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.