Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003

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Robert J. Lewis
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Bernard Dube
Phil Nixon
Mark Goldfarb
Robert Rotondo
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Emanuel Pordes
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Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
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Rochelle Gurstein





The Superman despises himself the most.
Man is the rope between himself and the Superman.


If we could take a strategic leap backwards and observe human behaviour from afar, what would we see? What is the meaning of history whose pages have faithfully recorded an uninterrupted continuum of war and conflict between individuals, nations and tribes. Unable to make the case for any significant evolution, history instead showcases a species so fundamentally flawed its very existence has become problematic. Is it possible to reduce the history of human endeavour -- of mostly men killing each other mostly over their beloved territory -- to a reflex operated by a fixed sequence of antiquated genes?

When reduced to their lowest common denominator, we find that the wars men have waged have been between those who are prisoners of their biological response to conflict and not those who choose to be ruled by reason and the reasoning that assigns the highest value to life. That the latter group has not been able to affect the outcome of history throws into tragic relief the persistent fact that the civilized alternative to conflict has been about as effective as a recessive gene. Which is to say, the barbaric response has been so monotonously predictable, one cannot help but to recall the mythic character of Sisyphus repeatedly attempting to roll the rock up the hill, only to have it roll down again and again, before ever reaching the top. With all due respect to Camus and his tough-as-flint existentialists for whom the doomed enterprise of rolling up the rock confers dignity to man in his elusive quest for meaningful existence, it could be argued that Sisyphus just doesn't 'get it', has failed to grasp that there just might be another way. Just as homo sapiens seems dumb to the idea that there might be another way --outside of war -- to resolve his conflicts.

As more and more of the world's nations become adept at procuring and/or producing weapons of mass destruction, we must seriously wonder whether or not on the horizon of hope there exists a game plan that could relieve the species of the peril that presently threatens it?

Will we in time awaken to the call -- the cry that pierces the ominous night -- that invites us to finally assume responsibility for our historically deep collective failure to imagine a more humane response to conflict? Why has humanistic discourse against war failed so miserably, has not been able to significantly unleash the humanism allegedly lying dormant within us all? Why has reason, as an activating value, been no match against those deep-seated biological imperatives that compel us to barbarism? Why have the humanists that every age has yielded not been able to make a stronger case, have watched again and again the rock roll back down the hill before ever reaching the summit?

What is perhaps historically noteworthy is that these sublimely civilized beings, despite a failure rate that rivals Sisyphus, but in his manner stubborn and persistent, have dedicated their lives to cultivating and sharing their humanism, and finding fulfillment therein. More often than not they have been misunderstood or under appreciated in their own time, their vision condemned to irrelevance.

So what can be done? Is there a discourse, or counter conditioning that can decisively tame our knee-jerk response to violence? Some have argued that once the obscene gap between the world's haves and have-nots has been eliminated, fewer wars will be waged and fewer crimes committed. However true as this may be, the fact remains that wealthy nations have waged terrible wars against each other, just as surfeited individuals often resort to violence when differences arise.

If we are to survive our penchant for violence and increasingly easy access to weapons of mass destruction, much more than an economic response to our worst tendencies is needed. Given nature's thus far absolute dominion in the struggle, one must reasonably conclude that unless our nature changes, reason must always fall short. By allowing nature to take its course, as some have argued, where change is snailishly slow, we might have to wait thousands of years for the kind of genes we need to keep in check our propensity for violence, a scenario that must sooner than later doom us to extinction.

Until recently in our history, our only choice was to wait it out and, however unsuccessfully, try to get the better of our unruly dispositions. But now there is a choice. Beginning with Mendel (the father of genetics) and recent developments in biogenetics and cloning, we are suddenly not so necessarily doomed. The entire human genotype has now been mapped and we will soon be able to tinker with our genetic blue print. If we regard our forays into outer space as a preparation for the eventuality of the sun burning out and the planet becoming uninhabitable, can we project that the ultimate purpose (telus) of biogenetics is to provide the means for the species to adapt and survive its savage, self-destructive impulse?

As things now stand, the stakes are high and our DNA has become our worst enemy. Our salvation as a species depends on our best scientists figuring out in time how to turn us into a kinder and gentler species. If our politicians, geneticists and ethicists are to rise to the occasion of the crisis that threatens, we'll soon be able to genetically alter our natures when it is determined that not to do so will result in an irrevocable species-catastrophe. If, at the behest of reason, we must intervene surgically, that is genetically, and alter our basic genetic constitution, cloning and stem cell research should be given as much latitude as they require to save us from ourselves. Yes, there will be abuses and misuses, experiments will fail and the horrors normally consigned to the realm of science fiction will become the stuff of reality, but better we play God than play dead. Surely, this is our first order as a species. Also to be considered is the often slighted fact that women, as a general rule, don't rape, kill, torture, commit genocide or wage war, which suggests the modalities of a superior genetic configuration are already in our midst waiting to be brought into unconcealment.

In the wake of the bloodbath that has been the substance of our horrible history, letting nature take its slow course is nothing short of dereliction of duty towards the species. And while deterrents, up to now, have proved effective, they will only work until they don't, until some meglo-maniac obsessed with the idea of empire and/or revenge, over-estimates his strength and underestimates the measured response to his ambitions. Despite calls to limit stem cell research and outlaw human cloning in the name of Deity and Nature, the price we might have to pay is unthinkable, which is why if we respect the sanctity of life under God and/or Nature, we must do what is biogenetically necessary in order to get the genetic upper hand over our natures before it is too late.

If the jeans (genes) don't fit, you get another pair. I remain hopeful that one day soon it will be as simple as that.




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