Category Archives: criminality

Burgess’s Nadsat is the equal of Orwell’s Newspeak

Dalrymple notes that in addition to being philosophically profound and socially prophetic, A Clockwork Orange (1962) is linguistically highly inventive, Anthony Burgess marking the separateness of his novel’s young protagonists from their elders

by their adoption of a new argot. Vital for groups antagonistic toward the dominant society around them, such argots allow them to identify and communicate with insiders and exclude outsiders.

Although Dalrymple worked in a prison for 14 years, he never came to understand the language that prisoners used as they shouted to one another across landings and between buildings. It was, he says,

their means of resisting domination.

Anthony Burgess

In the banlieues, les jeunes

use an argot derived from words spelt and pronounced backwards, and incomprehensible to educated speakers of French.

People of Jamaican descent in Britain

use a patois when they want not to be understood by anyone else.

The connection between argot and criminal purposes

has long been close, of course; and the importance that Burgess ascribes to the new argot in A Clockwork Orange suggests that he saw youthful revolt as an expression more of self-indulgence and criminality than of idealism—the latter, shallower view becoming orthodoxy among intellectuals not long after A Clockwork Orange appeared.

Dalrymple describes Burgess’s creation of a completely convincing new argot more or less ex nihilo as

an extraordinary achievement.

As a linguistic invention, Nadsat

is the equal of Orwell’s Newspeak. A vocabulary that is entirely new and incomprehensible at the beginning of the book becomes so thoroughly familiar to the reader at the end that he forgets that he has ever had to learn its meaning: it seems completely natural after only a hundred pages.

The two endings of A Clockwork Orange

Getting wenches with child: Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale: Act 3, Scene 3

In the American version of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, Alex resumes his life as gang leader after his head injury undoes the influence of the Ludovico Method. He returns, Dalrymple notes,

to what he was before, once more able to listen to classical music (Beethoven’s Ninth) and fantasise violence without any conditioned nausea. An authentic psychopath rather than a conditioned, and therefore inauthentic, goody-goody. Authenticity and self-direction are thus made to be the highest goods, regardless of how they are expressed.

This,

at least in Britain, has become a prevailing orthodoxy among the young. If, as I have done, you ask the aggressive young drunks who congregate by the thousand in every British town or city on a Saturday night why they do so, or British soccer fans why they conduct themselves so menacingly, they will reply that they are expressing themselves, as if there were nothing further to be said on the matter.

Anthony Burgess

In the British version, Alex

begins to lose his taste for violence spontaneously, when he sees a happy, normal couple in a café, one of whom is a former associate. Thereafter, Alex begins to imagine a different life for himself and to fantasise a life that includes tenderness.

Burgess

obviously prefers a reformation that comes spontaneously from within, as it does in the last chapter, to one that comes from without, by application of the Ludovico Method.

The novelist also suggests

the somewhat comforting message, at odds with all that has gone before, that Alex’s violence is nothing new in the world and that the transformation of immature, violent, and solipsistic young men into mature, peaceful, and considerate older men will continue forever, as it has done in the past, because deep inside there is a well of goodness, man having been born with original virtue rather than original sin (this is the Pelagian heresy, to which Burgess admitted that he was attracted). This, surely, is partly right. Criminality, statistically speaking, is an activity of the young, and there were few prisoners in the prison in which I worked who had been incarcerated for a crime committed after age 35. There seems to be a biological dimension to common-or-garden wrongdoing.

But, says Dalrymple,

a quietistic message—cheerful insofar as it implies that violence among young men is but a passing phase of their life and that the current era is no worse in this respect than any past age, and pessimistic in the sense that a reduction of the overall level of violence is impossible—is greatly at odds with the socially prophetic aspect of A Clockwork Orange, which repeatedly warns that the coming new youth culture, shallow and worthless, will be unprecedentedly violent and antisocial. And of Britain, at least, Burgess was certainly right.

Different endings: the UK and US editions

Islamism is for the feeble-minded and vicious

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 09.23.38The continuation of criminality by other means

The story of Omar Ismail Mostefai, the first of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks to be named, is, writes Dalrymple,

depressingly familiar. One could almost have written his biography before knowing anything about him.

A petty criminal of Algerian parentage from the banlieue, he was sustained largely by the social security system, an erstwhile fan of rap music, and

a votary of what might be called the continuation of criminality by other means, which is to say Islamism and the grandiose purpose in life that it gives to its adherents. For feeble minds, the extremity of the consequences for self and others serves as some kind of guarantee that their cause is just.

Delirious joy of rioting and looting

Panama City

Panama City

A day out that combines the pleasures of destruction with those of moral indignation

Dalrymple recounts that while working as a journalist, he once reported on a riot in Panama City

in which I saw middle-class people throwing bricks through windows and making bonfires in the street. I recognised one of the rioters dining in an expensive restaurant that same night.

Baltimore

Baltimore

Rioters, writes Dalrymple, are

a self-selected group, who are fully aware of what rioters are likely to do.

He points out that in the London riots of 2011, rioters

smashed and looted every store in a street except the bookstore, the only one to remain with its windows and stock entirely intact. The rioters had no use or desire for books.

London

London

And when eventually the police,

who took a long time to intervene, arrested some of the rioters engaged in the gravest actions, it turned out that the majority had serious criminal records.

During the Parisian riots of 2005, the rioters

burned thousands of cars belonging to people very similar to themselves, and who lived in the same area as they.

