IS IT an age, stage and temperament thing? Nothing makes me happier than to read a week of positivity about the prospects of an indy Scotland; a collective vision rooted in progress and compassion. Go us.

Yet the brighter the spotlight shines, the more I’m drawn to the shadowlands these days. Maybe it’s because I want to defend our good society so much, I want to be versed in the worst it could be. There seem to be so many trapdoors and wormholes available for modern souls to slip down into, and be lost forever. Be the candle, not the darkness – yes. But sometimes your eye glances into the abyss. And sometimes it looks right back at you.

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An arts story this week provided exactly that opportunity. It turns out that A Clockwork Orange – the deeply controversial film by Stanley Kubrick, from the novel by Anthony Burgess – had a sequel in the form of a 200-odd page manuscript discovered in Kubrick’s private papers and entitled The Clockwork Condition.

We have seen only a few fragments as yet (the Kubrick exhibition has just launched in London). But going by a New Yorker essay from 1973 bearing the same title, Burgess seems to be dwelling on the key challenge of A Clockwork Orange. That is: should even the most irredeemably criminal among us be psychologically “conditioned” to behave in a virtuous manner?

Alex, the gleefully psychopathic anti-hero of Orange (played unforgettably by Malcolm McDowell) has his eyelids pinned back by mind doctors; the worst that the world can do is then screened into his brain. Following the (at the time fashionable) behaviourist ideas of BF Skinner, Alex is forced to associate his urges towards violence and rape with feelings of extreme nausea. Burgess wrote that he wanted to show how “it is better to be bad of one’s own free will than to be good through scientific brainwashing”.

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In one way, that’s such a throwback to the 1970s (even though A Clockwork Orange was written in the early 60s). The free-everything hippie movement was already beginning to sour, with violence at its major concerts, and tales of cultish extremism coming out from the communes (eg Charles Manson). At the other end, the Cold War and its spectres of communism were giving any overly “socialised” solutions to individual behaviours a bad name. So far, so Che’d and tie-dyed.

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But in another way, Burgess’s concerns are back on the contemporary agenda – with a vengeance. Take the recent warnings from speculative thinkers such as Yuval Noah Harari and Shoshana Zuboff. When enough of your data is crunched by semi-intelligent algorithms, they claim, corporations and governments will be able to anticipate your future behaviours – before you even intend them.

Your desires and aspirations, whether consumerist or social, will be readily steerable one way or the other. In defending Alex’s rapacity as an act of free will, Burgess is being provocative. But aren’t we currently in a similar and somewhat dangerous situation? Aren’t cults of violent action and “anti-PC” behaviour being lauded and celebrated, by figures such as Trump, Bolsonaro and Farage downwards?

Some recent videos of political representatives being street-harassed by hard-Brexit supporters has made acutely uncomfortable viewing. They’re not like the “droogs” of

A Clockwork Orange, who literally boot their way through taboos. But lines are being crossed. The other day, I sat and watched an uncut version of the film from the Internet Archive website, only a search term away. This ease of access itself seems weird in its normality. The original film was taken out of UK circulation by its own director, Kubrick, after a wave of copycat crimes of violence and sexual assault followed its British release.

The movie’s ending – Alex wriggling out of his conditioning and returning to his vicious ways – is schlocky and untrue to the original text. Kubrick neglected to film Burgess’s closing chapter, where Alex finds a regular girl and tries to live a stable, satisfied life.

And what isn’t generally remembered about A Clockwork Orange is that its second half is mostly a grim tale of coercion, punishment and revenge against a wrongdoer. But this is probably because the opening 45 minutes are so slickly terrifying you can never forget them. What Kubrick manages to display is a viable fascism for the post-Warhol pop age.

In the service of “the old ultraviolence”, as Alex puts it, everything is in play. A mascara’d male eye glowers under its patriarchal bowler hat. Genitals are covered by bulging white protectors, and rapped on by walking sticks. Beethoven (“dear old Ludwig Van”) and sugary Broadway numbers are the underscore to sick-making sexual violence. They even have their own lurid vocabulary, rendering the world in childlike slang. In their bar, they drink drug-laced milk from grotesque plastic nudes.

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It’s repulsive, attractive, funny, horrific. We’ve been here before, of course, with the Italian Futurists in the first decades of the century. They also celebrated speed, authority, machinery, cruelty. But there’s something about the environment Kubrick puts his droogs in: it makes their barbarity too scarily plausible. They terrify and intimidate amidst modernist slabs of 60s and 70s architecture – “machines for living” in which lives were ground to dust. It’s both the banality of evil, and the evil of banality.

All of this means it doesn’t surprise me that Kubrick took a decision to keep this movie out of general circulation, until only a few years ago. As a script for chaos, adaptable by the desperate and the angry it’s far too useful.

What’s the point of a Scottish optimist – that’s me, and most probably you – watching such a movie? For one thing, it’s a very precise warning about how disconnection and isolation are the very enemies of a good society.

So often, Kubrick’s wide camera-framing portrays humans adrift in their own living spaces. They are alone even at their most domestic, always startled by the idea of strangers ringing their doorbells. A friendly, supportive, mutually solicitous society is not a friend to fascism.

One of the reasons the authorities want to efficiently “condition” their delinquents in A Clockwork Orange is that they need “to clear out some space for all the political prisoners we’ll be bringing in soon”, as the minister for the interior mutters. Never mind the pressure on “national welfare budgets”.

It’s quietly stated, but the message is there. Authoritarian societies degrade everyone, and all realms of our daily experience. So you should value, deepen and enrich your democracy – or else.

Now, a country that can produce roaringly successful movies and books such as Trainspotting or Filth is not in a position to be fastidious about watching A Clockwork Orange. And I would say the latter is a more profound piece of art than anything from Irvine Welsh. It pushes the tendencies of our modern systems to dystopian and cautionary extremes. This is deeper than just showing broken souls trying to dodge, weave and survive the here and now. It’s a bigger warning.

So this weekend, I’ll wave a rainbow Yes logo with the best of you. But sometimes, to defend the high road, you have to keep an eye on what’s happening on the low road. Watching Burgess and Kubrick’s shiny, queasy masterpiece will sharpen up your vigilance – against the worst in us.