M for Merdeka; V for Vendetta

24 08 2007

v-for-vendetta-poster.jpg

One of the most memorable films I have seen in recent years is the noir political graphic-novel adaptation ‘V for Vendetta‘ (2005), directed by the Wachowski brothers and starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. For those who haven’t seen it, the story is set in the UK of the near future, where a fascist government has taken over the United Kingdom and controls every aspect of the lives of its citizens. Like the earlier black satire ‘Brazil‘ (1985) directed by Terry Gilliam (which I will write about in a future post), the arrogance of the government is such that it believes it can even control the thoughts of its citizens by controlling and ‘spinning’ the flow of information — literally writing and re-writing the flow of history — to suit its political purposes.

The central character in ‘V for Vendetta‘ is a charismatic, masked revolutionary calling himself ‘V‘, who sets out to overthrow the fascists by first destroying their symbols and then systematically exposing their lies and hubris. Just like in the Berlin of the Nazi period, familiar landmarks have been twisted by association into grotesque symbols of fascism and oppression, and V first destroys these symbols in order to destroy the fascists’ delusions of invincibility, before delivering his message.

The film is notable for its unusually intellectual approach, (very) high quality of dialogue, and the masterful voice performance of lead actor Hugo Weaving (who has to perform under a mask throughout the film). Wikipedia has a fairly detailed description of the film and its themes here.

The most memorable passage — for me — is V‘s extraordinarily eloquent address to the nation, calling on his fellow citizens to throw off their fear, to dare to think for themselves, and to rise up against the oppression of the fascist government.

The quotation: “People should not be afraid of their governments; Governments should be afraid of their people” happens to be one of my favourites and almost became the tagline for this blog. I was thus pleasantly surprised to see the transcript of the speech posted here on ‘The People’s Parliament’ by the reader ‘M for Merdeka‘. Seeing the transcript set off a train of thought, and I reproduce below the speech, as taken from the post (highlights added by me).

I ask you now, dear readers and fellow citizens: to read this speech aloud, and to think about it in the context of our nation’s 50th anniversary of independence, now only days away. To do so, simply substitute “London” with “Malaysia”, and “The 5th of November” with “The 31st of August”.

V: Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine – the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat.

There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And 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.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked.

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot. People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. Strength through unity, unity through faith! I am V. At last you know the truth. You’re stunned, I know. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that beneath this wrinkled, well-fed exterior there lies a dangerous killing machine with a fetish for Fawkesian masks. Vive la revolution!

We do not need to go to the extent of destroying buildings to make a point, but it is clear that urgent change is needed in this country. The fascism that has taken root in the corrupt minds of the ruling elite must be stopped NOW.

Would you choose to live on, in silent submission, acquiescing again and again as inch by inch your freedom and rights are cut from you by a corrupt and totalitarian regime?
Or would you dare to change the order of things, throw off the shackles of racism and reforge the principles of nationhood.

Use your minds, and know that when the ‘government of the day’ serves not the interests of ‘the nation’ but its own, it is time to expunge it.

Use your voices, and say that the rampant corruption and institutionalised racism has gone on long enough.

Use that weapon which you have always had, your vote, and use it to make your point: that you will no longer tolerate the fascists and cronies that have robbed the country blind and kept the people divided by race. Use your vote, while you still have it.

Use your hearts, and know that it is possible to change things for the better.

M for Merdeka: Do we even remember why?


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9 responses

24 08 2007
Stu

You hit the nail squarely on the head bro.
The speech in the film is ideally suited for use present day Malaysia.
I totally agree that the slogan:
“People should not be afraid of their governments; Governments should be afraid of their people”
is one that all thinking Malaysians should adopt as the rallying call for change.
“Vive la truly free, democratic and race-less Malaysia!”, “Vive la silken revolution!”
Let us strive to make Merdeka mean something!!!!!!

[ GhL ] : Vive la silken revolution, indeed. We need to get the message out to more people.

24 08 2007
garvi

Is the situation in Malaysia is so bad that you actually compare it to the movie? Well I guess it is. However, I doubt anyone can change the situation, not in this world where there’s no Superman, Captain America or even John McClane. Globalisation will forced some change, but it will take a long, long time to enlighten our idiots government.
I feel sorry for you, ghostline, for there’s no hope for your country, but to fall into the same terrible fate as countries like Indonesia or Zimbabwe.
To all Non-BN elite Malaysian:

RUN!!!! RUN!!!! RUN!!!! RUN away to Singapore, Australia, NZ, Canada, Taiwan….wherever!!!!

[ GhL ] : Hello garvi. Thankfully, we are not yet at the stage where men with black uniforms and guns line the streets while fascist flags hang from every other building, but we certainly appear to be heading down that path if we do not check these insidious tendencies now. Witness how the government is clamping down on the slightest sign of civil dissent with increasing frequency and severity, while blatant corruption associated with the government enjoys near-total immunity. The constant racist ranting, corruption and fear of exposure that drives the irrational suppression of free speech and dissent are all symptomatic of an increasingly fascist regime concerned only with removing potential threats to its own survival.

