Dystopian Afternoon

Dystopian Afternoon
From Above Who Is In Control?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extreme Rehabilitation In Orwell's "1984" and Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"

Final Paper:
Rehabilitation in a dystopian society is a disturbingly massive transformation of the human mind and spirit to be reduced to a simple tool, for the betterment of the state, or corporation, and submission- to submit, becomes core to an ideology where power is the ultimate beneficiary. Two prolific examples where this idea of rehabilitation in a dystopian society occurs are in George Orwell’s novel 1984 and in Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange. Both realities in these fictional worlds establish a sequence of events where the protagonist experiences an abstract and extreme form of rehabilitation, each serving a purpose to transform the behavior and mind of Winston and Alex, to an ideal state, a utopia that only masks a totalitarian incentive.
Rehabilitation in society today ranges from prisoners learning to achieve good behavior so that they can function in society or--- people learning to live without substance abuse, in each case, there is a proposed change in the person for the betterment of himself and society. When someone commits robbery, or violates numerous other laws that have been implemented- that we might have been taught when we were young, or forgot when we got older, the punishment must fit the crime, and so the person must serve time or do community service. In each instance, the purpose is to instill contemplation on the prisoner or lawbreaker so that they might reflect on the bad that they have done, to realize their mistakes and correct them, ideally. The laws implemented on society have been cultivated by representatives of government, for the purpose of containing order in society. A violation of government laws promotes chaos within order, and so the prisoner must be jailed so that the chaos can be “contained”.
Rehabilitation in substance abuse is the idea that the substance abuser must learn to let go of their addiction that has harmed or will ignite chaos in society- hence the laws on illegal drugs. A substance abuser must learn to function again in society without the infliction of addiction, with such programs as the 12-step, or rehab centers, where, much like a prison, an emphasis on order and contemplation on what has lead them there. In both of these cases the rehabilitation process seems pretty tame to the examples given in 1984 and A Clockwork Orange. And what is even more frightening is humanity’s potential to make real these extreme cases of rehabilitation that I will later explore in today’s society. But to first understand the idea of extreme rehabilitation, there is the fictional case studies that, though their ideas, help ignite this discussion.
In Orwell’s 1984 towards the end of the novel, Winston and his partner Julia have been caught by the Thought Police, and now they have been separated and must await the rehabilitation process of Big Brother, the face of this dystopian society. What’s interesting about the rehabilitation of Winston, being conducted by his former colleague, O’Brien, is that the overall result of the process will evidently lead to his death. Winston experiences a traumatic transformation of his mind, a success to this inconspicuous government, specifically with the last line of the text that indicates Winston’s transformation, “He loved big brother” (Orwell 297) to only be presumably killed after by Big Brother. Could the purpose be that that the narrator was
intently focusing on this idea behind the rehabilitation process of Winston, to have him rid his individual thoughts that were a threat to a consensus submissive society, and his increasing questions of Big Brother’s history in this society, and the freedom to think outside the box, in any case, these points shed light on the purpose of this extreme treatment of Winston. For example, there is a scene where O’Brien is forcefully changing Winston’s logic of 2+2= 4 to 2+2=5. In this process O’Brien is enforcing submission on Winston, to make perfectly clear to him that Big Brother controls his every move and thoughts for the betterment of the state (Orwell 290). But what Big Brother also profoundly focuses on is a revolution of Winston’s mind, to further impede, not just to Winston- where he we see him wholly submit his mind and body to Big Brother, but to establish a kind of threat to the rest of society, to illustrate the power Big Brother has, and it never failing direction to succeed in keeping that power, as well as keeping a watchful eye on society’s every move.
In Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange the director paints an enthralling and disturbing picture of a futuristic society where young adults utilize violence as their hobby set in front of a bleak background where authority seems, where unlike Big Brother, unseen. This particular dystopian society in Clockwork is more of a corporate dystopia where the corporate is withering and the state is beginning to take control, which might be on its way to a society like Big Brother in 1984. But what more similarly appears connected to 1984 is the sequences that depict Alex being rehabilitated from his love of violence, his ultraviolent. Alex has been betrayed by his fellow droogs and is now has been caught by the police, the first time where authority of the state is seen present. Then Alex volunteers himself for a new experiment where it involves his rehabilitation of violence. Alex is placed tied to a chair in front of a movie screen, with eyes forced wide open, forced to watch violent images where he becomes incredibly sick, much to the approval of the doctors behind the scenes who hope to force Alex to not think of any violent thoughts anymore. The question of free will arises, but to the people conducting the
experiment, it’s the dystopian ideology that plays in, the idea of controlled behavior for the betterment of society. With implementing a rehabilitation process that of Alex’s, society can instill their authority through the mind frame of delinquents, thereby, monitoring without having to monitor their behavior.
