Lets Blow this Mother Up!

Last night I saw the movie V for Vendetta. It is the movie that Natalie Portman was so proud of doing for its “subversive” qualities. I thought, going into it, that I would like the movie, but I really ended up disliking it in the end.
I think it is because I generally despise violent tactics as a means to social revolution. In the movie, V was so preoccupied with revenge that the movie lost its power to illustrate effective social commentary – because V was one man exacting justice on the world as he saw fit, which is anti-democratic as the “High Chancellor” who sought to quash all dissent by a marked campaign of surveillance and arrest and torture of dissidents.
I would be grossly naive if I didn’t say violent revolutions have counted for something in our history. But it is my view of things that the act of the American Revolution itself is not what made America free, it was just to kick the British out. It was the slow, developed implementation of ideas before, during, and after the revolution which succeeded in building a democratic country. Early American leaders were elitist and dismissive of minorities and women. The Civil War – it was a bloody war that did not begin as a war to free anyone; it was only halfway through the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation proclamation. Even after the civil war, the slaves may have been physically free, but social justice didn’t really emerge until the Civil Rights movement almost a hundred years later.
More commonly, war is used in the name of liberation but only feeds into the notion that real power can be manifest in violence. That notion is contrary to the fundamental principles that I value, that what really changes society is what changes peoples hearts and minds; what brings security and stability to societies is not the gun and the threat of the use of force but it is real human development and capacity building. If we think war “liberates” then we are grossly mistaken, that is my view. It just breeds another society that relies on violence as a means of legitimizing itself. Also, like in the movie, even if the principles that a violent movement may be fighting on behalf of are worthwhile and important, it makes it easy for a government to label the movement as terrorism, and therefore deflate the ability of the movement to appeal to the masses.
That is why I am so appreciative that I have friends like Blaine Johnson, who are true social revolutionaries, with ideas that become non-profits like Human Security International and which really seek to build stable and free societies.
Also, I didn’t like the movie for its characterization that religion is always used to oppress people. The religious leader in the film was a pedaphile, the High Chancellor used religion to legitimize his position. I am not saying that in the name of religion people cannot do these things – because absolutely there is great corruption in religion and there is of course a history of oppression with religion as well. However, religion has also been one of the greatest social forces for good in human history. Many of the greatest revolutionaries in our world who have brought lasting social change have done so because they were motivated by their love of God and their love of all humankind. It was obnoxiously dismissive for the film to give so one sided a view of things, and played into the traditional notion of power, because it was only through violence that minds were changed – not through changing people’s hearts and minds through exercises of love and humanity.
Finally, although I have been swayed in my life with the idea of “blowing things up” like Dams or Corporate Headquarters as a means of fostering radical change, this movie convinced me by its use of blowing things up to make changes that it is a really silly idea. Well, maybe for everything except the Glen Canyon Dam. I still hate that enough (and now I discredited myself in just one sentence).

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