a shadowy hero/freedom fighter/terrorist, who uses the memory of Guy Fawkes Day as one of the tools to foment a revolution against a totalitarian government.
When a government, or aspect of government, moves toward totalitarianism, seeing no limits to its authority nor any reason to defer to science or facts, and when that government attempts to control the population through misinformation, it is the responsibility of the population to revolt.
The first step is waking them up.
How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.
Unlike with Guy Fawkes, waking up the population doesn’t mean you need to blow up parliament. I’m a firm believer in finding non-violent means of provoking change. It can seem to take longer, but it also may, in fact, be the only way to actually accomplish the task.
Once the population wakes, a totalitarian-shaped government function may ironically actually help the revolution succeed.
What I found particularly interesting in “V for Vendetta” were the actions of the totalitarian leader Adam Sutler, portrayed compellingly by John Hurt. Once threatened by the awakening of the masses, Sutler reacted (step by step precisely as predicted by V), cracking down more forcefully, leading to incidents that further angered the population, until his demise ultimately came as a byproduct of his own tyranny.
In a way, a similar kind of effect is seen today with the DEA crackdowns on medical marijuana and other similar actions. And it is, perhaps, inevitable. Oddly, once the public objects to totalitarianism, often the only way totalitarians know how to respond is to crank it up even more out of fear of losing power.
When it comes to the drug war, we’ve seen the public begin to wake (slowly, but inexorably). This has caused the drug warriors to double down in an attempt to maintain their power. This leads to incidents and outrages that we can use to help grab the attention of more people who may have only peripherally cared about drug policy. And so on.
People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.