GUY FAWKES MASK: GUY FAWKES – FROM A TERRORIST TO AN ANTI-HERO

From a declared terrorist to a spontaneous anti-hero!

From a declared religious militant to a symbol of anti-establishment protests!

The imagery that lasted for centuries, some 370 years –long enough for system and people to go routine and indifferent to the reason with which it had started – after all, time wears off reasons, interpretations and relevance of any incident to customize it in the context of ‘now’ – has been made irrelevant in three decades.

The imagery that started taking birth in early 1980s with a character of a fictional world, has become the most adopted placard of anti-government and anti-system protests the world over in just three decades.

That tells us the power of communication and the media it rides.

Before the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ which had a wide release in 2006, Guy Fawkes was not known worldwide. Same thing can be said about his mask, or the mask designed in his name.

Even in Britain, the country of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the country of Guy Fawkes, he was being forgotten, even if the plot had become synonymous with his name. People preferred Halloween over it and people preferred calling November 5 as Bonfire Night and not ‘Guy Fawkes Night’.

He was resurrected as an anarchist and an anti-hero in a comic book series, ‘V for Vendetta’ on a fictional dystopian Britain. The main protagonist of the fictional world, ‘V’, was dressed like Guy Fawkes wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. The series continued for several years. ‘V for Vendetta’ was also released as a graphical novel.

The 2006 movie epitomized the written work behind it. Though it had many changes from the source material, it can be said it took out Guy Fawkes and his mask out of Britain.

With the launch of the movie, the Guy Fawkes’ journey, from a terrorist to an anti-hero, was prepared for a global outreach. And it came in 2008 when the ‘hacktivist collective Anonymous’ adopted Guy Fawkes mask in its protests against the Church of Scientology. Since then, it is all over. Since then, the mask has been adopted as the protest symbol the world over. Its outreach is clear from the fact that it is banned in Middle East countries like Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia. And it is also banned in Canada in ‘extreme circumstances’.

Films are a powerful medium to take an image to the global audience to change and build perceptions. The US has been doing it for years. And Guy Fawkes’ metamorphosis though the Guy Fawkes Mask once again reiterates it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

Guy_Fawkes_Mask-Wikimedia CommonsImage courtesy: Guy Fawkes Mask – Wikimedia Commons

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IT WAS JUNE 4 AGAIN..

It was June 4 again. Like it is carried, the world carried intense debates and coverage over what happened on this day 26 years ago. Like China has always done since June 4, 1989, it did this as well, suppressing the voices on mainland, while trying to find ways to scuttle the Hong Kong protests that have become an annual feature.

Yes, if any symbolic Chinese element is present in the protests over Tiananmen Massacre (or incident, a political incident China would rather like to its people to believe), it is the annual Hong Kong vigil, organized to remember the victims of Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing’s iconic public square, a large arena.

China has, so far, been able to effectively killed democracy on the mainland and Tiananmen is its living proof and will remain so for the world. The autocracy has done it so successfully that majority of the Chinese now, including majority of its millennial generation born in good times of economic surge believe that Chinese politicians are taking right steps as a New York Times survey study finds.

Their concern is more of financial in nature than political and that is the success story of communist party of China so far. Chinese rulers know they will face problems from a slowing economy first. If any hope of democracy has to find its voice in China again, it will be only after the economy has failed, leading to increased poverty levels and a large impoverished class. That looks a far-fetched conclusion given the economic indicators now.

Even if China is slowing down, it is slated to be the world’s second largest economy. Also, the country will have the maximum share of the middle class population groups by 2021.

It is a large market for the world community to ignore, led by America and other rich and developed nations.

China knows it and exploits the gains suppressing democratic voices ruthlessly on the mainland. It is one of the compromises in China the world community is making.

And its efforts are reaching to Hong Kong now, the only vocal Chinese participation from China for hopes of democracy in the country. China is trying to undermine the democratic voices of Hong Kong targeting subtly the generation behind events like June 4 vigil or July 1 marches every year.

It is trying to do that by exporting mainland system on Hong Kong. Long duration protests were held last year against the Beijing decision to install a puppet pro-Beijing panel for 2017 Hong Kong elections using universal suffrage for the first time. All candidates who will be in fray will be pro-Beijing (chosen by them) and universal suffrage will be joke in that case. Protesters were demanding full democracy in the matter that, as expected, they did not get. After all, Xi Jinping is being referred to as the strongest Chinese President since Mao Zedong in the global media and it has to have its designs all over, including Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was under Britain for many decades and was handed over to China in 1997 with many conditions including preserving political and economic structure of the city state under ‘one country, two systems’.

China knows it cannot employ its mainland tactics here. China knows it cannot take the risk of subverting the agreement openly and ruthlessly suppress the voices of democracy in Hong Kong. But it can always do so, subtly and clandestinely, with ways like trying to changes text-books with mainland design or denying the people of Hong Kong to choose their own leader.

And it is on the job.

