• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Ode to Joy

    If you’re not already disturbed by the degree to which contemporary life resembles the dystopian fiction you were assigned in high school, allow me to draw your attention to this jaw-dropping piece at Reason.com. It has everything: classical music as mechanism of punishment and coercion (as writer Brendan O’Neill notes, straight out of A Clockwork Orange ), a conditioning of perceived lower-caste youths to reject beauty (straight out of Brave New World ), and a camera-equipped flying arrest contraption (straight out of Fahrenheit 451 ). Some other goodies, which read like something in The Onion :

    A few years ago some local authorities introduced the Mosquito, a gadget that emits a noise that sounds like a faint buzz to people over the age of 20 but which is so high-pitched, so piercing, and so unbearable to the delicate ear drums of anyone under 20 that they cannot remain in earshot. It’s designed to drive away unruly youth from public spaces, yet is so brutally indiscriminate that it also drives away good kids, terrifies toddlers, and wakes sleeping babes.

    Police in the West of England recently started using super-bright halogen lights to temporarily blind misbehaving youngsters. From helicopters, the cops beam the spotlights at youths drinking or loitering in parks, in the hope that they will become so bamboozled that (when they recover their eyesight) they will stagger home.

    The weaponization of classical music speaks volumes about the British elite’s authoritarianism and cultural backwardness. They’re so desperate to control youth—but from a distance, without actually having to engage with them—that they will film their every move, fire high-pitched noises in their ears, shine lights in their eyes, and bombard them with Mozart. And they have so little faith in young people’s intellectual abilities, in their capacity and their willingness to engage with humanity’s highest forms of art, that they imagine Beethoven and Mozart and others will be repugnant to young ears. Of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The dangerous message being sent to young people is clear: 1) you are scum; 2) classical music is not a wonder of the human world, it’s a repellent against mildly anti-social behavior.

    I wonder whether the authorities themselves listen to much Beethoven and Mozart, let alone Shostakovich, these days. It may not be just from the perspective of an uncultured child that they see classical music as punishment.

    7 Responses to “Ode to Joy”

    1. Kate says:

      I have only one minor nitpick: as I recall the classical music in A Clockwork Orange – something the protagonist actually liked – was used in conjunction with the aversion “therapy”, thereby destroying what was probably the guy’s only “good” interest. Mind you, it’s been a long time so my memory could be off.

      I’d guarantee you the authorities don’t listen to classical music of any flavor. No-one who does would dream of using it to drive kids away. Hell, no music lover of any flavor would use music as a deterrent. No, the people in charge of that little delight are gray-souled bureaucrats and functionaries whose sole purpose in life is to stamp out any joy they can find because their lives are so bloody bitter.

      Wowsers and wankers, the lot of them.


    2. Sarah says:

      This is why I don’t write dystopian cr*p that gets called “serious” — first because there’s too much of it around. Second because it gives the b*stards ideas!

    3. Sean says:

      No, Kate, you’re right, and the article I linked to makes that clear, even if I didn’t really. Classical music was part of the punishment mechanism, but it wasn’t because Alex originally didn’t like it.

      Sarah, it does look that way, doesn’t it?

    4. Cheyenne says:

      Bia coetomnu em 17 de agosto de 2011 às 14:06. Ficou linda.O problema é que sempre que eu tento fazer esse olho escuro embaixo ele escorre. O que eu faço de errado? bjos

    5. Great insight. Relieved I’m on the same side as you.

    6. That’s really thinking out of the box. Thanks!

    Leave a Reply