Paris

Paris

This, Dalrymple points out, was hardly

the manifestation of an acute sense of injustice. If anything, it was a manifestation of wounded amour propre, for the rioters would never have rioted against the kind of injustices that people such as they committed every day.

The rioters

expect from the authorities a completely different standard of behaviour from that they exhibit themselves: they are children, the authorities parents.

 

 

A society in decomposition

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.07.37England has neither leaders nor followers but is composed only of egotists

The

intellectual torpor, moral cowardice, incompetence and careerist opportunism of the British political and intellectual class

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

A careerist, intellectually torpid, incompetent coward

is now very evident, writes Dalrymple. Despite everything that has happened in recent years, the corrupt mandarins continue to contrive

not to notice what has long been apparent to anyone who has taken a short walk with his eyes open down any frequented British street: that a considerable proportion of the country’s young population (a proportion that is declining) is ugly, aggressive, vicious, badly educated, uncouth and criminally inclined.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.08.41Lavish self-esteem

While British youth is utterly lacking in self-respect,

it is full of self-esteem: that is to say, it believes itself entitled to a high standard of living, and other things, without any effort on its own part.

Although youth unemployment in Britain is very high, that is to say about 20 per cent of those aged under 25,

the country has had to import young foreign labour for a long time, even for unskilled work in the service sector.

The British, idlest workers in Europe

No rational employer in a service industry would choose a young Briton

if he could have a young Pole; the young Pole is not only likely to have a good work ethic and refined manners, he is likely to be able to add up and — most humiliating of all — to speak better English than the Briton, at least if by that we mean the standard variety of the language. He may not be more fluent but his English will be more correct and his accent easier to understand.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.11.24Travesty of an educational system

After compulsory education,

or perhaps I should say intermittent attendance at school, up to the age of 16 costing $80,000 a head, about one-quarter of British children cannot read with facility or do simple arithmetic. It makes you proud to be a British taxpayer.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.15.37State-subsidised criminality

British youth

leads the Western world in almost all aspects of social pathology, from teenage pregnancy to drug taking, from drunkenness to violent criminality. There is no form of bad behaviour that our version of the welfare state has not sought out and subsidised.

British children

are radically unsocialised and deeply egotistical, viewing relations with other human beings in the same way as Lenin: Who whom, who does what to whom. By the time they grow up, they are destined not only for unemployment but unemployability.

Long bath in vomitus

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.17.38All the necessary electronic equipment is available for the prosecution of the main business of life, viz

entertainment by popular culture. And what a culture British popular culture is! Perhaps Amy Winehouse was its finest flower and its truest representative in her militant and ideological vulgarity, her stupid taste, her vile personal conduct and preposterous self-pity.

Sordor

Winehouse’s sordid life

was a long bath in vomitus, literal and metaphorical, for which the exercise of her very minor talent was no excuse or explanation. Yet not a peep of dissent from our intellectual class was heard after her near canonisation after her death, that class having long had the backbone of a mollusc.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 23.19.10Thugs in uniform

What of the police? They are

simultaneously bullying but ineffectual and incompetent, increasingly dressed in paraphernalia that makes them look more like the occupiers of Afghanistan than the force imagined by Robert Peel. The people who most fear our police are the innocent.

(2011)

The principal cause of crime in England is the criminal justice system

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 03.31.33Dalrymple points out that what he calls the brutal leniency shown to murderers and other violent criminals

  • fails to protect or deter the public
  • undermines confidence in the criminal justice system
  • undermines the legitimacy of the government, ‘whose primary and inescapable purpose is to protect the peace’
  • encourages criminal violence, police over-reaction and vigilantism

Notes from underground

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 13.23.08On an escalator on the Metro, Dalrymple witnessed this scene:

A young man in international slum-costume and face as malign as the late Mark Duggan’s…used a spray gun to scrawl his initials in bright red on the handrail. Scores of people saw him do it….He returned the other way to repeat his action on another handrail.

Dalrymple was saddened.

The ease with which the stupid and criminal insolence of one young man was able to defeat the civilised conduct of the vast majority of citizens present was…dispiriting.

Duggan: malign

Duggan: malign

And just because the young man was cretinous

doesn’t mean he wasn’t cunning, or wouldn’t be able to draw the correct lesson that he could act with…impunity.

Dalrymple dared not do anything to stop the French Duggan. Nor did anyone else. Why? Dalrymple points to these factors:

  • He and others were ‘busy with their own lives’
  • He and others were afraid of the French Duggan, ‘that he might carry a knife or a gun’
  • He and others were ‘by no means confident that if they had intervened…it would be the young man and not they who would be charged with an offence’
  • Certain witnesses — admittedly a very few, the silliest among them — might have ‘so read, marked and inwardly digested the exculpatory sociology of our time that they saw in his graffito not an act of moral depravity but a cry for help’

The sentimentally therapeutic view of prison

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 09.05.59Dalrymple discusses the British intelligentsia’s

long-held wish that the punishment imposed by the criminal justice system be therapeutic rather than merely protective and deterrent.

Criminals, he points out,

know very well the effectiveness of punishment, which is why they mete it out to each other with the utmost celerity if one of their number breaks their code.

The sentimentalists encourage

the bad faith of so many criminals, who know they have society on the run.

Of criminality, smoking and tattoos

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 12.14.29

Burman, from Customs of the World, ed. Walter Hutchinson (1912)

The statistical association between criminality and smoking is very strong, observes Dalrymple (from 06:08 in the video).

The association, he points out, is

much stronger than the connection between criminality and poverty. It’s much stronger than the connection between criminality and unemployment. It’s very nearly as strong as that between criminality and tattooing.