Both incidents of Winston in 1984 and Alex in Clockwork tie into Michel Foucault’s literary essay “Discipline and Punish, Panopticism”. Foucault explores the idea of a prison physically monitoring the behaviors of inmates. His identification of Panopticim can be further inferred by the following quote, “Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action” (Foucault 5). What is interesting in Foucault’s identification of Panopticism is his emphasis on “induce in the inmate a state of conscious…permanent visibility”, which much applies to the idea of rehabilitation in Winston and Alex. Alex is being induced with a monitoring behavior that can be visibly seen by the doctors, the experiment that was conducted on him forced him to get sick when he produced violent and relatively bad thoughts. In Winston, there was O’Brien, the monitor of Big Brother, or Big Brother himself, who was ever presently there as Winston was tied to a table, forcing him to transform his thought process and combat what his individual self spoke to him, in order to supplement the dystopian society.
For Foucault, in theory, if you know you are being watched, like Winston, you are more likely to behave. But, for Winston, now, after rehabilitation, monitors his own behavior with his behavior fully changed to the ideology of Big Brother. Alex has been changed by a horizontal power that only demands his good behavior while leaving choice, or free will at the door, chilling.
What strikes me about Michel Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" is the concept of Panopticism and its similarity to "Big Brother" in George Orwell's novel "1984". Foucault's text begins with the discipline actions taken during the plague of the sevententh century and how the structure was propsed. Human nature, when it is faced with a an extreme threat, conjures up a power-leading force to direct them into a safe zone. The article very specifically explores the idea of man and threat and submission. How when faced with threat, a power structure takes the lead and works its technical orders to achieve a kind of sanity and order that forces the ordinary man and and women to follow. In Orwell's "1984" the author narrates through the protagonist Winston, and the reader perceives how this futuristic social structure has kept order by diminishing individuality and erasing the past to the power leader's own benefit. The concept of Panopticism works extremely well in Orwell's cultivation of this society. Big Brother becomes the top of the pyramid that knows and sees all and the citizens of Oceancina live in compact quarters so that their presence can be put on check.
What Foucault is addressing in his article is that humans are like ants when pushed or shoved and will follow the most extreme circumstances, whether by manipulation or force. The book of revelations in the bible is a clear example of showcasing mass hysteria and Its resemblance of a chicken running without its head. The idea of the antichrist deceiving mass society into its grasp by offering complacency instead of threat is what is shared by Foucault and Orwell.
In Melissa Lafsky’s article “Is It Possible to Systematically Turn Gay People Straight?” she discusses the treatments done in the past hundred years regarding the correction of homosexuality to heterosexuality. It is interesting to note that “homosexuality was officially de-classified as an illness in 1973, and therefore can’t be cured as such,” (1). It is interesting that before 1973, the medical and psychiatric communities regarded homosexuality as an illness, that the rehabilitation of homosexual tendencies was practiced in order to sustain a heterosexual lifestyle for the betterment of society. Lafsky goes on to discuss a particular psychologist who claims that he can rid people of homosexuality, that homosexuality can be changed or omitted through a rigorous course of therapy. The therapist claims that homosexuality is a “mental problem” and a person who feels uncomfortable or uncertain of their homosexual tendencies should not act upon them if they feel they do not want to. The idea of a man, for example, afraid of his homosexuality and complete conviction that heterosexuality is the life style for him and that rehabilitation of his sexuality through psychiatry is profoundly abstract. Could the fear of homosexuality be a result of society’s uncertainty of it, and as a result, the promotion of heterosexuality, through religious services and matrimonial institutions further derails the issue causing a shadow on it?
Lafsky’s article very much connects to the idea of extreme rehabilitation performed in 1984 and A Clockwork Orange. Lafsky explores the dark ages of homosexuality treatment practiced in the past as well as, though not as frequent, in the present. Like Winston and Alex, who are seen as going against the ideas of the state or society, homosexuality was seen as underground and away from the normalcy of society, particularly in America, with its strident religious conventions that point to homosexuality as being wrong, as it says so in the Bible, the foundation of morals and virtue. Winston accepts the fact that his free thinking, in its much pleasure, is a threat to the establishment, or Big Brother, and he fears for his life if caught with these thoughts or indications of going against the grain. In A Clockwork Orange, in a much different illustration but with the same message, is the idea of Alex’s innate quality for ultraviolent that is a threat to the state. Alex and his droogs are seen as the outsiders, with their novice and inhibited way of behavior- the chaos that threatens the order however bleak it is.
Winston and Alex are put into a rehabilitation system to correct their ways for the betterment of the state. In its similarity to the treatment of homosexuality during the dark ages, is the idea of correction in a person’s sexuality. Society’s adamant stance on homosexuality resulted in institutions where homosexuality was in the practice of rectification. Society as in the instances of Big Brother and the medical elite in A Clockwork Orange were the proponents of a their order driven dystopian culture that, at any means necessary, their fixation was to correct the wrong to maintain order.
