Category Archives: prison

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.

All are welcome to share in this expression of national and personal jubilation

Dalrymple jots down a notice on the noticeboard of the prison where he works

Wild animal

Man

Dalrymple recalls a story told by Vera Hegi in Les Captifs du Zoo (1942), which he summarises as follows:

One day a man gave an elephant in the zoo three bread rolls, into the last of which, from malignity, he insinuated a razor-blade. The elephant managed to remove the razor-blade with its trunk.

Well, Dalrymple has a story of his own. He writes:

In the prison in which I worked as a doctor, a man repeatedly tried to cut himself, sometimes dangerously. He was under the constant watch of two guards.

However,

a prisoner slipped him a razor-blade embedded in a potato.

The prisoner managed to extract the razor-blade from the potato, and with the razor-blade,

he cut his throat.

Yes, says Dalrymple,

Man is definitely different from other animals.

Britain’s bone-headed prison system

Many British jails, writes Dalrymple, are characterised by

  • squalor, moral and physical
  • brutality
  • lack of any rehabilitative function whatsoever

Harmless convicts are sometimes sent to

wings with the worst criminals, some of them in the Hannibal Lecter class. The prison officers are indifferent to their plight, when they do not derive pleasure from it.

Rooftop protest at HMP Cordingley

Daily life, Dalrymple notes,

is made up of arbitrary regulations of which new and inexperienced prisoners are not informed: they have to discover them for themselves as best they can. This gives the officers opportunities for sadistic nit-picking.

HMP Coldingley is an example of a jail where the prisoners rule. Here, says Dalrymple, is

a Hobbesian world, where each is the enemy of all, and every moveable object is a potential weapon. The majority of prisoners are black, and each is allowed his ghetto-blaster.

The resultant noise is a torment.

Dalrymple points out that there is

  • bullying
  • violence
  • extortion
  • suicide attempts

Drugs may be smuggled into British prisons with the greatest of ease.

There is a complete lack of effort to prevent it: it amounts to complicity on the part of the prison system.

Prison bureaucracy is

casually inhumane, imposing pettifogging rules while ignoring gross abuses. The most ruthless and psychopathic rule the roost.

This is also, it occurs to Dalrymple,

how our unimprisoned underclass lives, where the Housing Department and the Department of Social Security are the prison warders. For our underclass, England is a vast HMP Coldingley.

Islam’s appeal to convicts

The many Muslims in the prison in which Dalrymple works are, he writes,

largely indifferent to their religion, except in one respect. The prison imam, a mild-mannered man of peaceful disposition, has little influence over them; and they are the reverse of pious.

However, they are

keen on the system of forced marriage which, rightly or wrongly, they associate with their religion, and are angry if their sisters are reported to be enamoured of someone not chosen for them. The system is convenient to them; it provides them with a sexual partner and domestic, while leaving them free to participate in debauchery.

A Muslim prisoner who testified for the prosecution in a case of honour killing

had to be removed because of the threats he received: he had let the side down.

Crime, Dalrymple points out, is overwhelmingly a young man’s game, but some prisoners

need a pretext to give up their life of crime. They don’t like to feel that they have been defeated by the ‘system’. This explains the attraction of Islam, particularly to black prisoners. Like other ageing men, they want to give up crime. At the same time, they remain hostile to the society in which they grew up.

It is not, therefore,

to their parents’ (particularly their mothers’) Pentecostal Christianity to which they are drawn, but to a religion that they know frightens the population round them. It allows them to give up crime while feeling that they have not surrendered to the criminal justice system: they can have their cake and eat it.

Another advantage is that

their womenfolk may follow them. It stabilises their relationships, which until then have usually been conspicuously unstable.

It is only to be expected that

those who undergo religious conversion also give up the life of crime (except for the kind of belief than enjoins violence to others as a religious duty).

Lawyers’ employment scheme

Prison, English-style

Prison, English-style

The revolving door of the criminal justice system

Dalrymple says (from 0:45) that he disagrees with the idea that prison should be, as he puts it,

a kind of hospital for criminals. That means you are saying criminals are ill.

The purpose of prison should be

the reduction of crime in the population, and the protection of the rest of the population.

A little cannabis resin helps this British prisoner relax

A little cannabis resin helps this British prisoner relax

The humanitarian theory of punishment is

very cruel. It is compatible both with ridiculous leniency and with revolting cruelty. If your theory is that punishment should be effective, it places no limits on what you can do to people.

Dalrymple points to the error

in thinking that prisons are there to reform people. It’s very good if they do — I have no objection — but that is not their purpose.

Most criminals, Dalrymple explains,

  • stop being criminal at the age of 35 to 39. In a sense they reform themselves
  • have done between five and 20 times as much as they have ever been accused of doing
A pair of English convicts in high spirits during one of the occasional recreational riots

A pair of English convicts in high spirits during one of the occasional recreational riots

If you put these two things together, Dalrymple says,

it would be an argument for longer prison sentences rather than shorter ones. In the end this would reduce the number of prisoners rather than increase them, because often it’s a revolving door: they come out, they commit another crime. It’s a very good scheme of employment for lawyers.