For the moment, Hong Kong stood once again with the world, especially the global media, on June 4, to remember the democratic victims of an autocratic China, hoping to withstand the Chinese might to demand genuine democracy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

I am sharing some of the images of the vigil protest by the media here giving due courtesy to the agencies.

HK-DALE DE LA REY -AFP - Getty Images
Image courtesy: Dale De La Rey-AFP-Getty Images

HK-GETTY IMAGE
Image courtesy: Getty Images

HK-Vincent Yu-AP
Image courtesy: Vincet Yu-AP

HK-VINCENT YU-ASSOCIATED PRESS
Image courtesy: Bobby Yip-Reuters

HK-WSJ
Image Courtesy: WSJ

THE GUY FAWKES NIGHT: FOR THE WORLD, IT’S BASICALLY ABOUT THE MASK

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**Collage prepared from the photographs sourced from the Internet


It’s the Guy Fawkes Night today (it’s the Guy Fawkes Day as well/also the Bonfire Night – the India time – by the British time, it is few hours away while writing this). Names apart, it is basically in the message. And the name Guy Fawkes in the contemporary times reiterates it.

The over four centuries old name, associated with a failed treason plot (or the rebellion depending on which side one was – the Gunpowder Treason Plot) to remove the British king and install a Catholic monarch, on November 5, 1605, has come to be associated with a symbol that has fast become the protest mark to raise the voice against establishments and against policies.

The Guy Fawkes Masks are fast becoming the protest symbol of modern-age political activists, protesters and anarchists, from Middle East protests to Occupy Wall Street, from India to the US.

Over the centuries, the day has had changing perceptions in Britain about celebrating it with bonfire and masked effigies but history is history and it is for Britain, rooted in a Monarchy.

For the world of now, it is basically about ‘it is in the message’. Irrespective of the associated history, the contemporary world knows Guy Fawkes Masks as popularized by the film version of the graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ released in 2006.

The 10 issues of ‘V for Vendetta’ had their run-time from 1982 to 1989 where the Guy Fawkes Mask of the day found its origin but the mass appeal it needed to become a growing worldwide phenomenon came with its film adaptation.

The film popularized the Mask the world over and the themes the novel and the film dealt with attached with the Mask the elements of activism against oppression. V, the mysterious central character of the novel in a Guy Fawkes Mask designed by David Lloyd, fought to liberate his country from a Fascist regime in a dystopian future. He raised voice against the wrongs and he gave voice to the others.

And the world has never been bereft of issues crying for attention and voices, in developed nations, in developing countries, in the third-world block, in democracies, and in tyrannies. The issues always look for symbolisms to tell the world of their presence. And many such issues have found their symbolism in the Guy Fawkes Masks after the movie was released.

It also reiterates why cinema is such a powerful communication tool to propagate ideas, to spread thoughts, and to popularize symbols.


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 **Collage prepared from the photographs sourced from the Internet


THE GUY FAWKES NIGHT: FOR THE WORLD, IT’S BASICALLY ABOUT THE MASK

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE SPECTACULAR FALL OF MORSI: A REMARKABLY SWIFT REALIZATION FOR A NATION OF OVER 84 MILLION

THE ARAB SPRING IS HERE TO STAY

On the expected line, the Egyptian military stepped in, deposed Mohammed Morsi, suspended the Egyptian Constitution and appointed an interim head of the country till the next elections are held.

Millions signed the petition demanding Morsi’s ouster. Millions gathered to protest. Millions shouted slogans of ‘no Morsi’. And millions celebrated in the iconic Tahrir Square and in Egypt when the Morsi’s rule came to an end.

With much less violence than the first Tahrir Square uprising! Spectacular!

This transition or the military coup as some say is still the step ahead in a positive direction in evolution of a multiparty democracy in the most populous Arab Nation.

Apart from the falling economy that Morsi failed to address, the other major complaint of the millions who protested against Morsi was that the government was engaging in ‘Brotherhoodization’ or ‘ikhwaninzation’ of the Egyptian society as an article on CNN says. (Muslim Brotherhood’s Arabic transliteration is al-Ikḫwān al-Muslimūn; ‘Ikhwan’ translates to ‘brothers’.)

Muslim Brotherhood is an influential organization with pan-Arab presence. It preaches and promotes exclusivity of Islamic values as the way of life and has been involved in violent activities to promote its cause. It doesn’t believe in secular democracy. The Brotherhood has been involved in political assassinations and has established militant Islamic organization like Hamas.

The movement was founded in Egypt in 1928. Due to its violent activities, it was banned in 1948. But the organization is still strong in Egypt and has been able to maintain its support base though every successive political establishment in Egypt has worked to suppress it effectively.

Its violent history, a narrow view on democratic values and emphasis on introducing a strict Islamic code as a way of life were worrying factors for the Egyptian thought leaders and for the global community when Morsi won a landslide victory last year to become the first democratically president of the nation.

And one year of Morsi’s rule has proven those worries correct. If Morsi’s victory was landslide, his fall is equally spectacular, too.

Some Arab nations are rich. Some are filthy rich. Many of the 22 Arab speaking nations are not so well-to-do. But almost of the Arab nations are bad places for free thinking souls believing in secular democratic credentials as a way of life.

