Ludovico’s Technique

FINALLY, I THOUGHT, the dystopian future we’ve all feared is upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. The reason I couldn’t be happier is because part of the horror of the dystopian way of life is dreading the arrival of it. Once it’s here, though, it’s a huge relief to see that nothing has really changed, and any minor adjustments that may have occurred are certainly for the better, engineered by architects of society who completely have our best interests at heart and in no way want to exploit us for their own greedy ends.  

Actually, that paragraph comes off as a bit too brainwashed. Let me start again. 

Finally, I thought, the dystopian future we’ve all feared is upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. The reason I couldn’t be happier is because to be anything less than outwardly ecstatic in a dystopian society is to be branded a troublemaker, ripped from your house and fed to giant Presa Canarios, after which the only evidence of your existence is when somebody steps in the dog poop that used to be you and now has to wipe you off their shoes, which is frustrating because as a fecal byproduct humans are quite tenacious.  

That one is a bit too bleak. I’ll have another go at it. 

Finally, I thought, the dystopian future we’ve all feared is upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. The reason I couldn’t be happier is because I’ve just been released from 41 days of straight torture in which my eyelids were clamped open, psychotropic drugs were injected into me and bureaucratic goons beat me nonstop with rubber hoses. And, all the while, I was forced to watch round-the-clock footage of the violent mutilation of the American electoral system.

I’m kidding, of course. Nobody had to force me to watch anything. I stared at it all voluntarily. To recap: a lame duck president did his best impression of Squealer from Orwell’s Animal Farm, a former mayor sprung a few leaks in Dildo-ville, Pennsylvania, a series of witnesses on election tampering did nothing more than shed light on the mental illness crisis ravaging this country and frivolous lawsuits, all tallied, caused the outgoing administration’s LOSS column to read 61 instead of one. 

It’s exciting programming after all, which is the name of the game. I’ve been riveted to the proceedings. No straps or eyelid clamps were necessary to expose me to the horror. And yet I watched and watched. 

And here is where Anthony Burgess, author of the seminal novel A Clockwork Orange, gets it wrong. For those who need a plot refresher of A Clockwork Orange, a young murderer named Alex elects to undergo an indoctrination program, known as Ludovico’s Technique, to rid himself of the urge for violence in order to secure an early prison release. He is dosed with some weird serum and forced to watch intense footage of criminal atrocities, war and bloodshed. This causes a negative feedback loop in which the mere thought of violence makes him ill. 

So now, 40 years later, all manner of savagery is available on the internet, and instead of making everyone sick, it has actually forced the populace to crave more. The negative feedback loop has turned positive and the cautionary lessons are now primers on how to destroy stuff more effectively and be happy while doing it. It’s learning how to enjoy the stench of blood and fear, the toxic rush of adrenaline that comes with unadulterated brutality. The modern barbarians are perfecting the craft. 

Finally, I thought, the dystopian future we’ve all feared is upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. The reason I couldn’t be happier is because the dystopian future we’ve all feared is upon us and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. The reason I couldn’t be happier…

That’s the idea. After a while the reasons don’t matter. It’s fidelity to the message, a weeping heartfelt loyalty to an empty tagline. It’s as if young Alex had undergone Ludovico’s technique and afterwards, when asked how he felt, simply nodded, jumped through the nearest window and strangled the first person he came across, relieved that he had lost none of the joy in seeing the life rush out of somebody’s bulging eyes. 

“Well, that backfired,” the behavioral scientists would say. “Now, who’s up for lunch?”  

Anthony Burgess did get a few things right, though. The necessary condition for the stoking of any successful indoctrination is a closed system of repetition. Even more effective if brought to the viewers by polished-up, televised champions of freedom who ironically insist that their audience think exactly like they do, over and over, night after night. That’s a kooky definition of freedom. What’s more likely is that they are destroying any meaningful exercise of free thought, filmed from the shoulders up, speaking directly to their audience with a “join us or perish” hysteria and a handful of emotionally charged film clips. Luckily, in our free society, that type of thing doesn’t exist. As far as I know, politically connected media moguls never try to manufacture consent or commodify outrage through overexposure.  

Whew. For a minute there I thought the dystopian future was finally upon us. 

More Alembics to come…

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