Government Through A Clockwork Orange

November 5, 2011

Political Theory


For whatever reason, the government has always scared me.  Not because it’s never been a subject that I’ve been particularly strong in (high school Honors Government is not one I recommended to my younger sister), not even because of what I know about it.  What scares me about the government is what I don’t know about it: what those politicians are doing behind their dodgy answers in interviews and cocky smiles at press conferences.

But those are the kinds of things that are easy to not think about.  If the Pentagon doesn’t want to tell me about top secret decisions that are going on on the other side of their big double doors, then fine – I didn’t want to know anyway.  To be honest, those matters probably carry more moral weight than I’d even be able to handle.

And then you watch a movie like A Clockwork Orange.  For those of you who haven’t seen it – well, first of all, the main character is a boy who fantasizes about rape and destructive war every time he listens to Beethoven, if that says enough.  But more specifically, if you like the idea of a project led by the government in which doctors use a method of classical conditioning to make a boy feel sick and go mad – to the point of attempted suicide – every time he’s presented with a scene of sex or violence, real or not, which then ensues the government killing off anyone who tries to hurt the boy to make their project look successful… first off, please leave.  Secondly, you know that this is a movie that would break down any sort of barrier between what you so badly desire to know about the government, and what you don’t want to know at all.

Granted, the storyline offered by A Clockwork Orange is both fictional, outdated, and much more aggravating than real life, in part due to the maniac nature of the main character.  However, the message in the end still applies.  As a population, we trust our government to make the right decisions for us when it comes to larger events that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to agree upon efficiently.  But does this mean that when the time comes, we trust them to do our dirty work as well?  The project I previously described set by the government, without going into all the details, was one that was enacted for the good of the people; one that would hopefully, turn a bad boy into a good one.  Their theory was simple: “We are not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics.  We are concerned only with cutting down crime… (2.7.13-14)”  This may be how our government thinks.  Is our definition of dirty work the same as theirs?   Is it ok for us to turn our heads the other way, as Machiavellianism claims we should, with the trust that in the end, we’ll have a good outcome?  Common sense says of course not.  We’re taught of course not.  Yet for most of us, that’s what we do.  Maybe we’re angry when we read about wrong things that the government does, maybe we join one protest against something we think is wrong; but for the most part, we shrug our shoulders and say: let the government do what it needs to.  As long as I don’t have to know about it.

I admire those people that are able to stand up against it.  Like one lonely priest when the new abilities to stay good of our main maniac character were showcased like a showing a mouse to an elephant in a circus.  “He ceases to be a wrongdoer.  He also ceases to be a creature of moral choice.”  Of course he was out-ruled.  But maybe one day, there will be enough of those people like the priest to finally stop ignoring, realize that there are  good ways to achieve good ends, and actually fight for them.

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