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The Idolatry of Technology

Extracts from an interview given by Emir Kusturica, the Serbian film director

How would you define the general subject matter of all your films?

I have always defended my view of what is happening, my thoughts about the place where I was born and lived. That is, thoughts about people who live in the Balkans, thoughts about the bridge over the River Drina, which connected and connects two civilisations, two worlds, the East and the West. The frontier between Orthodoxy, Catholicism and the West is precisely here. There has always been a lot of tragedy here, a lot of sorrow and a lot of bloodshed. Not a few wars, including the First World War broke out in the Balkans, in Sarajevo, the city of my birth….

….What do you think of Russia’s path in history?

The peoples of our countries have lived through many tragedies. Russia is the country which has attracted all the invaders, from Napoleon to Hitler. With its huge territory and natural resources your country has always been a tasty morsel for all invaders. The sufferings of the peoples of Russia are a great historical mystery. The Russian people has suffered what no other people on the planet has suffered….

What do you think about the present political situation of the world?

Today’s world is structured in such a way that it has a permanent interest in continuing wars. Despite the fact that wars are always condemned in literature and most people on the planet are against war, today’s wars have become a profitable business undertaking. There is an eternal enterprise which only thinks about how to make money out of human misfortune. The main hypocrites of the modern world are those very ones who organise wars and at the same time finance anti-war movements. Human destiny is tangled in such a knot that it cannot be disentangled. From war to profit and from profit to a new war. Capital and immense fortunes are being amassed in this way.

Today’s wars are conducted under the slogans of democracy and humanity. This is today’s global lie. The war which resulted in Serbia losing Kosovo was called ‘Operation Merciful Angel’. 4.5 million people died in Vietnam, a million have already died in Iraq, people are dying in Afghanistan every day and we shall never know the real figures. This tells us that capitalism is principally a military enterprise. If an angel had come down from heaven and told Bush that there would never be another war, everyone would have been unemployed. Wars create new technologies, they force people to go ever further. I am against war, but today it is an integral part of human history and its tragic evolution.

What do you think of contemporary European culture?

Today the world has been taken over by high-tech pagans. This paganism brings no benefit. Contemporary humanity is under constant technological surveillance. But you cannot say that contemporary humanity is better off than at the Renaissance. Neither can you say that humanity at the time of the Industrial Revolution was better off or worse off than today’s ‘high-tech people’. The main difference of contemporary people is that they have no spiritual direction. The uniqueness of man as the image of God has been levelled down in the modern world. High-tech man is more inclined to biological life than to spiritual life. He is interested only in material values, he is a pagan of technology. And today this pagan stands opposed to the man who is from God, whom Dostoyevsky spoke so much of.

Today’s high-tech pagan is a consumer, who does not ask any eternal, existential questions. He is losing his individuality and becoming part of the manipulated masses. He has no soul, he is prepared only for consumption. Unfortunately, I see more and more often how today a majority of Russians and Serbs are being transformed into such pagans. With all their technology they live in a spiritual desert. And when they begin to understand that it is impossible to live without spirituality indefinitely there comes the crisis. A pagan does not understand that it is impossible to live without God, without culture, without knowledge of ourselves as individuals. Atheism is soul-destroying, it transforms us into mundane biological mechanisms, consuming products foisted on us by the advertising industry. Culturally, this leads to the aping of Western cultural models and then not the best ones. After all there are many cultural phenomena of quality in the West, but young people choose the worst one – the paganism of technology…

(Translated from NG Religion, 3 March 2010)

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