The institutions of specific religious organizations promoted, and some still do, the rehabilitation of homosexuality. For example, a man who, through the persuasion of his family and friends and church, would give himself to extreme treatment of a certain sector that dealt with the problem of his homosexuality. When such true accounts came to mind, the images of Alex in front of the projector with his eyes forcefully opened sparked connections to the treatment of a gay male in this particular religious institution. The man ran through tests that involved electric shocks on his body. He would sit in front of a projector, or a strip of images that depicted pornographic homosexuality, and as the electric devices were placed on his body, more specifically on his genitals, they would exclaim their electric shock whenever he became aroused at such images, so that his body would forcefully adapt to a repression of his homosexual tendencies, a trauma to the sexual arousal, for the purpose of an ideally heterosexual man. The process was called “orgasmic reconditioning”, the most popular aversion technique. The treatments were relatively unsuccessful. This example can clearly be assimilated to O’Brien’s torture of Winston on that table where he must learn to adapt to Big Brother’s logic of 2+2=5. Along with O’Brien’s blatant persuasion of Winston, is the use of “shame aversion therapy where the gay male would be subjected to public shame or humiliation over same-sex arousal” (1). The extreme and disturbing treatments of that gay male, and such others like him, highlights the extent in which society’s influence is much apparent, and reinforced by the governing institutions and religious doctrine, and the promotion of normalcy in the state- the ideal of man and woman, not man and man, or woman and woman.
In analyzing the dystopian societies in 1984 and A Clockwork Orange questions arise as to why such examples of extreme rehabilitation occur. In 1984 Big Brother, in its disturbing utilization of Foucault’s Panopticism, keeps watchful eyes on its citizens, but the mystery behind the people in charge of this society remains hidden. Similarly, in A Clockwork Orange the dystopian state or government, or the people in power remain hidden as well. What could be the purpose for such inconspicuous determination? What the citizens of society do not know keeps them guessing as well as instill fear into their perceptions of who is in power. The agitation of humanity does not know who is behind the door, and can only assume with the experiences that others have gone through that their fear is superimposed, like Winston’s observance of the few men who have gone through one of the ministries of Big Brother, after being deemed as subversions of the state. Presumably, they have gone through the rehabilitation process in Room 101, and now look completely vacant, or in other cases, other people who have been accused of subversion disappear and you never hear from them again. It is chilling to think that such potentiality is apparent in the modern world today.
In our world today there are countries where their governments have established a secretive lid on their countrymen, igniting suspicions and curiosity from the rest of the world. The recent incidents in Iran where students and others, shown only through images captured by people who have risked their lives in their country to show to the world, shows their adamant protests against the government and the harsh practices of the state police against their demonstrations. The government of Iran chooses to sustain order through chaos by any means necessary, and also, there has been reporting of torture against the demonstrators and protestors. The practices of torture is to convey to the subversive that what they have done is a threat to the government, and like a threat, they plan to eradicate it by any means necessary. Torture is to implement harm to the body as the mind. By governments using aggressive techniques of torture it is to primarily keep the subversive submissive that their whole self as at the knees of the people in charge. Just like with Winston, O’Brien is inflicting devices of torture to him in order for him to be reduced to a vacant person whose only purpose is for the betterment of the state with its submission of mind and body.
Extreme Rehabilitation and torture goes hand in hand because their primarily purpose is to transform the person’s mindset through aggressive forms of persuasion. North Korea is another example of a secretive government that has its grip on its entire nation under the orders of one man. If there is any other country that resembles the practices of Big Brother it is North Korea. Those that seem to be no use to the state are tossed off or put to the side which explains the extreme starvation in the countryside. But in terms of its urban structure, the people of North Korea hold their complete allegiance to the government of North Korea. In both of these modern cases of Iran and North Korea is the deduction of extreme rehabilitation for the people who are labeled as subversive to their state.
Extreme rehabilitation in modern society today is seen as unlawful and a violation of human rights. But is it still practiced? Of course. The potentiality of humanity’s enforceable ideology to people who must be seen submissive is still there. What the dystopian idea does is evaluate such institutions in literature, and to bring about discussions with its relation to the world today. Foucault elaborates on the idea of Panopticism to explain why such dystopian governments or institutions function in society. The major reason, if not only, is power; the idea that the prisoners of a monitored infrastructure can be monitored for the purpose of sustaining order and preventing or eradicating chaos. And the purpose for such an infrastructure is to keep the powers that be in power, with a reinforcement of their ideology. Such ideas are transcended in Orwell’s 1984 and A Clockwork Orange where the protagonists are being monitored for their behavior and are even rehabilitated for being subversive. Today, or in the past, examples of extreme rehabilitation being practiced involved the correction of homosexuality in straight people; the idea that through force and the extreme persuasion of the mind human sexuality and its preference can be set to a specific course because society prefers is that way, or that the dystopian society is keeping order intact.

