In his 2002 essay, “Fossil Angels,” Alan Moore (the author of The Watchmen, Lost Girls, and V for Vendetta among other graphic novel treasures) addressed his fellow neo-pagans and ceremonial magicians. Moore chided the occult community for contenting itself with ersatz attempts to recreate the miracles of Renaissance alchemists using spells and rituals culled from late 19th and early 20th century fumbling synthesizers like Aleister Crowley.
To replace of all the fusty silliness of toy swords embossed with dragons and hobbits, Moore offered a big idea: real magic (the ability to create vast change through the use of symbols and sympathy) lies in the creation of fresh imaginative art, not in the repetition of antiquarian abracadabras. An especially inspiring paragraph from the climax of the long and witty essay now seems prophetic in light of the role Moore’s art has played in giving shape and beauty to the global protest movement against economic inequity:
Art’s power is immediate and irrefutable, immense. It shifts the consciousness, noticeably, of both the artist and her audience. It can change men’s lives and thence change history, society itself. It can inspire us unto wonders or else horrors. It can offer supple, young, expanding minds new spaces to inhabit or can offer comfort to the dying. It can make you fall in love, or cut some idol’s reputation into ribbons at a glance and leave them maimed before their worshippers, dead to posterity. It conjures Goya devils and Rosetti angels into visible appearance. It is both the bane and most beloved tool of tyrants. It transforms the world which we inhabit, changes how we see the universe, or those about us, or ourselves. What has been claimed of sorcery that art has not already undeniably achieved? It’s led a billion into light and slain a billion more. If the accretion of occult ability and power is our objective, we could have no more productive, potent means or medium than art whereby this is to be accomplished. Art may not make that whisk-broom come to life and multiply and strut round cleaning up your crib…but nor does magic, for that matter…yet simply dreaming up the image must have surely earned Walt Disney enough money so he could pay somebody to come by and take care of that stuff for him. And still have enough change to get his head put in this massive hieroglyphic-chiselled ice cube somewhere underneath the Magic Kingdom. There, surely to God, is all of the implacable Satanic influence that anybody, sane or otherwise, could ever ask for.
The fact that Moore had thoroughly theorized art as a means of magical influence on “history, society itself” makes it all the more amazing that a character Moore invented, V from V for Vendetta should come to be the dramatic face of worldwide civil unrest which includes both the Occupy movement and Anonymous, the amorphous internet collective of hackers.
In V for Vendetta, written in the early 1980s, V is an anarchist vigilante who takes revenge against a fascist British regime imagined to exist in the late 1990s. V hides his identity by wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, and invites those who support him to adopt the wearing of the same mask. Guy Fawkes masks were once widely sold in Britain during the early autumn, as revelers celebrated the execution of Fawkes, a Catholic traitor who had attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605. Growing up in Britain during latter half of the 20th century, Moore reported noticing that the working-class adults around him spoke of the once-reviled Fawkes with a tone of admiration in their voices, due to their own growing distaste for the injustices wrought by Parliament and the ruling government.
In the summer of 2011, a video from Anonymous (it’s important to remember that anyone is “Anonymous” who claims to be—because the group is less a conventional, stable organization than it is a set of archetypes, images and attitudes available to be adopted and promulgated by anyone with the will to do so) featuring a “speaking” Guy Fawkes mask a la V appeared on youtube. The Anonymous video spoke in support of a call for the mass occupation of Wall Street to protest the excesses and criminalities of the financial sector, a call which had originally been put out by Adbusters magazine.
As we know, an Occupation of Wall Street indeed coalesced in response to these calls and became a viral phenomenon, spawning sister Occupations in hundreds of towns and cities all over the world. Many protesters at these Occupations themselves wore the Guy Fawkes mask (ironically, now produced and marketed by the Time Warner corporation, which bought the movie and merchandising rights for V for Vendetta). In wearing the Guy Fawkes mask, protesters showed their affiliation with Anonymous and also with the fearless commitment to anarchic freedom embodied by V in Moore’s fiction.
In other words, without Moore’s V for Vendetta, the Guy Fawkes mask would not have been a resonant symbol of collective protest. And without the Guy Fawkes mask as a theatrical, beautiful, and enigmatic symbol representing a love of real liberty which can’t be killed or snuffed out because it’s an idea rather than a person or even a group of people, protesters would not have had a visually and emotionally compelling collective identity around which to galvanize themselves.
While many believe that the Occupy movement is “dead” because physical occupations were swept away by the police, I offer that the movement is actually dormant in North America. Not only can’t you kill an idea, you can’t evict it. We’re about to enjoy an American Spring. It’ll kick off with the general strike now being called for onMay 1st.
To conclude, I’d like to suggest that Moore’s success as an artist-magician should be an inspiration to us all. He’s demonstrated that it is indeed possible to create art that has a major, electrifying impact on our culture’s ability to imagine and enact alternatives to the presently dominant paradigm that’s so very broken.