Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Modernity and Modernism

“Numerology…we’re all becoming ciphers.” 
-Patrick McGoohan

“In short, The Prisoner attacks modernity on the following grounds:

1. Modernity rests upon a materialistic metaphysics (all is matter), and champions materialism as a way of life (the focus on material comfort and satisfaction).

2. Modernity is spiritually empty (again, no church in the Village); it must deny or destroy what is higher in man.

3. Modernity destroys culture, tradition, and ethnic and national identity in the name of “progress” (called “multiculturalism” and “globalization” today). It is significant that we do not know where the Village is, for modern people are really “nowhere.” As Nietzsche’s “Madman” said, “Where are we headed? Are we not endlessly plunging—backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there an up and a down anymore? Do we not wander as if through an endless nothingness? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Hasn’t it grown colder?” (The Gay Science).

4. Modernity promises only trivial freedoms (e.g., the freedom to shop) while suppressing freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of association.

5. Modernity involves the belief that nature (including human nature) is infinitely malleable, open to the endless manipulation and “improvement” of science. In a 1977 interview with Canadian journalist Warner Troyer, McGoohan said, “I think we’re progressing too fast. I think that we should pull back and consolidate the things that we’ve discovered.”

5. Modernity systematically suppresses ideals that rise above material concerns: ideals like honor, and dignity, and loyalty (the Village is filled with traitors).

6. Modernity preaches a contradictory ethos of collectivism, and “looking out for No. 1.”

7.Modernity banishes the sacred, and profanes all through oppressive levity, irony, and irreverence (masking cynicism).

8. Modernity places physical security and comfort above the freedom to be self-determining, to be let alone, and to take risks.

9. Modernity fills the emptiness in people’s lives with noise (the TV and radio you can’t turn off). Silence might start people thinking, which could make them unhappy.

In addition to the hostility to religion, the Village also seems to be hostile to marriage, sex, and procreation. It is not clear whether there are any married couples in the Village. Sex is probably forbidden. No children are seen until “The Girl Who Was Death,” and those children are depicted as living in a kind of barracks. There is a touch of Plato’s Republic in The Prisoner.”

In the final analysis, The Prisoner is about modern man as a dead man.  In his final revolution, the revolution of the solitary, atomized individual unit, there is no “Why?” for this man to be the free individual he imagines himself to be.  He is just as much a prisoner of the dialectic as the collective he opposes, as he has no other higher aims than himself.  When he is enthroned as king, his final revolution results in the launching of a revolution that destroys The Village and launches an ICBM that will presumably destroy London.  Having overcome all his inner demons and the prison of his conscience (that is, the Village and its rovers are 6 grappling with his conscience in the afterlife), and realizing his worst enemy is not the system, the people, or the world, but himself, 6 returns to his old life as No. 1.

In fact, the address to 6’s apartment was always “No. 1.”  In like manner, modernity’s “revolution” in the global village, is the revolution of a meaningless numerological quantification where being “No. 1” means nothing more than being No. 2 or No. 86 in a world divested of any meaning beyond the individual’s competing ego desires.  While The Prisoner is a treatise against the collective, it is also a warning to unfettered, meaningless individualism. 

McGoohan foresaw the coming age of dystopian control where all of us would be tracked by a numerological cipher, under the “wandering stars” of the stellar luminaries that emblazon the heavens of the surveillance dome of the Village.  In biblical symbology, the celestial luminaries are guided by angelic intelligences, or Watchers that correspond to earthly potentates. 

In the Village, the control grid of the Watchers is primarily technological and scientific, where man has been converted into a generic number in a long set of numbers, as if he were himself a cipher to be decoded and programmed.

“Numerology…we’re all becoming ciphers.” 
-Patrick McGoohan

Oppositional and defiant. No. 6 
Oppositional and defiant. No. 6 “Fights The System.”
By: Jay Dyer

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