Works Cited
1) Orwell, George. 1984. Published in 1950. Singet Classic. New York, New York.
2) A Clockwork Orange dir. Kubrick, Stanley. Distributed by Warner Brother. 1971.
3) Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punish, Panopticism.” 1975.
4) Lafsky, Melissa. “Is It Possible to Systematically Turn Gay People Straight.” Discover: Science, Technology and the Future. http://discovermagazine.com September 9. 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 12 Response

Jack London's novel "The Iron Heel" was an interesting read. From
what i took of the text was ideologies being expressed among characters
and how they clashed. There is a big divide among the poor and the rich,
the laborer and the market, and the capitalistic industries. I was
extremely surprised when I found out at what period the novel was
published, 1908. The novel seemed to predict or foresaw battles and
ideologies being played against a 20th Century society for Russia in
1910's to Cuba in the 1960's. The novel also expressed much violence and
confrontations that seemed to be due or die which i thought was very
interesting. The most profound aspect of the novel for me was the
general strike that was participated by many countries to forestall the
capitalist market in order to prove a socialist point.

Week 1 Response

What I found most interesting in Frederic Jameson’s deeply intricate essay “The
Politics of Utopia” were two enlightened points: “our imprisonment in a non-utopian
present without historicity or futurity”, and the loss of the “personality”, particularly
desire, of the utopian citizen, or its promotion. These two points triggered an avenue in
my thought process of a Utopian society, and the pros and cons that I had not explored
before. What I was able to gather from Jameson’s first enlightened point was the idea of
a Utopian society being conveyed in an imagined realm that is forever unattainable even
for a little. My imagination of a somehow perfect society is a reflection of the bars or
limitations of the “non-utopian” society that I am currently in. The conflicts of today like
money and support are not always fluent with me or to the majority of those who are not
wealthy or high up in the social ladder, such as government leaders; therefore, the
dream of a utopian society is far out of my reach physically. Mentally, Jameson goes on
to discuss the incapacity of the “non-utopian” in establishing a utopian society,
consequently conjures up an imagination of it. Jameson also, goes on to explore different
ideologies such as Marxism that, at least, steer to a kind of utopian society however
much flawed it is.
What is even more an important point for me was Jameson’s enlightened idea
of our “desires” being lost in a Utopian Society, or our “desires” becoming the drive to
that Utopian society. These are anti-utopian views of course, but they shed light on a
good point. If there is such a Utopian society would desires, all inclusive of sexuality,
addictiveness, personal interest, is relevant? Jameson points out that these things are
what make the human character, the aroma of personality, which I agree. The idea of a
Utopia sounds nice but the fact that we try to reach that idea highlights humanity’s
potential or madness in achieving such an imagined society.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Iron Heel Group Response

