Saturday, June 18, 2005

KAR 120C

In some ways, I agree with Jon Stewart. I'm tired of hearing about comparisons between those with whom you disagree politically and Adolf Hitler. As Stewart points out, it demeans Hitler.

George W. Bush is not Hitler, and this is not Nazi Germany. But otherwise, Andrew Greeley is right.

When I was 13, "The Prisoner" hit television as a "summer replacement" series. Years later I would find out that British television studios often made TV series that lasted for a designated run, not until the viewing audience lost interest and the advertisers stopped buying time. It was so good the second summer, when it was run again, I held a microphone to the TV speaker and taped episodes (the days before VCR's, if such a thing is imaginable to some of you). It has been 5 years since I've had a vacation. Today, my substitute vacation arrived: "The Prisoner" DVD Mega-set. Much to my delight, the shows have been "re-mastered" so they don't look or sound almost 40 years old. They look and sound like I remember them.

What does this have to do with Andrew Greeley? Only this much: "The Prisoner" was about a man of conscience, caught in an absurd world, where he could trust no one. His sole determination was to be defiant, and to maintain his integrity. But he was not a dangerous fool. He withheld information for his own reasons, reasons which were never explained (they couldn't have been, by the end, or his reason for existing would have gone with the explanation). He exemplified, in the strangest and most intriguing way possible, moral character.

So now I can spend the summer revisiting a teacher from my childhood. Remembering that lessons can be taught, without cant or banal analogies, or violence or foolishness. Well, some foolishness, but the British kind, the kind that mocks itself as much as the object of its mockery.

Oh, fiddle-faddle. It's summer, and I just intend to enjoy myself. The spectacle of what is actually happening is beginning to penetrate, to become a part of the public discourse. "The Prisoner" was an attempt to get some things into the public discourse, too; things that needed to be said, but couldn't be said. Leo McKern, in one of the episodes I still remember, outlines a vision of the future in which both "sides" in what is obviously the "Cold War" come to realize there is only one side: the side represented by the Village. It's a terrifically sardonic line. Try to imagine it being said today. Try to imagine it even getting on TV today.

That's what "The Prisoner" was, in 1968: something I couldn't imagine would get on TV. It didn't change the world; by itself, what does? Andrew Greeley's column won't change it, either. But candles in the darkness, nonetheless, are better than darkness. And No. 6 finally teaches us that we don't have to go along with the powers that be, whoever they be. A dangerous lesson, if followed without a moral compass. Fortunately, No. 6 always had his.

Be seeing you.

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