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Democracy 101: V for Vendetta – Brilliant Lessons Learned For Layman

V for Vendetta, Guy Fawkes,

One of the iconic symbols from the movie, V for Vendetta is the Guy Fawkes mask has been adopted by many protesters fighting the Government and also by the famous hacking group, Anonymous. Image source: IMDB

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V for Vendetta – The Movie

Some background of the 2005 movie, “V for Vendetta” which in turn is based on a 1982 graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd.

The story is set in an alternative version of 1990s England, where a fascist government known as Norsefire has taken control of the country after a nuclear war. The protagonist of the story is a masked vigilante known only as “V,” who seeks to overthrow the government and bring freedom to the people.

The story begins with V rescuing a young woman named Evey Hammond from the clutches of Norsefire’s secret police. He takes her to his underground hideout, the Shadow Gallery, and reveals to her his plans to destroy the government. V is highly skilled in combat and has a vast knowledge of literature, philosophy, and art. He wears a Guy Fawkes mask and a black cloak and speaks with a cultured and eloquent voice.

As V carries out his plan to overthrow the government, he leaves behind a trail of destruction and chaos. He blows up key government buildings and kills several high-ranking officials. At the same time, he inspires the people of England to rise up against their oppressors. V’s actions are motivated by a desire for revenge against the people who subjected him to horrific experiments in a government-run concentration camp.

As the story progresses, Evey becomes increasingly involved in V’s plot. She is imprisoned and tortured by the government, but eventually breaks free and takes on the mantle of “V” herself. The novel culminates in a final confrontation between V and Norsefire’s leader, Adam Susan, in which V is mortally wounded. However, his legacy lives on, as Evey takes up his cause and carries on his mission to free England from tyranny.

This movie grew into prominence at the time when we started to have the BERSIH protests for election reforms where there were a lot of similarities between the fictional evil Norsefire Government and the all-powerful Barisan Nasional Government and the blatant use of Government assets such as the police & draconian laws to silence the dissidents.

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“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” and this is increasingly being hijacked by those who abuse religion & race to coerce your conformity and soliciting your submission.

Brilliant Quotable Quotes

I must say that there are very few movies out there that have great screenplays & memorable dialogues. The dialogues in the movie, “V for Vendetta” have indeed become iconic & memorable and here are some of them:

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”

“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.”

“Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”

“You have no idea what I have come to destroy.”

“I do not condone nor advocate terrorism. Violence, whether perpetrated by an individual or by the state, is a horror.”

“The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.”

“Happiness is the most insidious prison of all.”

“It does not matter how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” – V (quoting William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus”)

“Of course you can. I’m not questioning your powers of observation; I’m merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.”

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.”

“A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people. Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world.”

“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”

“I killed you 10 minutes ago.”

“There are no coincidences, Delia… only the illusion of coincidence.”

Brilliant poetry alike scripts simply make the various scenes in the movie even more spectacular and everything falls into place brilliantly. The underlying message is that the people should not be afraid of their government but rather the government should be afraid of the people, and this was one of the key components of the fall down of the Barisan Nasional government in 2018 and the increased confidence that no government is safe once the people have decided to be against it.

V for Vendetta, Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman

Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from The Matrix trilogy) & Natalie Portman (Padme from Star Wars Episodes 1-3), two of my favourite actors nailed their characters in this movie and Hugo’s delivery of the speech & acting was so precise and that add strength to the words. Image source: IMDB

Lessons Learned

V for Vendetta highlights the power of having an idea that is powerful enough that it can inspire others to do the unthinkable. This can refer to sound ideas or ideals that promote the well-being of individuals it the nation as a whole. No one can satisfy the needs of both the individual and the country and thus requires a delicate balancing act. More often, the need of the many or rather the government outweighs the need of the few or the minorities.

Lesson 1 – never trust the government with too much power

They say that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely and this is indeed true.

We all have experienced this where the powerful government had often abused & misused its almost endless resources, machinery, and its hold on the powers of law & state-controlled media to coerce & control the people’s day-to-day way of life, curtailing their personal freedom and keeping corrupt in power.

Governments that have complete control and are not accountable to anyone will not be open for review and thus will be able to do anything. There is no proper check & balance to ensure there is no mismanagement of constitutional duties, taxpayers’ money and the people’s liberties.

Of course, things have changed with the availability of the internet where one no longer needs to get information from state-controlled media and any misinformation can be quickly counter-checked immediately. But the effort to keep the government in check is an ongoing & necessary process.

Lesson 2 – never disregard one’s responsibility to the nation

Throughout the film, the character of V emphasizes the importance of individual responsibility and encourages people to take action to fight for what they believe in.

This is based on a simple premise that if you don’t voice out, nobody will know anything about the things that are happening. Voicing out can come in form of street protests as how we have seen with Hindraf and Bersih rallies or it can be a movement on social media or online petition. And if you can get your local politicians on your side, it will be stronger.

In the same manner, those who want a responsible government that cares more about its people & the country must participate in the democratic process namely voting in elections and questioning the politicians who have broken the law or who had abused the people’s trust. Despite reminders, the lowering of the voting age to 18 and automatic registration, the actual turnout during the actual election has not been impressive in some key places.

Lesson 3 – never disregard the need for social justice

“V for Vendetta” highlights the importance of social justice and the fight against inequality. The film encourages people to stand up for their beliefs and to fight for a more just and equitable society.

Whilst it is a tough effort to ensure all citizens are treated equally, inequality based on religion, race and social standing will always occur and causes some to be missed out on getting justice & fair treatment. In Malaysia, we have seen this time and time again, especially with the minorities & indigenous people and in some instances, inequality is in fact institutionalised by the very government that suppose to protect all & ensure equality.

This is why one needs to keep the heat up whenever there is a miscarriage of justice. One needs to demand that justice is not only served but justice must also be seen to be served.

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Interestingly the road to producing V for Vendetta has many untold stories starting from the comic books published back in the 1980s and some differences between the comic and the actual movie. Perhaps it will be good to read the comic book or the book itself.

Final Say

Putting aside that V for Vendetta is a brilliant movie with great acting by the main character, V played by Hugo Weaving, the movie itself has a lot of lessons learned on democracy, how news is spanned by the Government and how the Government will do anything to keep themselves in power. Overall, it says that the Government knows all & what is best for its people even if it requires them to trample on the weak, helpless and minorities.

Most Government expects their people to follow them without any questions and obediently but remember always that no one should be afraid of their government rather the government should be afraid of the people. Many politicians have forgotten this important maxim except perhaps days before the voting days.

V for Vendetta is a must-watch movie to understand how the people should treat their government. It should be part of any program that promotes the basics & ideals of democracy, fight for justice and civil liberty.

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