Prisoners Exercising (after Gustave Doré), Vincent van Gogh, 1890
Hello and welcome to Politburo Park for the five minutes to midnight 2020 Dystopian Novel Stakes. All the runners are in and… they’re off! Orwell’s 1984 is the first to show, trained by O’Brien and widely tipped here, leading the pack as they round the first bend. Close behind and tucked up on the rail is fancied Huxley’s Brave New World, with dark horse Zemyatin’s We pushing hard. There’s been a lot of interest in Milan Kundera’s The Joke, and the odds have shortened to just 20 years in the gulag. That’s The Joke by Solzhenitsyn out of Angela Merkel. Koestler’s Darkness at Noon probably won’t have enough, but as they turn for the last furlong it’s all eyes on a late burst from Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange…
Burgess’s novel as a prescient dystopian exemplar is often over-shadowed by Orwell and Huxley’s famous brace, and the emphasis is placed on the ultra-violence and the infamous Lodovico treatment, designed to wean little Alex off his terrorising ways. But the reason for the state wishing to end the violent antics of the young is very much sub-text in the book and has nothing to do with protecting the populace from the ravages of Alex and his droogies, but is simple expediency in terms of penal space. At the parade of prisoners in which Alex is picked to be the guinea-pig for trials of the Lodovico treatment, a minister makes one of the crucial statements of the whole dystopian genre;
‘Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders’.
Sound familiar? Rioters in Minneapolis bailed out with celebrity money. New York City announces that it will not prosecute individuals for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct. The pitter-patter of early prisoner releases during the coronavirus. ‘Restorative justice’ in many American states, meaning in effect back off black men committing crime. Muslims getting about 20 minutes in the nick for rape before they’re back on the street. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders.
You used to have to leave the house and commit a crime to garner the attention of the police. Now, a laptop and broadband is all you need to risk becoming a jailbird. The interviews under caution for taking the piss out of the Welsh will gradually, with boiling-frog inevitability, become short jail sentences, which will be enough to ruin a transgressor’s employment chances, which in turn will lead to longer jail sentences as per the unofficial but de facto social credit system the West is importing from China along with plastic toys, cheap crockery and defective anti-viral masks. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders.
Then there is the latest production playing at the progressive theatre of the absurd, as officials wash the feet of blacks in Carolina, policemen kneel before their new masters in front of the locus of the mother of all parliaments, and black people only have to shout jump! for whites to chorus, how high?
And what about the workplace? Have you thought of what it might be like when you get back to the daily grind? You know that guy or gal in the office, the one in accounts who doesn’t much like you? What will you say when they ask you what you think of the BLM protests, and your boss catches the question and stops on the way back to his cubbyhole, interested in your answer and keen to stick around and hear it before your next assessment meeting? Will you say the right thing? Do you know what the right thing to say even is? What if someone finds out that you missed one of the Thursday NHS clapathons? Our Russian secret agent here at British Intelligence, long since relocated to England, tells us that she didn’t clap for the NHS because she could still remember clapping for the Communist Party when she was a little girl back in Mother Russia. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders.
This is how it starts, and if you don’t believe that good luck with it all. Good luck when you are standing in your hallway, bleary-eyed with your hair all mussed at 3am in a long T-shirt and boxer shorts, wondering who will fix the door the police have just kicked off its hinges. Good luck not getting the shit kicked out of you by Somalian care workers at re-education camp. Good luck keeping your opinions from your neighbours who are on a five-star merit system like a McDonalds burger-flipper. Grass up three people and you get a week’s holiday and a signed copy of Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders.
As the 24/7 show trial of whites escalates, and the black man gains the whip hand over the white man, just as Enoch Powell’s constituent predicted in his Cassandra-like way all those years ago, who do you think is going to help you? You think your friends will speak up for you? No. They have seen the instruments, and there is the job to think about, the pension, the kids, the same kids you will have to remain tight-lipped around in case they turn tattle-tale as they did in the Soviet Union. Soon, soon…
Soon we may be needing all our prison space for… Well, you know who they may be needing it for. Ask not for whom the bell tolls or the prison gate clangs shut.