Remember, Remember the 5th of November…
Happy Guy Fawkes day.
For those of you that don’t know what I am talking about, Guy Fawkes (also known as Guido Fawkes) was an English Catholic who planned the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was caught, and the good King James escaped assassination.
Today the legacy of Guy Fawkes is that of treason. And today, I am currently celebrating by wearing a fake mustache and watching V for Vendetta. Now to clarify, I am not saying that I support the actions of Guy Fawkes, I am merely saying that today is a great excuse to wear facial hair and watch an awesome film.
That aside, it crossed my mind that this incident preceded the English War. It also crossed my mind that this plot against government violates the very thing that Thomas Hobbes was about–obedience to the sovereign.
Thomas Hobbes argued that in the state of nature, the life of humans are, “nasty, brutish, and short.” For this reason, they contract with a sovereign for their own protection. According to Hobbes, this protection means that the sovereign may never be revolted against, even in the case of an unjust government.
So what would he have said about the treasonous plot of Guy Fawkes?
He would have denounced it. Plain and simple.
But is Hobbes theory correct? Or more appropriately, what are the other arguments over the people’s rights against the government?
V for Vendetta highlights the idea that if the government abuses it’s power, then revolution is necessary. In this film, the government biologically attacked it’s own people in order to gain power. Any reasonable person would see this as an unjust act. In this case, the main protagonist “V” saw it as unjust. He took matters into his own hands and attacked the government. He violated Hobbes’ theory of the sovereign’s authority.
But at the end, the audience isn’t condemning “V”‘s actions as Hobbes would. We are applauding him for fighting against the unjust regime that controlled his society. This film reveals an alternative to the political philosophy of Hobbes. It shows us that perhaps government shouldn’t have the right to be all-controlling over us. It shows us that people should have the right to rebel. And it shows us that human nature is not always driven by fear as Hobbes suggests.