By Tina Nguyen
Today is the day of the 2012 General Election; political issues are a main topic of discussion across the country. But let’s not add to the slew of propaganda being put forward as of late. Instead, let’s explore a different type of “government”—the revolutionary-led anarchy, or rather, the revolutionary behind it.
Considering any type of anarchy, a society without a determined leader would be chaotic. So just what is the appeal of not having an organized government? Better yet, what’s the appeal of following a masked revolutionary leader in lieu of an established one? I’ll present three examples of such leaders: V from the graphic novel (later adapted to film) V for Vendetta, Amon from the animated series “Legend of Korra,” and Zero from the animated series “Code Geass.” There’s no need to dive too deeply into their respective stories; the points that should be considered are their main similarities: 1) their masks, 2) their identities, and 3) their successors. (Background information can be found in the footnote at the bottom of this article for those who’re interested).
The masked leader is, first and foremost, masked. His lack of an identity allows him to embody the desires of a society’s citizens without falling victim to any prejudices. In order to better understand the significance of this figure, first imagine yourself in a society ruled by an oppressive government—marked by censorship, maintained by punishment, and powerful to the extent of rousing fear in its citizens. Now imagine a masked man appearing, pointing out reservations about government that you’ve always had, but have been, expectedly, been too afraid to voice. Imagine him fearlessly carrying out acts of rebellion that you’ve been too frightened to consider, and gaining momentum for a cause that you can’t help but be drawn to. Imagine his cause—your cause—growing stronger. You have no idea of his identity aside from the mask that he wears, but his actions speak for themselves. Would you support him?
The mask allows these revolutionaries to communicate only their ideas to the public. They can’t fall victim to prejudices simply because they lack identities to judge. A politician in the public eye will inevitably fall victim to slander; anything from his background to appearance can easily be scrutinized. A mask, however, removes these vulnerabilities regardless of the wearer’s true identity.
Let’s assume you’ve lent your support to the mysterious masked man. Now, let’s say the revolutionary is to die or suffer some accident that will leave him incapacitated and unable to continue his vigilante activities. You, as a citizen, are unaware of this. The revolutionary designates a successor to carry on his name upon his resignation. He finishes his anarchist duties to the best of his abilities, rallies as much support as he can, then passes the mask to another now-masked man. Your support has always been with the figure of the masked man, the symbol of rebellion, rather than the person behind the mask. Even after death/incapacitation, the symbol perpetuates. And so does your support.
By giving up his identity and assuming a hidden persona, the masked revolutionary takes on an immortal identity. In the words of Stephen Moore, “He [is] you and me. He [is] all of us.” Even if the person disappears, the mask can’t die. Therefore, whatever the mask represents—whatever your cause may be—will survive so long as the mask is passed on. Placing your faith in the perpetual, seemingly foolproof, leader who fights for your freedom seems much more appealing than relenting to the oppressive government.
Of course, as wonderful as the notion sounds, anarchy and masked revolutionaries are things that are best left within the realm of fiction. The “seemingly foolproof” aspect of the perfect masked rebel is likely impossible to find in the real world; all three examples—V, Amon, and Zero—had special abilities, in addition to personal mentalities, that allowed them to gain power. Consider a quote from Aristotle: “Those who excel in virtue have the best right of all to rebel, but then they are of all men the least inclined to do so.” Finding a rebel with the proper mindset to lead a revolution is a near-impossible task, let alone finding one with the resources as well.
Something to think about, however, is whether the birth of a masked hero, equipped with everything necessary to carry out major acts of liberation, could create a full-blown rebellion against a government with absolute control. If it were possible, would you stand behind the mask?
V: a masked anarchist who assassinates political leaders of a dystopian UK in order to convince its citizens to lead themselves; a character in the fictional graphic novel V for Vendetta by Stephen Moore
Amon: a rebellion leader in the fictional “Avatar” universe
Zero: a revolutionary strategist who rebels against a Britannian monarchy; the identity created by the protagonist of the animated series “Code Geass,” Lelouch Lamperouge
I’d highly recommend looking into any character(s) that you haven’t heard of. It’s difficult to encapsulate their stories in short descriptions, and each one is definitely worth looking into.