CXXXII – 'V for Vendetta'

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I
have always been a highly-critical moviegoer.
I do not attend a film without first learning
as much about it as I can, particularly from
a synthesis of movie reviews and opinions
provided by friends and relatives whose judgments
I trust. As a consequence, I am not a u201Cmovie
buffu201D; I have seen only one of the films nominated
for major Oscars this year, Syriana,
a picture I highly recommend.

It
is for this reason that I awaited, with skeptical
enthusiasm, the opening of V for Vendetta.
I had heard so much about it ever since one
of my daughters told me, a number of months
ago, of a billboard she saw at the Warner
Brothers studios with the accompanying language:
u201CPeople should not be afraid of their governments.
Governments should be afraid of their people.u201D

My
eager anticipation of seeing this film was
tempered, somewhat, by past experiences. Was
this to be just another superficial anti-establishment
flick, with a few libertarian one-liners thrown
in for effect, and a sufficient amount of
pyrotechnics to induce teenagers to attend?
I have seen enough movies in which tyrannical
statists brutalize innocent people, but with
an heroic FBI or Justice Department official
entering, at the end, to expose and rectify
the wrongdoing and, in so doing, leave the
audience with the assurance that the u201Csystemu201D
works to correct itself.

My
wife and I attended the opening day of this
film and, I am happy to report, it far exceeded
my expectations. Not only is this the most
powerful anti-state film I have ever seen
— one that makes no compromises with the system
— but is, purely from a film-making perspective,
one of the best movies I have seen in some
time. Had the subject matter of this film
been anti-vivisectionism, the depletion of
the rainforests, or the sorrows of divorces,
its acting, writing, direction, and other
production features would have made watching
it an enjoyable experience.

The
story takes place in a 21st century
England that is ruled by the most vicious
of tyrants, played by John Hurt. In his regime,
people are continually reminded that a state-imposed
curfew is u201Cfor your protection,u201D with painful
consequences awaiting those who do not comply.
Into this setting steps the hero, u201CVu201D — played
by Hugo Weaving — a man who had been brutalized
by statist functionaries, and who is intent
on destroying this most inhumane, fascistic
state.

I
shall not spoil the movie for you by revealing
more of its story. Suffice it to say that,
from a libertarian/anarchistic perspective,
this film is for real! It digs beneath
the surface of events to reveal the psychological
factors — particularly our own fears –
and institutional interests that combine to
make tyranny possible. Natalie Portman — who
plays the heroine, Evey — does a magnificent
job playing out the sense of self-liberation
so essential to a free life.

Prior
to my attending this film, I encountered reviews
by a few statists who saw the film as a u201Cdefense
of terrorism.u201D Such a comment reveals more
about the reviewers than of the movie itself.
Any kind of resistance to tyranny is bound
to strike terror into the hearts of members
of the established order. Thus were the American
colonials and Mohandas Gandhi u201Cterroristsu201D
to the British; the Warsaw ghetto uprisings
and the French underground movements u201Cterroristu201D
actions to the German government; and the
organized resistance of Algerians acts of
u201Cterrorismu201D to the French. Even today, the
Iraqi resistance to the destruction and domination
of their country is regarded as u201Cterrorismu201D
by the invading American state!

The
openly anarchistic nature of this movie will
produce shudders in well-conditioned statists
who, in the words of F.A. Hayek, cling to
their u201Cfear of trusting uncontrolled social
forces.u201D Such people will trot out historic
instances in which self-proclaimed u201Canarchistsu201D
killed a few score of people, as evidence
of the need for government. That states managed,
in the 20th century alone, to slaughter
some 200,000,000 people in wars and genocides
has never provided an occasion for defenders
of political systems to do a practical cost/benefit
analysis of these alternative systems!

While
V for Vendetta contains a great deal
of violence, u201CVu201D reminds us, early on, of
the social application of Newton's Third Law
of Motion: for every action there is an equal
and opposite reaction. In a political context,
it is as childish to posit the violence engaged
in by one group as u201Cpeacekeepingu201D and the
opposing group as u201Cterrorism,u201D as it is to
regard one side as u201Cgoodu201D and the other as
u201Cevil.u201D It is the interdependent violence
inherent in all political systems that is
made evident in this film.

There
is one poignant scene in this movie in which
thousands of unarmed, peaceful individuals
confront the well-armed military forces of
the state. This scene, more than any other,
may provide insight into how society might
evolve in a world in which vertically-structured
institutions are collapsing. The transformations
of thinking that are arising from the study
of u201Cchaos,u201D or u201Ccomplexity,u201D are producing
changes in social behavior that make state
systems obsolete. The predictability the statists
imagine inheres in their structured apparatuses
has been rendered illusory. Terry Pratchett's
observation that u201Cchaos always defeats order
because it is better organized,u201D reflects
a world in flux. Perhaps a film such a V
for Vendetta will provide us an opportunity
to begin exploring the
orderly nature of anarchistic systems
.

I
have no doubt that this film will generate
u201Cterroru201D in the minds of those who regard
the domination of others either as some inherent
right or as an inevitable necessity for social
order. But it is not the fear of violence
that will be their principal concern. Violence
will be the fear that the media will transmit
to the boobeoisie to keep them huddled
at the feet of their masters. The establishment's
fear is not that buildings will be
blown up — on the contrary, the destruction
of the World Trade Center actually benefited
the state — but that men and women will begin
to dismantle the structures of political authority
in their thinking. To paraphrase the words
of Evey, it is not buildings that people need,
but hope.

For
those who are serious about living in a society
in which peace, liberty, and the inviolability
of the human spirit prevail, V for Vendetta
provides an opportunity to rethink our
social assumptions; to develop new ideas about
our relationships to one another. And as u201CVu201D
informs us, u201Cideas are bulletproof.u201D This
film is a powerful antidote to the mindset
that is destroying mankind. It is not for
those who wish only to reform the state and
confirm beliefs that the 20th century
has rendered no longer suitable to the interests
of humanity.

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