Most of the Arab nations are not democracies. There are tyrannies. There are monarchies. Their rulers promote strict Islamic code as a way of life as religion helps them in keeping control over the masses. The there are nations torn by civil wars.

Though Egypt was not a democracy, but it was not even a hardliner Islamic state. Having a long ancient history, Egypt has been the cultural representative of the Arab world in the modern times and is one of the most diversified Arab world economies. The nation, though under the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak for decades, has been in the mainstream of the global geopolitics. In modern times, the Egyptian politicians have been able to keep the state and the politics free from the Islamists and the religious institutions. And that reflects in the social weaving of the nation. And that is reflecting in the aspirations of the agitating nation.

The Wikipedia quotes from a U.S. Library of Congress study:

Many Muslims say that Egypt’s governments have been secularist and even anti-religious since the early 1920s. Politically organized Muslims who seek to purge the country of its secular policies are referred to as “Islamists.”

An article in the New York Times in the high-tide days of January 25 to February 10 protests writes:

Among Arab states, Egypt was the first to make a concerted effort to co-opt its intellectual class, and it has set the standard ever since. Muhammad Ali, who ruled during the first half of the 19th century, conscripted several generations of scholars to import scientific and military knowledge from Europe. These new experts also staffed government schools and edited official newspapers. A state-centered approach to culture persisted through the early part of last century and reached its apogee under the rule of Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Following the Free Officers’ Revolt of 1952, Nasser’s regime nationalized the press, the cinema and most publishing houses, establishing what one historian has termed “a virtual state monopoly on culture.” Mubarak exploited this monopoly for his own needs. During the 1990s, as Egyptian security forces fought a low-level war against Islamist groups in Upper Egypt, the regime did its best to recruit intellectuals to its side.

Egypt has been free of the religious fanaticism that has become the most lethal exporter of the Islamic terrorism in the world. The rich Arab nations are a major source of funding for the Islamic terrorist organizations.

Egypt, being an influential Arab nation, could have been and could be the beginning of the long process to free the Arab people from the autocrats and the monarchs ruling them; from the warlords killing them.

Egypt, indeed, is the best case study and can be the role model for promoting democratic values in an otherwise tyrannical Arab world with state controlled lives or civil wars, be it Saudi Arabia or Somalia.

The world has seen how the Arab Spring rapidly spread in the different Arab countries in a short span of time. Driven by a desperate urge for change and connected by the modern technologies of communication, the developments of one country pushed the thinking of the residents of the next country and the chain was established in no time.

It also shows how the people across the Arab nations are feeling almost similar problems of restricted freedom, borrowed livelihood, fractured social life and no individual viewpoints midst an existential threat.

For this, how the Arab Spring proceeded in Egypt, was important for Egypt, for the Arab world and for the world.

And the rapid rise and fall of Mohammed Morsi is good for that reason. It tells us it is heading in the right direction.

It was increasingly becoming clear that Morsi was not working and was not going to work to promote a secular democracy. He was gradually working towards Islamization of Egypt. In doing so, he messed up an already derailed economy, something that seldom seemed to be his concern. Morsi’s primary concern seemed to be establishing the Islamic rule as preached by the Muslim Brotherhood.

That is a dangerous proposition for the world. Establishment of a strict Islamist rule under the Muslim Brotherhood in one of the most influential Arab nations would work as a boon for the militant Islam and would push back the spirit of democracy in whole of the Arab world many years back and it would negatively affect the ongoing Arab Spring uprisings in other Arab countries.

The concern over the military stepping in and deposing a democratically elected government is valid but its applicability has to be case specific and it doesn’t apply in the Egypt of the day. Barack Obama rightly said that ‘democracy is more than elections’ when he requested Morsi to respond to the protesters.

Egyptians had seen first elections in decades when the elected Morsi. The generation of the voters had never experienced what the democracy was and had no idea what it had to be for them. Also, as some analysts say, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized political outfit (with the front – Freedom and Justice Party) when the elections were announced. The generation of voters had no practical experience of the violent past and the anti-secular hardline ideology of the Brotherhood as they had grown seeing the movement suppressed.

The protesters, and the Egyptians, had sought and fought for freedom and a better life during the first Tahrir Square uprising. And one year of Morsi’s rule told them it was not what they had expected from Morsi while voting him in the highest office of the country.

And it was a remarkably swift realization for a nation of over 84 million to realize it and raise voice so effectively deposing Morsi in just a year and the second Tahrir Square uprising is significant for that.

And for the concern of the military taking over, it is a far cry in the present circumstances. The Egyptian military is a stable institution that enjoys popularity in the country and has support from the global powers like the US. They are already an important part of the decision-making process in the Egypt and would not do anything to weaken that base by alienating the internal supporters and by antagonizing the global powers.

The Arab Spring in Egypt has given the country its next step to experiment with the process of establishing a free democracy. Let’s see how it rolls out and let’s pray for it to be headed in the right direction.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/