Archive for November 5th, 2011

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know…
We all want to change the world.
  –  John Lennon, “Revolution

One year ago today I published “Guy Fawkes Night”, in which I briefly explained the holiday for those outside the UK and suggested that perhaps former British colonies (such as the U.S.) which no longer celebrate it…

…need to renew the holiday…as a time to burn tyrants in effigy.  Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly) that they only hold power by the sufferance of all the people, not merely the majority, and that the overthrow of any government by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility.  I would like to see most if not all politicians and their minions paying for their power and privilege by being forced to live in a constant state of nervous anxiety; maybe then fewer would choose that path and more would concern themselves with keeping all the citizenry happy rather than merely pleasing barely enough of the population to keep themselves in office.

The graphic novel and movie V for Vendetta used Guy Fawkes Day as a symbol of rebellion against tyranny; the protagonist, known only as “V”, dressed in a Guy Fawkes costume and mask, and the number 5 (for November 5th) appears repeatedly (even the letter “V” is a Roman 5).  The imagery wasn’t lost on some young Americans who saw the movie, because many of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters wear Guy Fawkes masks.  And though their protests have so far been peaceful, I hope the masks constitute an implied threat rather than an inappropriate pop-culture reference; Guy Fawkes’ aborted revolution was not remotely peaceful, nor was that of the fictional “V”.  While I don’t advocate mindless violence as a measure of first resort, I believe the threat of it needs to be present for government to heed the demands of protesters.  As I wrote last year:

Interrogators have long understood something which both terrorists and pacifists alike fail to understand, which is that human nature tends to respond only to BOTH the promise of reward and the threat of punishment used in tandem.  Terrorism fails because it offers only violence, and pacifism fails because it offers only the reward of keeping the non-violent protesters happy, but the classic “good cop, bad cop” scenario works because it offers both.  Not even children consistently respond to the promise of the carrot without the threat of the stick; why then should we expect adults to, most especially the self-important adults who set themselves up over their fellows?  The civil rights movement worked because Martin Luther King and other peaceful protesters offered an attractive alternative to the race violence which had escalated since soon after the Second World War, but without the looming specter of race war their peaceful protests might never have accomplished anything.  In more recent times the peaceful activism of mainstream “gay rights” groups offered an attractive alternative to the disruptive antics of groups like ACT-UP and the quiet violence of “outing”.  Perhaps one of the reasons that the prostitutes’ rights movement has languished in futility for four decades is that there is no threatening alternative; maybe the “good girl” activists…need a few “bad girl” groups who run around outing politicians, disrupting fundamentalist religious services and neofeminist meetings, hacking prohibitionist websites and spying on police to publicly expose “stings” so the government will have some compelling reason to consider the reasonable alternative of decriminalization.

The American political system has failed; the two officially-sanctioned parties are merely two wings of the same vulture, and their members are too locked in groupthink to make the radical changes which need to be made to save this country.  81% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, and half of the citizens now recognize the federal government “poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”.  Yet the two approved parties merely point fingers at each other and their leaders refuse to listen to those who recognize that BOTH parties are at fault and need to be reformed or abolished.  Listen to the mindless attacks on the “Tea Party” from soi-disant “liberals”, and compare them to the equally-mindless attacks on “Occupy Wall Street” from soi-disant “conservatives”; they’re almost indistinguishable.  Neither dissident group has proposed a unified program of reform, but both are widespread and popular grass-roots campaigns made up of people who are dissatisfied with the status quo and extremely angry with the entrenched political establishment’s criminal mismanagement of the Ship of State.  And as the Guy Fawkes masks of OWS and the Revolutionary War symbology of the Tea Party connote, that establishment ignores or underestimates them at its own peril.  I wonder if the various Middle-Eastern dictatorships who have recently been overthrown in the so-called “Arab Spring” thought as little of the citizens who eventually rose up against them?

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