What each of my group members decided to orchestrate for our Iron Heel presentation was a trivia game that would ignite the class’s interaction with the text. Our group also decided to use the trivia game idea to achieve a new strategy and a different technique from what the other group members have done in relating the novel to our class discussions. Each of our group members were designated with a certain task to cultivate two to three question that could be used for the trivia game. My task was to come up with three questions that compare and contrast London’s Iron Heel to the previous three novels we have so far read in class.
In our brainstorming for this project our group met several times to discuss how this presentation could be handled. During those encounters we conversed and debated our questions to see which ones needed to be worked on and which ones were successful. I was able to offer input and constructive criticism to the questions my fellow group members had concocted. I especially paid close attention to the wording in which the questions were asked so that they become easy enough to understand for the class.
One of my group members, in our discussion of what film clips to use, suggested using Gangs of New York in out connection with London’s politically and socially conscious driven novel. I have the film and so I offered to review it to see what scenes connect with the novel’s theme. There were several depictions of the proletariat rising against the oligarchy, but our group had decided that the two films that were previously suggested would be utilized instead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Capitalism Aftermath in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

What can you say about a film that follows a protagonist, Alex, and his droogs into physical and mental chaos, set in an environment constructed as “our” bleak future and ends with a deeply pondering theme: the State vs. free will? There are so many avenues that I could explore in Kubrick’s extremely provocative A Clockwork Orange, but this essay must bring a comparison or contrast with this film to two intricate articles, Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”, and, Randy Martin’s moment of relative “Where Did The Future Go?”, both charming and complex titles I might add. I have decided to focus on the aftermath of capital or capitalism shown subtly in Orange with the support of one of these articles, Martin’s. Incorporating two articles would be asking too much for a two-page paper. This is no easy task.
When discussing the aftermath of Capitalism, that is the negating aspects of it, what is the beforemath? The beforemath of capitalism is painted as depicted in Martin’s article: “The fortunate (successors of capitalism- generally U.S. and Europe) would be freed from work in the form of retirement and leave the earth secure in the knowledge that their kids would do better than they had” (1). This is a positive depiction of a financial led society where economy is just as much as important to the family home, if not more, than religion. What does this have to do with Orange? Martin’s article goes on to discuss, if it means to, the current financial situation of today, 2008-2009, rest in peace, and coins an enlightening phrase: “Today we suffer imperialism’s renaissance”, this is preceded by a claim that the last time finance, or capital, “led
the charge” it was called “imperialism”. Martin’s interesting word choice of “renaissance” (a generalization of a cultural movement between the 14th and 17th Century consisting of rationale thinking-- whatever that means) sheds light on the language depicted in Orange where the dialogue resembles that of a renaissance society, particularly in England. And England, I might add, was and still is a forefront to imperialistic tendencies in the financial arena— In recent times, England’s colonization of India for its cultural natural resources. Here is some of that language in Orange: “Appy-polly-loggies. I had something of a pain in the gulliver so had to sleep. I was not awakened when I gave orders for wakening”. You might say the distortion in language in Orange is a contrast view to the “imperialist renaissance”, but in actuality, there is a direct correlation with the distortion in language to the imperialist financial society, or aftermath of capitalism, displayed on the surface in Orange that enables it; the disjointedness of capitalism in the future causes a disjointedness in language, where right is done by the people in power, and wrong is whatever is left behind, and sometimes used, to make an example of for profit- the last stance for capital in a deteriorating society, with an exception of a few. Take, for example, when Alex is put in an experiment where violent thoughts and actions might be prevented forcefully through brainwash. If you place close attention to the scene, you may see many men in suits in the background that could be there for the “experimenting” voyeurism, but also, to take advantage of the opportunity to make money- a new venue. Perhaps, I am reading too much into it, or speaking without sense. You tell me.
Another point where the aftermath, or consequence of capitalism is projected in Orange is the apathy or naiveté’s of Alex’s parents in the film. This goes back to Martin’s idea where the “fortunate”, the parents who work will be able to provide more than ever for their children’s
future as part of the financial dream. Will it seems in the film, Alex’s parents, or any parent, are not anywhere to be seen, they are, to the viewer’s mind, not there, while deducing that the parents are working all the time with no time to spare for their children, that the capital has taken over their lives- even the dark, gritty environment where Alex and his parents live support this. Another scene is when Alex is at the record store where, like today, kids are spending their parents’ money. But in this case, Alex has robbed and violently beaten his victims for the money- the only way for him to “buy stuff”, while gaining a disturbing gratification in torturing his victims.

"A Clockwork Orange". Kubrick, Stanley. Warner Bros. 1972.

Martin, Randy. "Where Did The Future Go?". www.logosjournal.com/issue_5.1/martin.htm

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"The life in me to-day is just as curious as it was in my boyhood, and it's the being curious that makes life worth living" - Jack London , The Iron Heel