Engines of Domination

2014, Society  -  60 min Leave a Comment
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Mark Corske's Engines of Domination, a Lifting the Veil documentary, addresses the question of whether so many of humanity's most destructive acts are simply part of our nature. When we observe species in nature, we often infer that the behavior we are watching is their natural inclination - so if we were to observe ourselves from the same omnipotent vantage point, would we not be inclined to assume that so many of our despicable acts are just part of who we are?

Through a narrative device depicting a young apprentice of the great philosopher Socrates traveling in an Oracle time machine towards the present day, and then returning to discuss what she saw during the trip with him, the film portrays what we understand as political power - a central authority over large groups of people, controlled by men of privilege - as having the primary intent of steering the populations under their influence to fulfill the self-serving needs of those men.

Would large groups of people pick up chainsaws and hop into the driver's seat of bulldozers to clear entire forests if a corporation wasn't organizing them to do so? Would thousands of men pick up weapons and kill each other if governments didn't force them to? Would men and women file into factories for hours a day if they hadn't been forced off rural lands they were living off of? Norske thinks not, and the film caters to that viewpoint throughout. The "human emergency," as he calls it, is a result of institutions forcing us to behave against human nature.

Norske goes on to explain that civilization and political power as we customarily understand it has only been a part of human life for about 6000 years - less than three percent of our evolutionary advancement. Prior to that change, we lived in relative peace much the way communal mammals outside our own species behave.

Chimpanzees, for example, are not entirely averse to interspecies violence, but it is rarely seen outside of one-on-one squabbles over immediate and personal needs. Men banding together to kill each other accompanied the advent of society, and one has a hard time believing that it was a sudden genetic mutation that took place at exactly that time that altered our inclination to engage in what we call war.