How a 17th century British rebel became the symbol of resistance to American empire
WHO WAS THIS GUY?
So how exactly did Guy Fawkes Day — with its sing-song mantra learned by British schoolchildren: "Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot/ I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot" — come to play such an iconic role in the current political moment?
Much of it was the power and timing of the 2005 movie, a dystopian tale of fascism taking root in England, with the state using fear and aggressive police tactics to quiet dissent and control the population. While the film's hero, V, adopts the Fawkes mask and story, it is his ideology that probably resonates with the modern movement than the historical Fawkes, a Catholic partisan who targeting a Protestant king.
In particular, when V speaks to the people through a television broadcast, his issues and critique on power resonate with young people raised in the post-9/11 world who then watch the financial collapse and saw how crony capitalism protects the powerful at the expense of the powerless.
"The truth is that there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? If you look about, you witness cruelty, injustice and despotism. But what do you do about it? What can you do? You are but a single individual. How can you possible make any difference? Individuals have no power in this modern world. That is what you've been taught because that is what they need you to believe. But it is not true," V says.
Indeed, the young people of Occupy, Anonymous, and various other nascent political movements are feeling empowered by their successes and the support they're receiving. In his speech, V calls for everyone to show up in Guy Fawkes masks on Nov. 5 to watch him blow up the House of Lords.
"I have come to offer you a deal," V says. "If you accept, I will give you a different world. A world without curfews, without soldiers and surveillance systems. A world that is not run by other men but that is run by you. I am offering you a second chance."
The notion that an idea can ripple through the populace with little organizational support seems to be borne out by Bank Transfer Day, which was announced shortly after Bank of America said it would charge monthly fees on debit cards. Since then, credit unions report a steady uptick in business.
Robin McKenzie from the nonprofit Redwood Credit Union in San Francisco said more than 500 people have opened accounts with the community institution since the announcement, specifically by customers who reported being unhappy with the fees, ethics, and government bailouts of the big banks.
Carol Highton of Patelco Credit Union told us she's seen a 65 percent increase in checking, 80 percent increase in credit cards, and 33 percent increase in membership since Bank Transfer Day was announced.
"Our stance on it is: why wait? If they're interested in moving their money they should do it now," McKenzie said. "We've been seeing a lot of demand from people for honesty and trust, and a lot on the local level...We're not looking to profit from them, we're looking to serve them."