Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Clockwork Orange

Although I haven't seen the Stanley Kubrik classic for years, A Clockwork Orange has stuck in my memory. Never has it seemed to be more of a harbinger of the future than now. Various events conspire to recreate the images of the movie, based on the book by Anthony Burgess.

The recent murder of a father by a gang of teenage thugs, fueled with cheap lager, brings to mind Alex and his droogs, high on a milk shake containing halucinogenics (imbibed at a place that used to be on the Staines A30 roundabout - it's gone now). As Alex explained:

"There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence."

Burgess employed a lot of pseudo-Slav/Russian vocabulary, also used in the film. Interesting that this has also staged an entry into British society, though it fair to say that modern street slang has much more of an international flavor.

The idea of a government who looked to solve a problem by spin is also in the book and film. Alex' re-education is just that, no different from the way in which the present UK government spins its statistics to prove everything is "on track" (even the railways!) But it's more, it's social engineering taken to the nth degree, a situation that is certainly recognizable in a society that says you cannot put "wife" on a form but should only use the politically correct entry "partner". Yes that happened to me last month.

Burgess explained years after publishing the book that the title came from the Malay word for people "Orang" and the idea that people can be manipulated like clockwork machinery, to be wound up and let go and then would up again. Isn't this a corollary for the so-called Nanny State? I think so. First we identify humans as ape-like beings with little intelligence, the dunning down of society, then we mold them into what we really think they should be.

This theme has run through a lot of 20th Century literature, including Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Lawrence Durrell and Anthony Burgess. All these writers were smart observers of society. It's scary that they seem to have predicted so much that is coming true.