Prisoners take control of a wing of a British prison

Prisoners take control of a wing of a British jail

HMP Birmingham

HMP Birmingham, site of a recent especially exuberant riot

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-19-17-46

A convict lets off steam by smashing up the prison

The Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange

The Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange: if your theory is that punishment should be effective, it places no limits on what you can do to people

Muslim zealotry and embittered materialism

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 14.39.01Dalrymple writes of Islamic proselytising in prisons:

An outside observer might conclude from the religious literature that he sees there that Britain is more an Islamic than a Christian country.

Prisoners are susceptible to religious conversion, by which, Dalrymple says,

they do not feel that they have simply surrendered unconditionally to society, meekly accepting its law-abiding, middle-class norms after years of flouting them. They do not simply slink away from crime, defeated by the system; they have actively chosen a new life.

A life without boundaries

is a life of torment. It is without form, a void. Islam, with its daily rituals and its list of prohibitions, is ideally suited to those who are seeking to contain their lives.

Mahometanism, Dalrymple points out, has this great advantage:

It is feared by society at large. By adopting Islam, prisoners are killing two birds with one stone: they are giving themselves boundaries so that they can commit no more crimes — of the ordinary kind — and yet do not feel that they have capitulated to the demands of society.

The extent of the secularisation of young Muslim men in prison

can hardly be exaggerated. They do not pray or keep Ramadan, or perform any other religious duties. Like their white and black counterparts, they are interested in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Their difference is that, thanks to their cultural inheritance, their abuse of women

is systematic rather than unsystematic as it is with the whites and blacks. That is the way they intend to keep it, for it is a very gratifying system.

Dalrymple explains that

the match that puts the flame to the combustible mixture is a general sense of grievance and of grave injustice.

By injustice,

they do not mean that they did not do what they were accused of having done. On the contrary, they know perfectly well that, like most other prisoners, they have committed between five and 15 times more crimes than they have been accused of, and celebrate the fact. No, by injustice they mean social injustice.

Their justice, says Dalrymple, is

an ideal state of affairs which includes an effortlessly acquired, endless supply of women and BMWs. Much religious zealotry is disappointed and embittered materialism.

The politico-religious fanaticism

of which we are rightly afraid is not the product of Islam alone, but of an amalgam of Islam with sociological ideas according to which people are victims of structural injustice, of the modern equivalent of djinn, such as institutionalised racism.

Suppression of rock music in public places

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 07.55.25Such a step, writes Dalrymple,

while very tempting, is not the solution. What is required is the elevation of public taste.

This, he says, with characteristic understatement,

might take some time.

When Dalrymple suggested that the prison where he works

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 07.47.07should echo to the sound of Gregorian chant,

the prison officers

thought it was a joke.

Rock music, Dalrymple points out,

exerts a brutalising effect, and if it is not the sole cause of many of the unpleasantnesses of modern life, it aggravates them.

It has become

insidiously pervasive in our urban environment. It is like a poisonous gas that a malign authority pumps into our atmosphere, whose doleful effect, and probably purpose, is to destroy our capacity to converse, to concentrate, to reflect. It agitates us, keeps us constantly on the move, makes us impulsive and lacking in judgement.

Sadly, resistance has been feeble.

Defenders and advocates of high culture have been diffident about their claims, and reluctant to resist the relentless advance of a debased popular culture.

Dalrymple, honorary president of the Society for the Suppression of Rock Music, is pessimistic, saying that despite the best of intentions, the society will have

the same practical effect as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, namely nil.

Jail and the Left

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 08.17.07The Left, writes Dalrymple,

has never been easy with the idea of prison because the majority of those imprisoned are not only poor, but guilty of property crimes; and in its heart of hearts, the Left still thinks of property as theft and crime as a kind of spontaneous redistributive justice. To imprison anyone, therefore, in the name of property is to commit injustice.

Muslim micro-totalitarianism

Paris attacks organiser: Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Paris attacks organiser: Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Why the vicious are drawn to Islam

An interviewer asks why barbarous and cruel people look to Mohammedanism. Dalrymple explains that one of the factors is that conversion to Islam allows the depraved man

to think that he has not surrendered to the predominant society around him, against which he believes himself to have been in opposition for most of his life.

Dalrymple explains also that, apart from a love of violence and killing, a big part of the appeal of Islam for young men in Western countries is

the dominance that it gives them over women.

Micro-totalitarianism

The behaviour of the large numbers of Muslims in British prisons, Dalrymple points out,

is not that of religious persons. They are not interested in halal meat, they are not interested in praying five times a day, they are not interested in keeping Ramadan (except as a reason not to go to court), but they are very interested in preventing their sisters from going out with a boy of their own choosing.

If you go into the centres of towns with large Muslim populations,

you will see young Muslim men partaking in what I would say are generally pretty disgusting activities of popular culture, but you won’t see any women.

Islamists intimidate women into wearing the veil, for in Western societies

there is a micro-totalitarian climate. To ask people what they mean by it is very difficult; it is a bit like asking people in North Korea whether they like the government.