While snowbound over the weekend, I reread William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I recalled a profound sense of awe from when I read it the first time in college, when students are invincible and optimistic. The second reading was still rewarding, but the message seemed darker, more true-to-life. Children on an isolated island devising their own schemes of democracy cannot repress the deep urge for self-advancement. When it comes to working together for the common good or promoting one’s own will, the latter wins out and seeks to destroy all dissenters. Anarchy becomes their natural state.
A few weekends ago I finally got around to watching V for Vendetta, the Wachowski Brothers’ dim and hopeful dystopia where individual conviction wears away at a conformity that benefits the privileged class. Recasting Guy Fawkes as a hero, albeit a tragic one, is a bold move in the post 9/11 world. The anarchy here leads to a rule by consent, the oppressed rising up as one to say “no more.” Even V is dead so there is no one to lead.
Anarchy is a frightening prospect. Most people feel more comfort in the rule of law. One time I joined a discussion my brother-in-law was having with some friends on the rule of law. They were suggesting that if rule of law could be brought to bear on the Middle East then the seemingly continual crisis there might terminate. I disagreed from the far end of the table, not close enough to hear the whole conversation. My rationale is that the utter conviction of religion trumps the rule of law. Rule of law assumes all are equal, but religion in a monotheistic theater always assumes only one is right, and therefore superior. All others must submit. Problem is, many monotheistic religions feel the same way. We see it in the extreme power structure of the Religious Right in this country. Who is willing to say maybe the rule of law is superior to the rule of God? Watching the graceful anarchy of V, and reading the disturbing anarchy of Lord of the Flies, sometimes even the most stalwart free-thinker wishes everyone would bow to the rule of law.