Friday, June 08, 2007

Just a Good Reason...

I've been watching a mid 90s era series call Nowhere Man starring Bruce Greenwood recently. I bought the series on DVD. Wikipedia describes the show premise as follows:

Nowhere Man is the tale of a photojournalist named Thomas Veil. After leaving to use the restroom while out to dinner with his wife, Tom returns to find that his life has been turned upside down. His wife doesn't recognize him and is living with another man. His ATM cards no longer work. His best friend turns up dead. His mother was previously recovering from a stroke, so she is incapable of confirming his existence. In the course of a single evening, every trace of Tom's identity has been erased.

Tom comes to believe his erasure is related to a photograph he took a year earlier called “Hidden Agenda.” The photo depicts four men being hanged in South America by what appear to be US soldiers. The only shreds of evidence Tom has of his past are the negatives to that photograph. A mysterious organization covertly pursues Tom in search of the negatives. Over time, Tom's paranoia builds as he comes to realize that nothing is what it seems to be, no one is safe from this organization, and even he may not be who he thinks he is.

One of my favorite things about the show is that a great deal of it is filmed in Oregon. Portland and other Oregon landmarks along with our unique flora and fauna and outlines of familiar hills and peaks are laced throughout the show.

I heard a great quote on an episode I watched the other night. After a staged accident, the main character named Thomas Veil (as in veil of secrecy...get it?) is chloroformed by the ambulance crew and wakes up in a gated community called New Phoenix. The other residents are described as "disenfrachised" (erased from society by the same forces that erase Veil's identity). They want him to join, but the price of admission is for Veil to give up his secret (the film negatives). What Veil comes to find out is that those who can't or won't pay the price get warehoused in an on-site prison.

During New Phoenix's Founder's Day, Veil breaks the prisoners out to show the townspeople what their comfort and complacency have bought them, the same barbarity that was shown to them when they were disenfranchised. In a creepy afterward, the new leader of the town is being confronted by Veil. His quote is as follows (more or less):

Don't you see what has happened here? You've become the people you oppose.
Everybody has a name for it. Everybody has a reason. Is that enough to make it all right? Is that all it takes to make it okay to act like the people you fear?

Just a good reason?

At that point the new leader informs Veil that she has spiked his drink because he will be unable to cope with their need for safety and he wakes up in some cheap hotel room later, unaware of where he had been but back out on his own again and so the episode ends.

Those with a keen eye for current events will know immediately why this little bit of prose struck a nerve with me. However, it is worth a further explanation.

When I read that we host secret prisons: Europe's CIA Inquiry: Poland, Romania hosted secret prisons and that our nation used torture at these prisons and others likely including the Gulag of them all: Guantanamo, I have to wonder what reason could turn some of my own countrymen into people similar to the alleged 9/11 suicide bombers; people without a moral compass.

I know there are a million excuses and cover stories out there, but I really don't care. I am reading a book about the Norwegian resistance during World War II and I am astounded by how much the German occupation army of that war resembles some of our activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Apparently all it took was just a good reason...


ladybug said...

This series reminds me a little bit of the 1960's UK series "The Prisoner" - I did watch that show on a Marathon about 10+ years ago on the Sci-Fi Channel.

It totally creeped me out, and like the movie "Brazil", I just can't stomach most of it....


Pandabonium said...

Not familiar with it, but sounds good. There is no paucity of "good reasons", is there?

"The Prisoner" - you took the words right out of my mouth (or keyboard), Ladybug. Though, in these times I think such people's lives get "erased" in a less sophisticated manner, while ordinary citizens are in a soft prison and don't even know it - free to talk about anything as long as it isn't important. This series also appears to have some of the elements of "Enemy of the State".

That book on the Norwegian resistance sounds interesting. Title? Another good book with eerie ties to today is "They Thought They Were Free"(1955, 1966) by Milton Mayer about German society 1933-1945 and people's denial and convoluted self justifications for doing nothing about the situation. Link is to an excerpt.

The Moody Minstrel said...

You are number 6.

The episode of "Nowhere Man" that you described was the only one I ever saw. (In fact, now that I think about it, I saw it at your place during one of my Oregon visits in the mid 90s!) I thought it was an interesting show, but yes...disturbing.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a few episodes also. I don't remember why I stopped watching it, but it just didn't catch on with me. I did see the episode you refer to.

In regards to secret prisons, there are many more secrets kept than there are secrets exposed. Kinda makes one wonder what else is lurking beneath the surface.

Don Snabulus said...

The show's creator, Lawrence Hertzog, said that while he was inspired by The Prisoner, his Nowhere Man was not at the level intellectually that The Prisoner was. His goal was to register more on the emotional level and bring the horror of this surreal world in to the viewer.

I believe Hertzog thought The Prisoner was more of a study of power and control and its collective effect on mankind. He didn't want to rehash that study, but view it from this emotional dimension.

I am enjoying the shows. One interesting thing is that Bruce Greenwood is the only regular actor and everyone else changes. Greenwood did an amazing job of keeping the continuity from week to week in the face of constant change. The other cool thing was that it allowed different plot devices each week. This was the only "Prisoner" type episode.

Other weeks include psychologists creating an artificial reality for him, old acquaintances and contacts giving him snippets of information, etc., or the agents that erased him leaving false "evidence" to trip him up and entrap him.

I find it all a Kafka-esque barrel of horrors that is a good reminder that humankind has been "here" before. It is too bad that all the horrors Greenwood's character faces aren't 100% fictional, but sadly are drawn from human immorality and weakness.

A free man said...

This is Comment Number 6.

Some samurai said...

And then there were seven.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

I am not a number. I AM A FREE DOG!

Dean Wormer said...

I was going to say The Prisoner but it looks like many beat me to it.

I must check out. I'm thinking about Blockbuster online for t.v. show rentals because, as you know, Neflix sux the big one.

Swinebread said...

Great! I was outta' the states at the time when it aired... I would really like to see it now.