The safety of the state

When the safety of the state becomes of more paramount interest than the freedom of its constituents, the result is usually totalitarianism. This is the premise of the film V for Vendetta, which was based on a British graphic novel authored by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in the early 1980s. Though the graphic novel was predicated on contrasting anarchy versus fascism in light of Thatcher era paranoia, the movie uses the zeitgeist of a post-9/11 world to present the neo-conservative totalitarianism vs.

populist-oriented liberalism. In effect, they posit a hypothetical near future Britain, which has taken to extreme measures of surveillance to guarantee the security of the ruling party, known as Norsefire, and infringing on the rights of individuals to maintain it. By definition, totalitarianism would extend into matters of expression such as free speech, press and religion. This benefits it because it allows it to suppress the dissemination of ideas and agendas that are contrary to the ruling party’s interests.

In effect, all forms of media consumption devolve into a state of propagandization in which the modes of expression function as mouthpieces for the ruling party, much like the BTN in V for Vendetta acts to cleanse current affairs of any dissenting note. Religion is not tackled explicitly by the film, but it does deal with issues of moral fervor insofar as it presents Norsefire as demanding that loyalty and obedience is not just a civic duty, but a moral obligation. Patriotism stems not from the Norsefire’s ability to earn the respect of its citizens, but from Norsefire’s ability to inspire fear.

As such, a nationalistic conception of morality, spirituality and religion is a dangerous thing. Regardless of how valuable morality and spirituality can be to civic development, the adoption of a nationalized code of such can lead to a misappropriation of its edicts, corrupting it away from self-actualization and towards dangerous notions of loyalty. The film ultimately rests on the assertion of its protagonist, a masked ‘terrorist’ hero known only as V, that “People should not be afraid of their governments.

Governments should be afraid of their people,” essentially rephrasing the famous assertions of James Madison and celebrating the notion of populist rule. Governments exist only insofar as the people legitimize their power and authority, and therefore people should never let governments infringe upon their liberties for their authority ultimately rests on their ability to acknowledge it. As such, governments must exist constantly at the risk of being emasculated by their people. The possibility exists for the United States to fall into such a state as depicted by the movie.

But this is only possible insofar as the people let it happen. The framers of the Constitution knew this, and wrote it such that every single body of authority is kept in check of one another, and that powers are always limited and never absolute. But should American citizens fail to constantly question the decisions of their government and keep it in check, then the future Britain depicted by V for Vendetta could quite possibly become the United States of today, for after all, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.