The gunpowder treason and plot.
Or under its official name: Gunpowder Plot. If it doesn’t sound familiar yet, perhaps I can freshen up your memory with this:
The iconic face of Guy Fawkes in the form of a mask: a symbol of oppression as well as uprising, revolution, anarchism and possibly other forms of manifesting revolt, violent or not – justified or not.
Who was Guy Fawkes?
„The last man to enter the Parliament with honest intentions” lived between 1570 and 1606 in England, and in the last part of his life he joined the group of English Catholics that planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch. He was the one in charge of the stockpiled gunpowder that was to be used to blow up the House of Parliament (Westminster Palace). He failed to do so because he was arrested early in the morning of the 5th of November, the day planned for the detonation. He was tortured, convicted of high treason and subsequently hanged.
Why do we (still) remember him?
His name is infamously „invoked” every year on the 5th of November in order to celebrate the King’s escape from the assassination. Bonfires are lit across Great Britain and effigies of Guy Fawkes are being thrown into the fire. Although the holiday isn’t as popular as it used to be, Guy Fawkes’s face has turned into an iconic image for anti-establishment and political opposition.
Part of its present day depiction is due to the success of „V for Vendetta”, the dystopian graphic novel, but mostly due to the Warner Bros’ movie released in 2006 based on the book, in which the main character (who covers his face with a mask that looks like Guy Fawkes) leads a popular uprising against an oppressive Government – taking the 1605 conspiration to its intended end, blowing up of the Parliament –albeit as a symbolic gesture.
Why shouldn’t we ”forget, forget” the 5th of November?
In such a day and age of turmoil and uncertainty, of confusion and fear, perhaps a symbol of change for the better and justice comes in handy. Maybe Guy Fawkes (or V, the „humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate”) is not the ideal candidate for it; you should not blow up Parliaments, or any other building for that matter. Violence should not be in the spirit of our age…but understanding and acceptance of peers, mutual respect as well as the challenging of all injustice should be.
So maybe we can make the good old Guy Fawkes into something better: a symbol for a better future. The birthday for such a symbol? Well…how about today?!