(First segment above) In this third and final episode, Curtis’s compelling video essay explores a pair of uniquely modern occurrences: our growing understanding of genetics, and the changing theories about the role our genes play in both our development and the way we interact; the rise of computers, particularly in the last two decades, which has seen a murderous land-grab for the precious minerals – specifically, copper from places such as the Congo, which is rich with the stuff – and how they inform political policy and the balance of power. Curtis explores the dehumanising effects of political power and computers suggesting that corruption extends even to the materials from which our computers and other electronic gadgets are made, with the control of mines in places such as the Congo resulting in civil unrest, genocide and the appearance of despotic regimes. Meanwhile, the theories of influential biologists, from Bill Hamilton onwards, help perpetuate the idea that we’re all “soft machines”, driven by the impulses of our genes. Even a trait as apparently unique to our species, altruism, can be explained in practical terms – “A gene would destroy itself in order to allow its future self to survive,” we’re told. Curtis concludes with the assertion that we’ve all willingly adopted the idea that we’re genetic machines, and that we’ve done so because it explains why there are so many dreadful things going on in the world – things that we’re powerless to stop. . . Except we are never powerless to rebel against the machine and change things for the better, are we …?!
‘I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning.
Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.’
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate