Don’t Bow Down: America Is A Prison Disguised As Paradise
By John & Nisha Whitehead
February 23, 2023
The government wants us to bow down to its dictates. It wants us to buy into the fantasy that we are living the dream, when in fact, we are trapped in an endless nightmare of servitude and oppression. Indeed, with every passing day, life in the American Police State increasingly resembles life in the dystopian television series The Prisoner.
First broadcast 55 years ago in the U.S., The Prisoner—described as “James Bond meets George Orwell filtered through Franz Kafka”—confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the loss of freedom, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing and the tendency of human beings to meekly accept their lot in life as prisoners in a prison of their own making.
Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner centers around a British secret agent who abruptly resigns only to find himself imprisoned in a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise with parks and green fields, recreational activities and even a butler.
While luxurious, the Village’s inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, all of their movements tracked by militarized drones and stripped of their individuality so that they are identified only by numbers.
“I am not a number. I am a free man,” is the mantra chanted in each episode of The Prisoner, which was largely written and directed by Patrick McGoohan, who also played the title role of Number Six, the imprisoned government agent.
Throughout the series, Number Six is subjected to interrogation tactics, torture, hallucinogenic drugs, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, various forms of social indoctrination and physical coercion in order to “persuade” him to comply, give up, give in and subjugate himself to the will of the powers-that-be.
Number Six refuses to comply.
In every episode, Number Six resists the Village’s indoctrination methods, struggles to maintain his own identity and attempts to escape his captors. “I will not make any deals with you,” he pointedly remarks to Number Two, the Village administrator a.k.a. prison warden. “I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”
Yet no matter how far Number Six manages to get in his efforts to escape, it’s never far enough.
Watched by surveillance cameras and other devices, Number Six’s attempts to escape are continuously thwarted by ominous white balloon-like spheres known as “rovers.”
Still, he refuses to give up.
“Unlike me,” he says to his fellow prisoners, “many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages.”
Number Six’s escapes become a surreal exercise in futility, each episode an unfunny, unsettling Groundhog’s Day that builds to the same frustrating denouement: there is no escape.
The series is a chilling lesson about how difficult it is to gain one’s freedom in a society in which prison walls are disguised within the seemingly benevolent trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and the need to guard against terrorists, pandemics, civil unrest, etc.
The Prisoner’s Village is also an apt allegory for the American Police State, which is rapidly transitioning into a full-fledged Surveillance State: it gives the illusion of freedom while functioning all the while like a prison: controlled, watchful, inflexible, punitive, deadly and inescapable.
The American Surveillance State, much like The Prisoner’s Village, is a metaphorical panopticon, a circular prison in which the inmates are monitored by a single watchman situated in a central tower. Because the inmates cannot see the watchman, they are unable to tell whether or not they are being watched at any given time and must proceed under the assumption that they are always being watched.
Eighteenth Century Social Theorist Jeremy Bentham envisioned the panopticon prison to be a cheaper and more effective means of “obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”
Bentham’s panopticon, in which the prisoners are used as a source of cheap, menial labor, has become a model for the modern surveillance state in which the populace is constantly being watched, controlled and managed by the powers-that-be while funding its existence.
Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we’re approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between bowing down in obedience to the dictates of the government—i.e., the law, or whatever a government official deems the law to be—and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.
When people talk about privacy, they mistakenly assume it protects only that which is hidden behind a wall or under one’s clothing. The courts have fostered this misunderstanding with their constantly shifting delineation of what constitutes an “expectation of privacy.” And technology has further muddied the waters.
However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one’s life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it’s no one’s business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with and how you spend your money.
Unfortunately, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed, corralled and controlled by technologies that answer to government and corporate rulers.
This is the electronic concentration camp—the panopticon prison—the Village—in which we are now caged.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it is a prison from which there will be no escape. Certainly not if the government and its corporate allies have anything to say about it.
So how do you escape? For starters, resist the urge to conform to a group mind and the tyranny of mob-think. Think for yourself. Be an individual.
Stop doping yourself with government propaganda and break free of the political chokehold that has got you marching in lockstep with tyrants and dictators.
Until you come to terms with the fact that the government is the problem (no matter which party dominates), you’ll never stop being prisoners.