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To Remember November 9, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall.

‘Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot… But what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like? We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world. I’ve witnessed first hand the power of ideas, I’ve seen people kill in the name of them, and die defending them… but you cannot kiss an idea, cannot touch it, or hold it… ideas do not bleed, they do not feel pain, they do not love… And it is not an idea that I miss, it is a man… A man that made me remember the Fifth of November. A man that I will never forget.’ – V for Vendetta

This makes me uneasy, mainly for the reason of confusion between speaking up, and speaking up for the greater good.  Obviously in V for Vendetta, the implication is for the latter, but questioning and not automatically doing what someone tells you to do is very much seen as a positive thing, in theory – Disney’s all for telling small children to break the mould (in the most conventional way possible, of course), and it’s a massive part of marketing to people of all ages.

Freedom of expression is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and as a society, luckily, for the most part we’ve embraced it.  But, leaving the governmental conspiracy theories aside, Guy Fawkes’s idea was not the overthrowing of a totalitarian government for the good of the populace in general, it was the overthrowing of a Protestant government for the good of Catholics.  To say that it’s a wonderful idea worthy of people’s lives is, well, romanticising it a bit.  It’s also cheering the underdog to a great degree.  That’s not to say that it’s not a wonderful idea, just that it gets overemphasised a bit.

Equally, these days, freedom of expression is not always something we agree with.  I’m not talking about high-level cover-ups, I’m talking about things like this website here, which while very amusing always unsettles me slightly – everyone’s entitled to their freedom of expression and ideas, unless they’re too stupid to have proper ideas.  Or to be informed.  If you’re not informed, you can’t tell us what you think, and if you do, we will lampoon you because we have the superiority here.  It’s very fashionable these days.

There has to be a line drawn somewhere, of course.  Unlimited freedom of expression can be overwhelming, to start off with, never mind potentially damaging in a myriad of ways.  I think what I particularly want to say is that really, I object to people not just sitting down, shutting up and listening for a bit.  Everyone is entitled to my opinion.  They are also fully entitled to disregard it entirely.  The romanticising of speaking out for the greater good (but only with a certain point of view, otherwise you’ll get ripped to shreds) strikes me as a bit on the unhealthy side.

Probably unrelatedly, I had a dream last night, that I was in a flat about four storeys up with seven or eight  people I know relatively well from university.  My housemates were all there, for a start, and a few others.  And two others were coming to visit us.  (Does this sound a bit familiar to anyone, if my housemates are reading this?)  So one of these two others rang me to say they were downstairs and could I come and get them, so off I went, down this spiral staircase to go and find them, and there they were out in the street and as we’re coming back up the stairs I said something jokingly about something awful I did last year.  They laughed, and started to insult me.  When we got up to the flat they mentioned it and the others started to join in – even the ones who never join in with that sort of thing.  Eventually it got to the stage where one of the people I respect most wouldn’t even look at me, and they were telling me to get my things and move out.  Now.  So I stood up, and told the one who had started it exactly what I thought of him – he was a bully, picking on people he thought he could he could get away with picking on, and he needed to grow up and get over himself.  But they all looked at me, and I think some of them sympathised, but none of them said anything.  So I left, and I was walking down the street in the cold and pitch black with a cardboard box of my things when I woke up.

This also makes me uneasy.



1. thewariefiend - November 17, 2009

I don’t need to remind you of all people the sheer difference in the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” deal the directors try and strike wih the audience in that movie over certain issues akin to the above and Alan Moore’s use of Fawkes’ cause to remind us that V is not the future, that he is in part sociopath. The movie, while wonderful in some respects, has an utterly different agenda. The message seems to be ‘We are all heroes and people will fight to be free if you save them from their own fear.’ or similar. The book always for me said ‘There are no heroes and freedom has a price. Is it worth it?’ which oveal I think it says it is.
I’ve always said full-stop you can’t have a society in which something is disallowed to be said. We just have say the right things louder.

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