Category Archives: quietism

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.


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.


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

Why Dalrymple must shun politics

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.41.01In appealing to Dalrymple to resist at all costs the temptation ever to have anything to do with political action or government in these times, we his supporters remind him of this passage in Confucius (Analects, 15.7, Leys tr.):

The Master said: What a gentleman was Qu Boyu! Under a good government, he displayed his talents. Under a bad government, he folded them up in his heart.

People ask also why Dalrymple, despite his considerable abilities, the acuity of his vision, his willingness to face unpleasant facts (making him the heir to Orwell), and the urgency and importance of what he has to say, is still relatively little known — snubbed by large sections of the Western media, for example the British state broadcaster — and remains a person of modest means. Again the answer is to be found in Confucius (Analects, 8.13, Leys tr.):

The Master said: In a country where the Way prevails, it is shameful to remain poor and obscure; in a country which has lost the Way, it is shameful to become rich and honoured.


Dalrymple must be induced to enter politics

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.02.19Apathy carries a price

Dalrymple writes that throughout his life,

I have never been able to resolve my own dialectic between indifference and obsession.

A freedom that is rightly valued highly is that from the tyranny of politics. On the other hand, Dalrymple says,

if you do not go to politics, politics will come to you.

In launching our appeal to Dalrymple to step forward, we his supporters remind him of this passage in Plato (in the Republic, Book 1, Jowett tr.):

…money and honour have no attraction for them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being ambitious they do not care about honour….the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help — not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present…