Remember remember, the 5th of November!
A dangling Guy Fawkes, the wax version in Madame Tussaud's museum. His buddies' heads are displayed on pikes.
Burning 'Guys' for entertainment
We in the 'West' like to look upon ourselves as a tolerant bunch. Secular values having pervaded our every footstep and word, freedom to assemble, to march, to speak, etc. are valued highly - after all, such rights came with the blood and sweat of others fighting for them. Hence, every now and again we use them, partly in fear that we may risk losing them if we don't exercise our rights.
And that is why I'd like to post two popular poetic refrains, which will be uttered in various parts of Britain tomorrow, all for a bit of historical fun. November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, an annual commemoration of the unsuccessful revolutionary Catholic plot in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament and overthrow the Protestant monarchy.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
A little bit of Anti-papism
Now for the hardcore traditionalist-ritualist, the latter is ill-sufficient to commemorate the occasion. In former times the following verse was also sung widely. Nowadays it has somewhat fallen out of favour due to its content.
A penny loaf to feed the Pope
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
I fear poor old PapaRatzinger would be none to impressed with this type of rhetoric. Indeed, one could argue under current laws against incitement to hatred that any group who gather and bellow out this refrain on Guy Fawkes Day may be breaking British law.
Indoctrinating Polish kids about sectarian British customs
I, for one, will be showing the Polish kids I teach this Guy Fawkes effigy burning ritual from a standard video resource in most English language schools, entitled 'Kids in Britain.' Other chapters include 'Christmas', 'Pancake Tuesday' and 'Easter.' Yes, I know, the latter involves a fairly gory crucifixion, but that scene is thankfully omitted in this particular video of 'British customs!'
I kid you not. Indeed, come to think of it, I will also probably show my adult students this weird pyromania that grips British of all ages and creeds. If I can find an old shirt and trousers in the attic and a bit of hay while I'm on my way to school, I might just ask my students to help me make an effigy for the occasion- how about one of Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair? Nah, that'd be a bit nasty, even if he still refuses to resign despite the Met. being found guilty of a fatal fuck up in the killing of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles De Menezes.
Can the real 'V' please stand up!
I also plan to sell home Alan Moore's point about the Hollywood film version. Moore commented that the movie has been "turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neo-conservatives, which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England."
On the one hand, I'll obviously have to tone down the message to my 12 year old students. I'd rather not scare them. But on the other hand, highlighting the much despised and former quasi-fascist Minister of Education, Roman Giertych (he's still a fascist in a suit, just no longer a politician after his recent election defeat), will be a good example to clarify what Moore's creation 'V' was fighting against.
I was wondering today whether there has been any other historical figure killed so many times over such a long time frame. I mean, Jesus, they've been burning poor old Guy for 401 years now. When will they give him a respite? Ironically, a public vote sponsored by the BBC in 2002, saw Fawkes listed at 30th in the list of '100 Greatest Britons.' A funny way to show someone you like them, huh?
Anarchist posters a century ago in Britain credited Fawkes as being "the only man to ever enter parliament with honourable intentions." The Scottish Socialist Party ruffled a few feathers in 2003 when they used a poster with the above quote against Blairism.
Time for a revival
In modern times Guy started to reformed his public profile as recent as last year on the big screen in the Wachowski brothers/James MacTeigue film V for Vendetta . The film was based on a ten-issue comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated mostly by David Lloyd in the early 80's. A post-nuclear war world sees Britain controlled by a totalitarian regime, Norsefire, facing an enemy in the form of a romantic Bakuninist-anarchist, 'V', who dons a Guy Fawkes mask whilst violently and theatrically plotting and performing seditious acts.
Will a 'V' pop out of nowhere tomorrow and bring about the downfall of the Brownesque government? Will a 'V' revolutionary arise to obliterate the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabethan monarchy, while once and for all eradicating the excruciatingly painful repetition of England's 1966 world cup triumph by media commentators? We can only hope.
I'll leave you with some V's address to the British people:
The management is terrible! We've had a string of embezzlers, frauds, liars and lunatics making a string of catastrophic decisions. This is plain fact. But who elected them? It was you! You who appointed these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you!
While I'll admit that anyone can make a mistake once, to go on making the same lethal errors century after century seems to me nothing short of deliberate. You have encouraged these malicious incompetents, who have made your working life a shambles.
You have accepted without question their senseless orders. You have allowed them to fill your workspace with dangerous and unproven machines. You could have stopped them. All you had to say was "No." You have no spine. You have no pride. You are no longer an asset to the company.
I will, however, be generous. You will be granted two years to show me some improvement in your work. If at the end of that time you are still unwilling to make a go of it...You're fired. That will be all. You may return to your labours. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.