Saturday, February 26, 2011

V for Vendetta: Torture/Fear/No Fear (The Arab World and Beyond)

The blockbuster film "V for Vendetta" portrays a world besieged by global poverty, warfare, and totalitarianism. One of the main characters, Evey, ends up abducted by the revolutionary "terrorist" named "V". They become friendly with each other and V lets her go free. Later as she tries to escape the infamous state security forces she is caught. Evey ends up in a dungeon and tortured. Eventually she sees a door open and walks into V's room. She realizes it was him and not the police the entire time. As she cries and screams at him he explains why he did it. He also explains why she was sent notes in her cell claiming to be from another prisoner next door. He tells Evey these were sent to him when he was in prison. V tells her that he needed to cure her of her fear and terror that she lived under everyday. V also made her see one woman's story that never made it out alive. She leaves and realizes it worked. She went into hiding but she was no longer afraid of the despotic regime she lived under.

This part of the film I think helps explain, at least partially, how so many brave Arabs have been able to take on their authoritarian governments. In Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen torture has been commonplace. A people have been terrorized into submission. Then, as if out of nowhere, Arabs-collectively-decided they were not afraid anymore. Countless blogs and interviews from these countries record people saying, "We no longer have any fear." Even as Bahrain security forces shoot men, women, and children the protesters continue to defy the authorities.

In Egypt today the Egyptian military has made a public apology for cracking down on protesters. Notice the activists response from an online article by Jailan Zayan:

Activists launched a Facebook call for fresh protests on Saturday to denounce the army's use of force.

"Peaceful protesters in Tahrir are being chased away by the military police with tasers, sticks and whips. Masked men with machine guns trying to shut down the strike by force. Many beaten, assaulted and arrested," the statement said.

"We cannot stand for this; we must stand strong against violence towards peaceful protesters."


In a recent article from "the Jerusalem Post" Larry Derfner discussed the inevitability of Palestinians reclaiming the West Bank. He writes what he predicts will happen:

Masses of Palestinians, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, marching to IDF checkpoints and outposts, marching to Israeli-only roads, to settlements, to the security fence – to the nearest Israeli presence and screaming, “Out! Out!”

And refusing to leave.

WHAT THE hell is the IDF going to do then? Shoot them? Arrest them? With the whole world not only watching but, for the first time, already won over by other unarmed Arab masses facing down their oppressors?


At this point in history, Libyans are having to fight the hardest to take down the megalomaniac Qaddafi that has imposed himself on the country for over four decades. Perhaps thousands will die before he is disposed of. He will be cut down from his illusory realm of power. The process has begun and the people will not stop until he is removed.

In regards to this film clip I picked to accompany my blog's theme, I wanted to post this because it depicts (even if in a limited way) the realities of being tortured and living in fear. And the way governments can attempt to dehumanize targeted enemies of the state (in this case it was lesbians and gays).I do not like it when topics such as torture, war, and revolution become too intellectualized. This scene is very sad. I cry every time I watch it. Those of us, especially living in countries that have yet to make these scenarios common practice, should be in awe of those (in any country) standing up to repression, no longer fearful to resist.


Zog Kadare said...

So the millions of "brave Arabs" were given sessions of terror exposure therapy before hand?

Personally I wouldn't want to live in a society peopled by psychopaths who justify such methods or 'teachings': those who believe the means justify the ends are already a thousand times worse then Qaddafi who just operates on the level of 'ordinary' brutality.

Aristotle already understood that the style of governorship reflects larger condtions. You get rid of one guy, make a 'humane' (after it collapses it is called retroactively 'effeminate') system and then you find out the guy occupying the power glut is not so important. Greece followed this pattern (or 'dialectic') for many thousands of years (even into the twentieth century).

I think we forget how proximal we are to terror of the worst kind in the West: and the lie is that if you aren't afraid of authority bingo you take it down, no, what happens is you are killed. That is the lie of the "Hero" in revolution, before Lenin was Netchaiev who was simply put to death (and countless others gone without a clue).

