The Fire of the Fifth of November

Four hundred and ten years later, we still remember November 5th as Guy Fawkes Day. The driver of modern awareness of the Gunpowder Plot and Fawkes’ notable mask is the well-known movie, V for Vendetta (2005). Ten years after this film’s release, the messages of its main character, V, are still as important as ever.

Think of any of the world’s current social and political issues and, through careful analysis of the film, you can surely find a scene or quotation that reflects it. Those part of today’s #MillionMaskMarch have found these linkages. Same with the members and followers of online activist group, Anonymous. Have you? I want to briefly outline some of these linkages below, as a tribute to one of the most notable events in the history of mankind and to one of my favourite films.

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.” — V (V for Vendetta)

Everywhere you turn, education is a hot, evolving topic. Developed countries are looking to education technology to enhance how students learn. Underdeveloped countries are looking to the many volunteer programs bringing Westerners to make a difference at the grassroots level. Globally, there is a movement to providing free education to everybody through means like Khanacademy and Internet.org. Activists are even calling for net neutrality to ensure the merits of these organizations do not fall into the hands of capitalism.

Capitalism. Abortion. Homosexuality. Gender equality. Discrimination. Racism. You name it, people are talking about it. The individual has so much power nowadays that sitting back and remaining complacent is starting to be seen as wrong. Which brings me to one of my favourite quotations from this film:

As one of the most notable quotes of the movie, we can see this message underlying some of the most notable modern events, such as the Arab Spring. We can see this evident in the individual ability to bring light to an issue and see it go viral so quickly that governments and organizations have no choice but to respond.

Technology has evolved in such a way that our learning and behaviour has significantly changed. We can quickly affirm our beliefs and see that others share the same. Anybody can start a movement. Changemakers no longer need to be vigilantes. We see it in our music, our news, at the tips of our fingers.

We each have a story, some sort of background. It fuels our drive for instigating change in this world. Some recognize it and play an active role. Some are trapped between the ideals of societies and their realities. These stories create ideas — and we all know what V says about ideas.

These sheer moments of “what if’s” have led to some of the world’s most radical movements in political history. Of course, we can look beyond that and see the results of these ideas in things like the rapid development of technology. Underlying many of these technological innovations is the recycling of ideas — for ideas never die, but man does. And what is man but an idea after all?

We are so obsessed with generalizing our identities today that we have forgotten what it means to be self-aware. Social media has got us creating profiles, sharing predetermined categories of information. We “creep” people online. We find any and all associations that a person might have to learn about them. We think that is all there is to their identity. But it’s not. The identity does not matter; the ideas behind the person are what matters.

Every fifth of November, I feel a sense of uneasiness. I know that I am doing my part to influence the change the world needs. But I realize I am not doing enough. I, too, am caught in the middle of this tangled web of societal expectations. I recognize this. And so every fifth of November, I reread some of my favourite lines from V for Vendetta to remind myself that my efforts are still something. The Gunpowder Plot may have failed but it sparked something; it ignited a fire that still burns today.


Originally published at www.gunjanmarwah.com.