Imagine sitting at the execution of Guy Fawkes, thinking about what had happened and what the man was actually responsible for. He had planted explosives in the basement of Parliament and planned to blow it up in protest of the government that was in power at the time, and did it in the name of liberty. The cool wind brushes your face as you solemnly watch the perpetrator, hooded in black, ascend the steps to be beheaded. He walks up slowly, with dignity, and places his head on the block to be taken by the executioner, because he knows what he’s done. You know what he’s done. But do you condemn his actions?
The Million Mask March, Anonymous’ interpretation of what Guy Fawkes Day should consist of, is a sign that we are beginning to wake up as a nation. The main difference between the Fifth of November in the United States and the United Kingdom is the fact that we value the individual over the collective. Guy Fawkes tried to uproot an oppressive regime during his time, but he was still labeled to be a domestic terrorist and was executed, so that’s what the British think about when they hear Fawkes’ name. They immediately turn to an almost catastrophic event in their nation’s history where their legislature was almost wiped off the face of the planet in a matter of seconds, much like we turn to 9/11 when we hear anything about what’s happening in the Middle East. These events are what shape our viewpoints on certain things that our government does, and this is the problem.
Even in the UK, there are people who believe that Fawkes, while he was technically a domestic terrorist, represents an ideal that goes far beyond what he planned to do. The fact that he was passionate enough to even threaten to blow up Parliament, all because he thought that the government that was in power at the time was oppressive or wasn’t fit for the people of Britain. He made a statement, that there would be no peace for a ruling body that thought that they could run over the people without having a little bit of fight coming back at them. Today, Guy Fawkes masks are worn by Anonymous members–and regular people alike–in the spirit of uprising. The general consensus has come back and said that violence might be the answer for these people, which saddens me greatly.
In Ferguson, those who thought that they were on the side of the “good guys” started to become violent toward police and sparked even more protests and tensions rose. Instead of protesting peacefully, they decided to take things up a notch and they caused more trouble than was necessary in the process. Even though their cause might have been the right one, they certainly went about it in the wrong way.
Violence cannot be the answer. The state will use violence and shock and awe to try and discourage anyone from rising up and voicing their opinions at some point, and those who choose the public square over a jail cell will have to make a choice: will they use violent measures to get their point across or not?
If we are to be successful in our endeavors and get accomplished what needs to be accomplished, we must not use violence to convey our personal messages. We need to act in a state of nonviolent protest, focused on the fact that we are people who are displeased with our government rather than how we are going to inflict the next wound. Nonviolence shows that we are willing to be reasonable and to possibly discuss options with those in power on how to resolve the inevitable conflict that we will face peacefully, rather than descending into a never-ending vicious cycle of killing people and pointing fingers trying to place the blame on the other party.