October 31, 2001
Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
They say that the average person speaks 40,000 words a day. Sadly, most is gibberish concerning whether one wants paper or plastic. We, as the greatest achievement of nature, sadly spend little time on grand ideas. I had, for several days, the pleasure to dwell at a special place that is filled with the memories of great ideas. This place was called Portmeirion and it is in Wales - a tiny land of stubborn people. Portmeirion is the brainchild of philosopher and architect Clough Williams-Ellis. He believed that Man's structures need not deface the Earth, but could enhance and embellish it. He created a small town of eclectic styles over a period of almost fifty years. Visiting this creation was our last stop on our memorable 25th Wedding Anniversary holiday.
In 1967, another creative mind brought the art of television to an all time high and shot much of this unique program at Portmeirion. I am eluding to the cult TV classic "The Prisoner." It was conceived, produced, and in many cases directed by Patrick MacGoohan. This TV series was at the time the most expensive series ever made by the BBC. Also, it is one of the shortest, consisting of only 17 episodes. With the single-mindedness of a focused creative mind, MacGoohan created a micro-world where all the embodied forces against liberty are concentrated to make Prisoner No. 6 conform. In MacGoohan's series Portmeirion was given the nameless name of "the village."
For those of you lucky enough to have seen "The Prisoner" it evokes fond memories of youthful and intellectual rebellion. In short, the spice of life. I was lucky enough to have seen this intellectual feast when it was broadcast back in 1967. The show has been reprised on educational television many times since then.
To be able to visit to this iconic place was the climax of our European journey. It was fun seeing all the fanciful architecture. It was even more fun to recognize where many of the scenes were shot for "The Prisoner." I still remember some of the great lines of freedom that were spoken by MacGoohan. Lines like; "I am not a number, I am a free man" and "Whose side are you on?" which was answered with the surreal response, "That would be telling." Despite the village's best attempts, No. 6 stays true to himself and never gives up the right of privacy, the freedom to question, and freedom of speech.
It is amazing the great tradition we have in our Western society of being totally disrespectful of authority. We question the Press, even our local Press at times. We revel in doing our own thing as long as we doesn't infringe on someone else's "thing." We take our personal liberty so seriously that we even question some of the new security steps our government must take to insure our very lives.
In many ways Ely reminds me of the village. Our town can be very unforgiving of some things and yet very tolerant of other things. There are those who hate those who express independent thoughts or ideas. There are those who refuse to accept nonconformity and new approaches to life. They are the Luddites who resist science, art and ideas.
A prime example of this was sent me in the form of an unsigned letter postmarked September 25 (about the time of the first Anthrax letters). It was waiting for me upon my return from Europe. In this missive there were references to my evil ideas concerning reforming the operations of our Ely School District. They wrote, "If you think that people really believe that you know what your (sic) talking about and are so damn smart when it comes to fixing our schools WHY AREN'T YOU RUNNING FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD?" Obviously, the writer felt that the school administration is doing a tip top job at wasting money and fully approve of that.
As to the question of my running for school board, the answer is very simple. As a member of the Press I already belong to the Fourth Estate. I am lucky and thankful to have a platform for injecting my two cents worth into the public record. I do not feel I need to belong to another estate. There have been many occasions where a TV news personality or an ink stained wretch (newspaper writer) has tried to runs for public office. I have always felt that they were trying to serve two masters, or at the very least, using one to grab another. I also think they have an unfair advantage of having had the opportunity of bending the public's ear. It is an advantage that makes it very difficult for an average citizen to run against a member of the press. I like amateur politicians and think the closer they are to being an amateur the less likely they will work from ulterior motives. I often wondered how much better it would be if we filled the House of Representatives like we do a jury. Just honest citizens picked at random. In the Wall Street Journal they have a running column where highly recommended stock brokers compete with a dart board on picking out good stocks. Needless to say the dart board is winning.
Another pointed attack was "I have to ask myself what attracts people like you to Ely. (sic) Ely has long been a town that has been known for intelligent, hardworking, forthright people and then along comes as what we in Ely refer to people like you as 'bottom life'. (sic)" I just enjoy junk like this. It is so delicious in its ignorance of life and the world.
Hatred is a commodity that has been sent in the mail far too often this year. The cowardice of hate is amazing because it can never stand up to the light of truth. To the sender of this poison pen letter I suggest you belong in the same circle of hell as all the rest of these evil doers who have tried to strike a blow against this country and against liberty.
I and the rest of America will not be silent. All that I still wish to ask my cowardly fan is, "Whose side are you on?" To the rest of us, I remind you to vote this next Tuesday because this is what keeps our country strong.