He Was Not a Number. He Was a Free Man

Patrick McGoohan is dead.

The Prisoner changed my views on personal freedom, on individuality, and collectivism.  I am unabashedly liberal, but I consider re-watching The Prisoner in my early adulthood as having moderated some of those impulses.  For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, McGoohan plays a British spy who resigns his post for reasons unknown.  He is kidnapped a few hours after tendering his resignation and is spirited off to an island from which he cannot escape.  He lives in The Village with the other prisoners, and the wardens.  The show’s primary focus was Number Six (McGoohan) and his struggle to maintain his personal freedom against the constant and growing pressures of the collective (the others in The Village).

It’s understandable that as a child I missed some of this (though not all of it).  What’s interesting, I think, about the show is that it isn’t simply an attack on liberalism’s excesses.  There was a great deal more to it than that.  The use of technology as a shortcut for society’s ills was demonized as much as collectivism was.  Deeper issues of personal identity and existentialism abounded.  This was a very, very deep show.  McGoohan co-created and co-wrote it.  The producers wanted the show to run for more than the 17 episodes McGoohan agreed to.  He had a story to tell and a lesson to impart.  He got what he wanted.

Watching the Prisoner did not change my politics, but it did teach me that there are better methods than collective force to bring about those policy changes I want to see.  As I’ve written here at RedState previously, I believe that women should have the right to choose to have an abortion (though I would counsel against it).  I believe that homosexuals should be allowed to marry one another.  I believe in a lot of things most of you don’t.  Whatever I might believe, I do know that the only way these things can justly come about is persuasion and not force.  Much as Number Six felt he was living in a world not his own because that world sought to force change upon him without his consent, I understand, perhaps, how many of you regard Roe v. Wade and some of the more recent decisions regarding gay marriage.

I view the option to have an abortion, to marry one of the same sex, or to smoke a joint to be adding to the freedom an individual has at his or her disposal.  I cannot countenance coming to those ends by diminishing the freedom of others to get there.  This may be something of a tangent from The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan and so forth.  However far afield I may have wandered, his death has gotten me to explore some of these things.  Would that I be fortunate enough in my own passing to inspire others to look inward.

You will be missed, Mr. McGoohan.  Rest in peace.

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