Monday, October 27, 2008

V for Violence

by Hanno

I was disturbed by several features of "V for Vendetta." I found the movie to glorify not just violence, but torture. And then it made revolution to be a non-violent wonderful thing (you can't have a Hollywood movie without a happy ending, can you?). But one of the main arguments against revolution is that they are indeed bloody, uncertain, violent and ugly. The romaticization of revolution has a huge effect: it allows for easy justifications. Hence we can look at a functioning society with less freedom we would like (hey, that sounds like ours) and raise start dropping the "R" word, as if its an easy solution to whatever problem. But it isnt. Revolutions are dirty, messy affairs where lots and lots of innocent people get killed, and lots of guilty ones, too. Hobbes knew this well, which is why he was against the whole idea. No, if a movie is to tackle the problem of fascism and revolution, lets have a real look at it, not the Hollywood version. This of course is compounded by celbrating the violence of V himself. And why? Would the violence have been justified if V had not been tortured? If the state had not created the crisis of the bioterrorist attacks? If we just had the all powerful fascist state, but people got there without coersion, would that justify V's violence? (ah, the first interesting question!)

But that was not what I wanted to talk about. Instead, it was the torture of Evey. According to the film, her torture makes her free. Listen to that as I repeat it: through torture, she becomes free. And she becomes free because she doesn't fear death anymore. She is unafraid. OK, let me make this clear: Torture does NOT make people unafraid. It breaks them, and makes them always afraid. Torture does not make people free. It robs them of their humanity. It may make you realize there are worse things than dieing, but that it not necessarily a good thing, and leads to suicide. People at Auschwitz were not free because they realized they would rather throw themselves onto the electric fence than live another day. In short, violence is not a way to overcome existential angst.


Rob said...

Well, there wasn't really a question in that last paragraph, and apparently it's too early for me to think of a relevant literary allusion, so I'll just go the the fascist question.

I don't know why people are so down about fascism. Maybe it's because we always envision fascist states as being lead by an all powerful ball-buster (technical term-look it up). Maybe it's because of its poor track record (I'm looking at you, Mussolini). But that shouldn't detract from the principles. Fascism needs better PR, and maybe a new face, like a kind-hearted philosophy teacher, those guys are extremely capable (remember this when I turn in my upcoming Kant paper, Hanno).

Let's give fascism another chance, I think we can make it work. I just hope I don't get a crappy job like manipulating documents for the ministry of truth (allusion! now I can leave).

tr said...

kind-hearted philosophy teacher

Logically impossible.

MButkus said...

Interestingly enough, the logical extension of communitarianism (seen as a response to radical individualism) is fascism. It doesn't necessarily have to be taken that far (much like individualism doesn't necessarily have to be taken to extremes either); Amitai Etzioni makes some very interesting and compelling arguments about communitarian philosophy.

I'm still parsing Hanno's rant- er, post. I think the V story becomes more compelling once the backstory is analyzed (the graphic novel is a lot more bleak than the film, which, comparatively, is fairly bloodless). My initial question, however, is how would Hanno suggest we overcome basic fear and the survival instinct that made Evey (and others like her) willing to be complicit in furthering the ends of Sutler's regime?

Hanno said...

Need to be careful. First, is it mere survival instincts that make people complicit? It may be for Evey, she says as much, but not for others. But especially for a society that comes out of great disorder, order itself is comforting. I am sure that Somalia would love some order at the moment, and if it is achieved, a regime would get a great deal of support from the people. It is not mere fear of death from fighting a regime that make people obedient. Hitler was very popular, and even in a democratic state, he would have been elected after his dictatorial powers were established. No, love of country, love of order, love of commodious living, and inertia will all push us to complicity.

Second, the answer is obvious. Love of something greater than oneself is the requirement. If people truly believed "Give me liberty of give me death," not because you have had your love of life beaten out of you, but as a positive thing, this end is more important to me than my life. Out of such are all true revolutionaries created (though the end is not always liberty.) Foster the love of something greater than oneself. But look out, it has powerful unexpected consequences.

Anonymous said...

“Revolutions are dirty, messy affairs...”

American Standard disagrees.

ce said...

In short, violence is not a way to overcome existential angst.

n33dz moar hawt bl00d

Probably true, but what if the violence is itself merely part of the process of "taking back control", as it were, of one's life? For V, at least, his raison d'etre becomes tied into the violence he dishes out. Thus, it does seem plausible that violence (or a bit of the ultra-violence) can be a part of one's existential awakening, and thus the acceptance of one's condemnation as a free person. He crafted a new life for himself. It was just a rather violent life. If that doesn't make him an existential hero, doesn't it at least make him an existential success story?

Hanno said...

Great. We move from being tortured as an existential success story to torturing and killing others as an existential success story.

If that is the essence of existential success, I have no use for it. God help you if you do.

Hanno said...

And I strongly object to your claim that n33dz moar hawt bl00d.

How dare you speak of such a thing?

ce said...

If that is the essence of existential success, I have no use for it.

Is such foul language really necessary?