Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine--the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression.
And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. 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. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives.
So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.--V for Vendetta
The year is 2020 and the world is plagued by environmental plight. Great Britain is ruled by a totalitarian corporate state where concentration camps have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of various undesirables are common, while other enemies of the state are made to "disappear." And, of course, the television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. Most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.
V is a bold, charismatic freedom fighter who seeks revenge against the government officials who tortured him and disfigured his face. He urges the British people to rise up and resist the government. V tells them to meet him in one year outside the Houses of Parliament, which he promises to destroy. And as November 5 approaches, V's various resistance schemes cause chaos and the people begin waking up to the tyranny around them.
V organizes the distribution of thousands of Guy Fawkes masks, resulting in multitudes, all wearing the masks, marching on Parliament to watch the destruction of Big Ben and Parliament. Unfortunately, V does not make it to the finale. He is killed and dies in the arms of Evey, a young girl he befriended and whose eyes he opens to the reality of the world around her. Accompanied by the "1812 Overture," Parliament and Big Ben explode as thousands watch, including Evey. When asked to reveal the identity of V, Evey replies, "He was all of us."
With the film V for Vendetta, whose imagery borrows heavily from Nazi Germany's Third Reich and George Orwell's 1984, we come full circle. The corporate state in V conducts mass surveillance on its citizens, helped along by closed-circuit televisions. Also, London is under yellow-coded curfew alerts, similar to the American government's color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System.
In speaking of the graphic novel upon which the film was based, the director James McTeighe said
, "It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don't think it's such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people."
We are--and have been for some time--the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government--from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.
We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government--faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren't losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.
Sadly, we've been made to suffer countless abuses since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the name of national security, we've been subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless "black bag" searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have had to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes. Soon drones will be filling the skies in order to corral our free speech activities and further spy on us. That doesn't even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights have been trampled upon by militarized police and marauding SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.
"We the people" have not done the best job of holding our representatives accountable or standing up for our rights. But there must be a limit to our temerity. What will it take for Americans to finally say enough is enough? The First Amendment guarantees us the right to "assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances." Nonviolent, public resistance is often the only recourse left to those who want to effect change in the cumbersome, often corrupt, bureaucratic governmental process.
The time to act is now if we are to make any meaningful move towards regaining our freedoms.
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)