Our greatest enemy is in fact apathy, even more so than fascism.

As V makes clear in his address, it was us, the people who put (and kept) these corrupt politicians in power, and it is the people who have the power to make the change — if enough people realise that change is necessary and dare to make the change. We still have our votes, for now.

One of the greatest hurdles facing us here in Malaysia is that many people cannot distinguish between ‘the government of the day’ and ‘the nation’ as separate and distinct entities, and UMNO-BN has been working steadily to erase that distinction in the minds of the people (another symptom of fascism: ultimate loyalty to the leader-regime-country).

My objectives in posting this pair of posts (UMNO Fascism: A Checklist) and (M for Merdeka; V for Vendetta) are to sound the alert on encroaching fascism and to (hopefully) raise political awareness among the people. We cannot dictate their votes, but we can at least give them something to think about and urge them to think for themselves. We have to try.

24 08 2007
koolgeek

The best parts – Fear and Mirror.

Fear. For another May13. Thus vote BN.

Mirror. Vote BN to get the roads tarred and bridge fixed.

24 08 2007
Moses Foo

Hi GL

I would love to see a similar MY ‘V” to do a similar cut-in broadcast from RTM. That would be the real-deal 😉

Think, man! Think! Think for yourself. Stop borrowing out your thinking man!


[ GhL ] :
I would love to see that too Moses. Anyone know where we can get this kind of uber-cool equipment to do a cut-in a la ‘V’? 🙂

25 08 2007
mob1900

Those darn masks costs like rm70 per piece, If only we could get it cheap by volume… but again freedom has no price…

I am V…
and we already have another V, Namewee… kekekek

27 08 2007
chansey

finally, a place where people actually understand what the movie was trying to tell us!

IMHO this movie was not about guns, Guy Fawkes masks or cool action scenes. it was about defending the inalienable rights that everyone should have.

i agree also that it’s us who are to blame for letting BN stay in power for so long. as a reslt, the few who do want to do anything need to convince the rest of us that it’s actually worth the trouble to stand up for what we believe. that’s probably the biggest hurdle we face.

garvi, i’d love to run. really. but then i look at the old guy down the street guarding the apartment house. i look at the poor fellas in my school who can’t get scholarships because of government policy. i see the lorry truck driver who has to work years to fund his kid’s education. and i realize simply that i can’t run, because i can’t leave them behind. i wouldn’t be able to live with it. just because some of us are richer or more successful, we get to escape while these guys have to suffer for our collective mistakes indefinitely.

would you be able to live with abandoning your fellow man because he can’t afford to get away with you?

[ GhL ] : Well said, chansey, well said. Will you walk with us?

29 08 2007
chansey

I’m doing my bit. Pity I’m too young to vote, but I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen about what’s really going on. And I know from experience it’s hard as hell to shake someone out of their comfort zone.

The main problems we face are inability to spread the word, and apathy.

Not enough M’sians are connected to the net, so many who do feel dissent can’t find a way to express it, or develop their dissatisfaction beyond coffee-shop talk, e.g. how to blow up Mongolian models without being caught (heheh). Others simply don’t develop in that area because they think it’s all fine and dandy – the only anti-government media is on the internet, and if they have no internet they can’t get to this media.

We need to find alternative media if we want to reach out to the rest of Malaysia. The internet just won’t reach out to orang kampung or poor urbanites.

Next, apathy/ignorance. Our government school systems have very successfully turned most of us into unquestioning workers. This bunch can be placated with shopping malls, government-controlled media and the threat of the I.S.A. The more intelligent ones are so bored by textbook history that they don’t ever want to read about politics again, or they just decide to emigrate.

And that’s just the way the government wants it – a middle class with a lower-class mindset. Easy to placate, easy to bully, easy to trick, easy to govern.

Quite frankly, I can’t see much of a solution to apathy. Teaching kids to have critical thinking would sove the problem, except we don’t have control over it. IMHO education is key. Question is how do we control it.


[ GhL ] :
Bravo, Chansey. Your great maturity and awareness make the Election Commission’s voter age requirement look like a bad joke. If only there were more young people like you…

I don’t know if you were at the Bangsa Malaysia gathering (I didn’t manage to meet everyone), but Malik Imtiaz used a very good term, “de-education” to describe the way that the failed education system has robbed the people of the ability to think for themselves, which is partly why they blindly accept what the government tells them is good and true.

We are the stubborn few who refuse to submit to totalitarianism, but we need to reach out to the people if we want to achieve anything meaningful. Apathy-ignorance is indeed our greatest enemy: I have great difficulty convincing even my close friends to do something.

It is difficult, but we are gathering momentum, and of course, finding a way to reach out to even more people.

Keep doing what you’re doing, Chansey, every bit counts. Proud to have you with us.

30 08 2007
adam k.

well said my friend.

6 12 2007
Chong Zhemin

hey.

check out this video that I’ve produced – M for malaysia.

I edited the clip from the movie V for vendetta…..

[ GhL ] : Good work. Blind are those who cannot — or worse — refuse to see the disturbing parallels between the England of Adam Sutler and the Malaysia of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

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