On the subject of 'clever' narratives: That piece of shit Zizek said that the film would have been better if at the end it turned out that this V was actually Qaddafi.
Although I can not credit such a simpleton with understanding the implication of his own suggestion it would entail that the State itself (as a universal) was tutored so as to auto-obsolesce and so become a non-existent.

The "terrifying smile" (as Baudrillard says) of the diapered Chesshire cat: Citizens without a State - organs without a body (-politic).

Joshua said...

I think you missed my point tremendously.I was not saying it was good that the population was being tortured. I was just pointing out that people are now no longer in fear to fight against their tyranny. I thought the movie clip and the aftermath in the film gave a good illustration to the topic at hand. I understand that is debatable. As to what you just wrote I do not think any of it applies to any of my points.

Zog Kadare said...

It is torture that is used in the video to remove the fear: an ethical obscenity.

In any case I believe
that you also missed my point: the sentiment I want to rebuke is the immensely misguided notion that losing one's fear is good.

Par example: More people were summarily executed by Lenin in the first year of his intrepid revolution then in the previous hundred years - with process - under the 'wicked' Czars.

The rest of the argument is above already.

little apres coup:
(Well, if you are only pointing out that they have lost their 'fear' without making an ethical point it would seem that you say nothing, but only repeat the news unless you are explaining, somehow, why the 'fear' is now gone.)

Joshua said...

Ok, I believe I see your point. First, I did not justify V's methods.Again, I was explaining that what happened in the film as similar to what is happening in these revolutions: after being tortured in order to be broken down, the tortured became hardened, fearless.

I also disagree, loosing fear in this case is the only reason these people will have a chance now for a better life.

You use the example of Lenin and Russia. I'm a little loss on how that applies. To "fear" or "Revolution"?

A T'ang Chinese poet once wrote, "the danger of the road is not in the distance.In ten yards you can break a wheel." These revolutions could go bad, but things-as-they-are have been bad. Every action or inaction has unexpected consequences.

Are you from any of these countries going into revolt? I'm not myself. Almost every Arab's thought (outside elites) in writing or conversation sees what is going on as a positive development.They are calling for an end to torture, tyranny, and corruption."Nureed Hurira: We want freedom" they cry over and over.If one does not support these efforts now then when?

I want to say once more my opinion, in the case of the succession of these revolutions, loosing fear is good.

Zog Kadare said...

"You use the example of Lenin and Russia. I'm a little loss on how that applies to ..."Revolution"?"

Ach so?

But, apparently you mean because one must risk calamity: Soviet Union, Shoah, the works of Pol Pot, Bosnia (here too many considered the perpetrators of genocide heroes and applauded: especially the 'common people' who actually benefited from the murder of others seeking the same jobs etc.) Emancipatory and jubilant beginnings often come to such ends - often after much fan fair - and it is well known since ancient times!

In recent times Orwell wrote a book called Animal Farm. This process described is one thing I am hoping people will remember. The names change, but because the basic condtions are still the same everything reverts with only the difference that many have died - died in terrible ways.

Yes, it is very beautiful to speak of loosing fear and many will applaud - many more will weep. As soon as one looses fear (of course there is fear and fear, but I elide the point as it seems there is today the lack of fear that leads to recklessness) next restraint goes, soon you are committing many terrifying acts (but for you they are as nothing). I believe it is a very risky question as to the balance of current ills vs. sudden nihilistic bound into Future.

The jubilant atmosphere is come too early and is not only disturbing for its lack of historical reflection, but with the likely slaughter to come quite disgusting. Did you notice how a field marshal has been put in charge of Egypt and in Libya many are being killed?

Zizek is really appalling here, since he should be more tempered. This is not - one fears - the Berlin wall.

Devin Z. Shaw said...

I can't say I find the 'V for Vendetta' connection very useful-- but I'm not sure how useful you find it, Joshua, with all those qualifiers in the post.

Farah said...

I believe Joshua is right. I don't think the revolutions would've been successful had the people not been exposed to tremendous torture and pain and brutality and injustice by their dictators over the years.
People in those countries have reached a point where they feel they have nothing, or very little, to lose now, even if that very little is their own lives. And it's true: They are fearless now.I don't know how this can be explained or interpreted, but I know it's true. And what's good about it is that it seems to be contagious :)