My Take

It's Hollywood not history that's inspiring Hong Kong's youths

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 November, 2015, 2:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 November, 2015, 9:27am

Last night was Guy Fawkes Night. It's amusing to read in newspapers that this Catholic would-be terrorist has inspired Hong Kong's rebellious youths even after four centuries.

Well, it's true that many protesters wore the Guy Fawkes mask during the Occupy protests as well as in many other rallies afterwards. The mask itself, thanks mostly to protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement during the financial crisis, has come to represent anger and rebellion against the status quo or "the system".

But youths today didn't take after the Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Plot infamy. They learn to wear the mask from the Hollywood movie V for Vendetta and the popular comic novel of the same name on which the film was based. Its main character wore a Guy Fawkes mask, and the people rose up at the end of the movie all wearing the same mask.

History is not their inspiration; Hollywood is. That's also why many Occupy protesters in Hong Kong took to making the three-finger salute they learned from another Hollywood blockbuster, The Hunger Games, a story about youthful rebellion against "the system".

That's just as well. The historical Fawkes and his fellow plotters were, in fact, Catholic extremists, the historical equivalent of IS and al-Qaeda of today. Who knows what might have happened if they had managed to blow up the British Parliament and the Protestant king, and replaced him with a Catholic one? Would that have changed the course of British parliamentary history?

Fawkes previously fought for conservative Catholic Spain of the Inquisition against the far more enlightened Protestant Dutch republic. It's not for nothing that every year Brits build big bonfires and burn his effigy on Guy Fawkes Night. They at least know their history.

The cruel irony of history has a way of turning murderers like Fawkes into heroes. There was Che Guevara, whose image graces the many T-shirts of lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung. Che crushed social democrats and sent "class enemies" to the firing squad and labour camps.

No matter. Our young people are being educated about freedom and democracy, Hollywood-style.