Were the words Anthony Burgess overheard in a London pub before WW1. They fascinated him with the strange image of a mechanism powering a living being and how the internal cogs of people are artificially engineered too. What followed post-war was one of the most influential and empathetic novels about the conflict of freewill.
Later, Stanley Kubrick adapted Burgess’ main point of behavioural conditioning imposed by the State on a child they deem dangerous to society. The narrator, fifteen year old Alex, is brainwashed through medication and moving images whilst in prison for murder. The treatment works on a physical level and Alex can only vomit as urges of violence and sex continue to arise from his squashed libido. Although, the intent is still there, Alex learns that the only choice we have is; how we play into the state’s vision of morality – choosing to be conditioned and feeling it to be beneficial to our already regulated lives.
Forty-odd years since Burgess and Kubrick peeled the Clockwork Orange giving us a peek into the functioning farce that seems to have always been in place, visual media remains the main tool of social conditioning. Without a second’s rest, our oldest and fondest influences have all been adapted to the screen and used against us to sway our associations; food, sex, music, success, beauty, family, adrenaline, dopamine.
These are modern times, we have disposable ideas of happiness
All the wonderful things we instinctively want in order to be happy are presented in unnatural ways for the short term sake of profit and the long term goal of control. So? These are modern times, we have disposable ideas of happiness. What’s wrong with having the options on a plate if it makes finding happiness more convenient? How do I know if what makes me happy is the right thing unless I see others doing it? The truth is we don’t. Not any more. Not since we stopped looking beyond image.
There is no such thing as freewill without defiance. It’s the unpredictable movements of circumstance created by peoples’ infinite choices that threatens a controlling power. Not so unpredictable when you account for the endless data gathered from us on a piece of technology you were told was necessary, all of it cross-referenced to form a behavioural profile, a sales statistic, whatever makes you tick- they know, they see the cogs in motion.
They know how to sell an idea, a lifestyle, a choice, because they know what you care about and how to manipulate it. Looking at sheer numbers, the hits, the sales, the votes, they know what you’re interested in and how successful of a product it will be or how great a threat it poses. The surveillance crisis isn’t all about hacking and CCTV. Information about people’s reactions to imagery is forever recorded, tied to social and political changes across history, mass psychological profiling from millions of quick and painless moments of your benign consideration. Potentially, advertisers can predict social history… even conduct it.
Limited information to the public eradicates the possibility of opinions and naturally derived associations they don’t want you to have. Humanity doesn’t sell in the long run and free-thinking prompts question, the answers to which would unscrew this nightmare we subconsciously opt into, generation after generation. Applying sensationalism to ‘fact’ should damage trust in truth but we are continually shown that anything worth our attention has to be exaggerated.
But how do we know if our choices are down to us?
Swift colourful slaps of information leave us with a charged few seconds to make a decision on what we just let in, before we immediately forget it’s there, one after another, wherever we go. We rely on images to imagine the outcomes to life choices we shouldn’t even have to make and mentalities that keep us from reaching our potential, but also keep us spending constantly.
Outlaw anything, a controversial film for instance, and people become obsessed as to why? The question of whether marketing in the last forty years has gained from the hype surrounding A Clockwork Orange, answers itself. It’s sad to wonder if it outweighs those who enriched their lives through its message, angry and frightened to step out of blatant manipulation. We only tend to fear things we don’t understand, so to understand a danger, shouldn’t that eradicate the fear of it? Fear is replaced with curiosity; curiosity leads to discovery, which is the most dangerous thing of all, at least for the ones we feared in the first place.
The free exchange of power that comes from human decisions is beautifully chaotic and generates continual discovery and change, some unforeseen by the media, and volatile to their attempt at a limited and controllable social structure. But how do we know if our choices are down to us? Is every decision we make the result of our own conditioning- something we’ve watched or fallen asleep in front of, saw on a poster, in a magazine, read from a shit-stained shred of a tabloid whilst wondering where did all my money go?
Choice presented by mainstream media, on however many channels, will always be an illusion and the outcome isn’t real if the decision process is removed. Are we who we are by freewill and is that the choice of a balanced view or a monopolistic influence?
Still, no one is blameless and as brainwashed as we all are, we’re far from powerless and hopefully, there is enough fear-mongering jangle in this article to flog the point. It’s a free one. But don’t take my word for it, said the salesman, second-guess media in all forms, try eating an orange with a knife and fork, and ask yourself: is it really out of my hands or do I just not want to get them sticky?