Anniversary Post: Guy Fawkes

Guy FawkesOn this day in 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. What I don’t really understand about him is how he became a symbol of freedom. I mean, he wanted to kill the protestant king and replace him with a Catholic. I guess time heals all wounds. Or something.

James VI managed to survive the plot, but his son, King Charles I, was not so lucky. The “people” took control of the government and executed him. That didn’t go too well and eventually Charles II was put back on the throne. Maybe the timing was wrong. Or maybe the country was wrong. Regardless, Oliver Cromwell is a much better symbol of freedom.

Not that any of them are. They’re all a bunch of people who were looking for power. The only people who do anything for the people are the people.

26 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Guy Fawkes

  1. I think — this is just guessing — that the English have traditionally loved hopeless underdogs. Our proudest WWII moment is D-Day. Well, the English participated, too, but for them WWII is the London Blitz and Dunkirk. They adore beating Napoleon and the Spanish Armada — not so much because they won, but because they were (supposedly) the underdogs. Same with Agincourt.

    Then there’s soccer. In England there are major/minor leagues, but it’s not like baseball where the minors are affiliated with the majors. The minors are trying to become the majors. Every year, the best team in each league moves up one tier, the worst moves down. So, you know, someday, your hometown team of West Middleswichboroughfarthingtonshire could beat Manchester. Although that will never happen in 1000 years.

    We do our own, even stranger version of this, where we take the overwhelming favorites and humanize them by pretending the odds were stacked against them all along — while blaming the losers and suggesting they could have had it all gravy if they weren’t so foolish. Every culture has myths about itself, I suppose.

      • God — made me think of Bond, who is another big cocky oversexed jerk, and the English love the hell out of Bond.

        • Not as much as the Americans. Did you know that Fleming made Bond Scottish because of the first movie? What a hack.

          • I didn’t know that! That’s funny, because whomever the hack is currently continuing writing the book series made some noise when it was rumored the movie producers were considering — gasp — a black Bond. His main complaint was that the character’s supposedly Scottish. (No black Scots, I guess?)

            Um — it’s a comic-book character who fights bad guys with pirate eyepatches. I don’t think sticking to the author’s sacred vision is really necessary.

    • Based upon my reading, I think it is that the government started it as a way sticking up for the crown — a big party. But over time, villains become heroes — or at least anti-heroes. Guy Fawkes is kind of like the jack-o-lantern.

    • Yeah, most of my reading was about the mask. But given the people who Fawkes was against, it is hard to think too badly of him. They were all awful. The mask is super cool though. “V for Vndetta” was an okay film. The comic book is one of the few that I’ve read and it was quite good.

  2. Didn’t Cromwell get rid of holidays? *checks* Hmm, while not personally he got the blame for it. That explains why no one celebrates him outside of Parliament.

    And now to re-read Interesting Times and what Rincewind has to say about the People.

    • People don’t pay enough attention to how many holidays serfs had under Catholicism. The average serf in, say, 1500, had more days off than the average US worker today. They were Holy Days Of Obligation, so you had to go to church and bless your benefactors, but you weren’t shoveling shit. It’s almost certainly one way the Church maintained power. Not unlike how Italian and German fascists actually gave loyal party members some poverty-assisting help.

      • He is talking to the members of the People’s Committee in HungHung about the revolution they are trying to put on. None of them are peasants but they know what to do to improve peasants’ lives of course. So he thinks “when people who can read and write start fighting on behalf of people who can’t, you just end up with another kind of stupidity. If you want to help them, build a big library or something somewhere and leave the door open.”

        He points out that the rulers are going to stay in charge, they always are. The individuals may change but the people in charge never really do.

          • I tend to agree more with Sir Samuel Vimes who pointed out in Night Watch “People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness.”

            Which always makes me wonder, why bother to try to make the world a better place at all then?

  3. Oh and because I enjoy linking to things I find interesting which is a terrible habit of mine that I swear I will break eventually:

    Someone shared this on Facebook and I was just enchanted with the pictures of a world now long gone since a great deal of what was photographed was torn down. They had a photo of one of the wooden houses that survived the Great London Fire of 1666 although it appears the Blitz destroyed it.

      • You have no idea what kind of monster you have unleashed.
        Top of the list-your fave rave.
        But then I went and looked up another 100 Best Novels list from Modern Library and there was very little overlap.

        The 1898 was a much less narrowly focused list in terms of time while the Modern Library ones were at best 1890s and beyond. You may have written about it however since I have only gotten to September 6, 2013 in your reading and writing section, I may have missed it. I just thought this was interesting.

        • Lists like this tend to annoy me, but I like disagreeing with them. I especially like the lists where people vote. I wrote an article recently on one such list and three of the top 10 books were by Ayn Rand. Oh, it’s the Modern Library list you linked to. The reason there is no overlap is the Modern Library is of the best books of the last century. But I see I was wrong. There are 4 books like Rand and 3 by L Ron Hubbard. I think The Lord of the Rings is wildly overrated. 1984 is okay — an important book, but Orwell was more of a nonfiction writer. So Harper Lee is the only writer who I would tend to agree with. I assume you have seen, New York 1938.

          • This means google failed me! I was looking for “list of best novels of all time” and it spit that one out which does not say that it is just for the 20th century. Grrr.

            Anyway, what strikes me about the second list is how few sci-fi or fantasy novels are on there. Hogfather is a brilliant novel and gets short shrift from snooty people because it is a delightful read. It appears that you can only be considered great if you are super somber and serious which is okay but most people read novels to escape so why not include a little bit of fun too?

            • Genre fiction always gets slighted in these kinds of things. Just the same, I’ve found that most science fiction writers are more into ideas than writing technique. But that hasn’t so much been true the last few generations. As much as I like Philip K Dick, I don’t think much of him as a pure writer. But William Gibson really can write. And I’ve been impressed with a lot of recent short science fiction. But give it time. Don Quixote was hugely popular when it was first published, but it was savaged by the literary elites.

              • I am an American! I demand instant gratification! (I am also KIDDING. :D)

                There are some definite quality writers out there-Mercedes Lackey, Lois McMasters Bujold, David Weber, and of course Jim Butcher. Brandon Sanderson has had some amazing novels and creative ideas. I mostly read genre because I enjoy it and it is re-readable unlike most modern fiction. Like how I have re-read Interesting Times, Night Watch and Thud this weekend.

                • Most people read genre — because it is more fun. All I write in terms of fiction is genre. I’m addicted to the murder mystery — although in my case it’s murky water because I just don’t do evil characters. Genre is great!

                    • “Kamping on Asphalt” has a critical flaw that I’m just not interested in fighting with (plus roughly half the middle of it was lost when I almost died and ended up in the hospital for half a year). And “Treading Asphalt” is only about 30% done. And it is getting harder and harder to find time to work on it. It’s also something of a mess because I haven’t written it linearly. So the beginning and end are pretty much written. And various parts along the way. I thought it would be a refreshing way to write, but it probably isn’t a good way for me. I’d like to get it done, because it has the perfect balance of sentimentality and cynicism. And tons of interesting characters. (At least I think so.)

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