Category Archives: youth (British)

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

The nation’s future

A snapshot of the social and cultural life of a portion of the youth of Great Britain

Attempting to clear up his study, Dalrymple comes across a document

which I must once have studied carefully though it left no trace in my mind.

It was

the dossier on a case of assault and criminal damage in which I had been asked to prepare a medical report on the perpetrator (mostly I prepared reports on murderers).

The reply of the accused reads in part:

We were having a drink, drinking bottles of beer, having a laugh, having a mixture of Jack Daniel’s and coke, Southern Comfort and lemonade and basically having shots in every round and drinking bottles of beer and that, having a laugh pulling birds, having a dance and that, having a chat, and, er, I had an argument with my ex-girlfriend who was working behind the bar. She told me to fuck off and said something to me, so I spat at her. One of the I think it was the bar manager that come out and grip me up. We were having a little scuffle and he threw me out. I was outside having an argument with the bouncers, that’s when John got dragged out by the bouncers and threw up the fence and that, so we were there for about twenty minutes and that, arguing with the bouncers. I said to John, I ain’t having this man, she got me threw out for nothing I said, the silly bitch. I said, fucking started an argument on me, so I said I’m going to go and smash her car up. So, er, we walked off and, er, I went round the back of the bar, where all of the cars are parked. I seen her car, I walked back and said to the two lads who were waiting, I said here, I’ve found the car. I’m gonna get a brick so I can smash her window. So I went over the road, picked up a brick, walked back to her car, smashed the window. I threw it at another window, it didn’t smash, so I picked it up again, threw it, it smashed the driver’s side window. I said to them two lads, carry on…

Dalrymple comments:

It was all the girl’s fault, of course. If she hadn’t offended him in the bar, he wouldn’t have behaved like this. This, more or less, is the argument offered by the defenders, or at least extenuators, of Muslim terrorists who attack those who offend them, and also by those who believe that taking offence at something someone has said justifies aggressive or violent reaction. Some people delight to take offence. It gives them licence (they think) to behave badly, which is what they always wanted to do anyway.

Britain’s lumpenintelligentsia at play

The soul of modern British youth: half Jellyby, half Marie Antoinette

The Glastonbury Festival, writes Dalrymple,

is a mass gathering not of youthful idealists, but of moral and intellectual hybrids of Marie Antoinette and Mrs Jellyby.

The festival, Dalrymple explains, is

a large gathering of the British lumpenintelligentsia come to celebrate its appalling taste in music, in a place vaguely associated with druidism, the healing chakras of the earth, Hopi ear candles, that kind of thing: ideal for people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.

It often rains during the festival. Dalrymple comments:

Rain improves the behaviour of young British people: it discourages them from leaving their homes. (Rain is also almost the only prophylaxis nowadays in Britain against crime.)

This year at the festival, the lumpenintelligentsia

was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn. He enthused the massed ranks of youthful idealists by telling them that another world was possible. It was, for when they departed Glastonbury, they left behind them so much litter in this corner of rural England that it made a rubbish dump in Mexico City seem like Switzerland.

The Glastonbury mob contentedly wallowed in this rubbish

for days. Horrified by CO2 emissions and rising temperatures, they failed to notice what was about their very feet, and certainly did nothing about it. They slept contentedly among it, too exhausted by their idealism and labours of licentiousness to apply their minds to anything as lowly as the litter that they dropped, as cows defæcate in fields. It was for others to pick up their rubbish after them: that is what social justice required.

Dalrymple notes that among British youth,

mass concern for social justice and the fate of the planet is combined with indifference to immediate surroundings.

The lumpenintelligentsia also, Dalrymple points out,

plays at being prole, though never with the intention of remaining at the bottom rung of society for any length of time, let alone permanently (and certainly not economically).

British youth, says Dalrymple,

have gone further in self-proletarianisation than any other I know. In their imitation of the proles (which they think virtuous), they demonstrate how they really conceive of them: vulgar, dirty, coarse, and foulmouthed. Genuine proletarians are, or were, not at all like this—not en masse, not as the lumpenintelligentsia now is.

Though it operate from a minuscule base, the party can succeed

Coming across the above in Simon Leys’ 1996 essay ‘The Art of Reading Non-Existent Inscriptions Written in Invisible Ink on a Blank Page’, Dalrymple asks: ‘Does this passage call to mind anything in the current condition of Great Britain? Of course, analogies are never quite exact (which is why they are only analogies). Mr Corbyn is no Mao Tse-tung: he washes more regularly for one thing, and unlike Mao I doubt that he has the courage of his cruelty. It is going too far to call the British authorities brutal. Finally, I do not think that anyone who knew them would call British youth generous or idealistic. The mess left behind by British youth at Glastonbury after the festival should be enough to disillusion anyone on that score. And yet, all the same, the passage has a certain resonance. If we are not careful, we shall soon experience our own Great Leap Forward — into the abyss, of course, though more gently than the Chinese.’