“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Karova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.”
Welcome to the worldview of juvenile, uber thug Alex, as he sits chilling with his thuggish gang of violent delinquent chums, and pondering on the where and when of satisfying their murderous, and compulsive need to inflict pain and damage on their fellow humans. A Clockwork Orange is author Anthony Burgess`s literary symphony to a near future, dystopian urban society that has lost it`s grip on any idea of humanity, compassion and respect for others.
There is something disturbingly seductive about this dark novel and it`s bleak, pitiless, and violent view of a society gone off the rails and heading for the buffers. When it was written back in 1964, many probably didn`t recognise the warning signs shouted loud and clear by the utter lack of moral values displayed by a society destroyed by incessant violence and lack of humanity and decent social values. But is it a book which is pointing out to us the benefits of traditional moral values, or is it the quintessential expression of a Nietzschean anti-morality will to power? You pays your money I think.
The world of A Clockwork Orange is one where folks lock themselves in at night hoping to escape the rampant violence of creatures such as Alex and his droogs, who spend the dark hours breaking and entering, and beating people to death in their homes, and mugging those too weak, slow and vulnerable to escape. The citizens of this fair land long ago decided that the government politicians were simply a more highly organised bunch of selfish, greedy thugs than the rampant juvenile crime wave lapping against their locked doors every night.
The book is comprised of three parts: the first shows us twenty four hours in the life of Alex, comprising of rape, violence against rival gangs and innocent people, all garnished with a large side order of the glorious Ludwig van Beethoven.
The second sees Alex betrayed by his gang and incarcerated, which results in his voluntary participation in the authority`s new brain washing aversion technique to control criminal activity, the Ludovico Treatment.
The last Act sees our hero turned out into the wild like a little innocent lamb to the slaughter; where his former gang members are now pillars of the establishment as police officers. Alex is physically and mentally assaulted on all sides, and finds himself unable to protect himself from the very society which he had helped to turn into a violent and vicious environment.
Nietzsche would have told him to “man up” and find the strength of will within himself to claw his way back to the top of the food chain. So, where are we left on this: do we think Alex gets what he deserves, or perhaps he didn`t have enough smarts to assimilate himself into the mainstream establishment like his former partners in crime, and continue to administer the “old ultra-violence” to the public as a state sanctioned employee?
Is A Clockwork Orange a look into the morality of the individual, or of the State. It`s easy to over look the role of the State in an environment of fear and violence, where individuals are on the rampage. What comes first……..The chicken or the egg? Does the State merely respond to the violence in it`s midst, or is social violence the cause of State policy?
The sci-fi trappings of A Clockwork Orange make it a worthy successor to Huxley and Orwell, along with their socio-political discourse on the State and the individual.
There is something timeless about Alex`s gleeful amorality, lust for life, and evilly fizzy persona. It`s a fascinating, dark, but somehow, seductive peek into a future where the lines between the actions of State and individual are murky. A future which it may already be too late to avert.