Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Adam Curtis

Can’t Get You out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World (2021) is a six-part documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. It explores the challenges and adaptions of power structures from 1945 to the present day with a focus on Britain, the USA, Russia and China. Through extensive archival footage and a haunting soundtrack, Curtis explores how corruption, finance, conspiracy theories and behavioural psychology twist and defy individualism to uphold the interests of the powerful. 

There are six episodes:

  1. Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain – covers growing frustration with the old power structures in the 1950s.
  2. Shooting and Fucking are the Same Thing – examines the failure of 1960s revolutionary movements like the Black Panthers and the Red Army Faction.
  3. Money Changes Everything – the effects of dropping the gold standard, and how money replaced the idealism of the 60s.
  4. But What if People Are Stupid – the alliance between business and politics in the West, China’s abandonment of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  5. The Lordly Ones – how Britain made mythologies to obfuscate their bloody past.
  6. Are We Pigeon or Are We Dancer? – computers, technocracy and the creation of the world today.
Can't Get You Out Of My Head TV review: Adam Curtis's ...

Curtis presents a gloomy worldview. Idealists might seek to change the world, but power always wins in the end. Eerie sound production – reminiscent of 1980s science fiction and often bizarre or juxtaposed music conjures an unsettling atmosphere – the modern world is a dystopia where our leaders have no ideals or vision of the future and the masses shuffle about in a dull and meaningless existence.

Putin’s nationalism is a façade to shroud the corruption that defines post-Soviet Russia. What the CIA attempted in the West through MK Ultra is realised through the social programming of the internet. China abandoned Marxism in the 1980s and built a totalitarian state based on money, control and little else. As they instil helplessness and suspicion, conspiracy theories ultimately serve the interests of the powerful.

Can’t Get You out of My Head presents its ‘emotional history’ through intertwining narratives of individuals who tried, and often failed, to challenge the status quo. These include both politicians like Jiang Qing – wife to Mao Zedong, and lesser-known, but no less significant figures such as Michael X, Afeni Shakur, Abu Zubayda and Eduard Limonov. A key theme is the struggle of individualism against collective authority and how, in the end, the latter always wins.

This image has an empty alt attribute

It’s a lot to take in. But, despite everything, Curtis ends on an optimistic note. If we can get ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out. What we need is new ideas. The documentary’s strength lies in explaining the way the world is, through an untold narrative that is both unique and compelling. It is not, however, an easy viewing.

Links:

Moses

Biography of Moses, Leader of the Abrahamic Religions

Moses is the prophet who wrote the Hebrew code of laws. He is Judaism’s most revered figure and is mentioned in the Quran more than any other person. According to Jews, Christians and Muslims, Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments from God.

  • Hebrew: Moshe
  • Arabic: Musa

According to the book of Exodus, which Moses allegedly wrote, the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt at the time of his birth. When the pharaoh ordered the death of all newborn Hebrew boys to quell their population, Moses’s mother hid him in the bullrushes of the Nile. Here the pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own. Moses grew up in the Egyptian court until discovering his true parentage. He murdered an Egyptian slave-driver and fled to Midian, where he met his wife, Zipporah. 

Instructed by a burning bush, Moses returned to Egypt. He promised the Hebrews a ‘land of milk and honey’ if they submitted to Yahweh, the God of Israel and demanded the pharaoh release his people. He refused, and ten plagues then befell his country. Forced to comply, the pharaoh freed the Hebrews but then sent his army against them, trapping them against the Red Sea. Moses parted the sea and allowed the Hebrews to cross. It then closed and drowned the pharaoh and his army.

God spoke to the Hebrews through Moses, who could see and hear him, atop Mount Sinai and dictated his laws – the Ten Commandments, an eye for an eye. Moses slaughtered the 3,000 who worshipped a golden calf instead then led the Hebrews through forty more years in the wilderness. When the Midianites tried to turn the Hebrews from their god, Moses ordered their destruction. He died on Mount Nebo by the banks of the Jordan River.

 The Quran affirms the Exodus narrative, adding the following details:

  • The pharaoh’s wife, not his daughter, raised Moses
  • Moses offered salvation to the pharaoh through worship of Allah 
  • Moses spoke to Muhammad in heaven

Was Moses real? The Torah claims Moses lived around 1100 BC, but historians have found no evidence in archaeology or contemporary Egyptian records. Most consider him a mythical figure, believing the Hebrews grew out of Canaan’s indigenous population. If a component of their people came from Egypt, their numbers were small. 

‘Moses and Monotheism’ (1939) by Sigmund Freud claims the prophet was an Egyptian nobleman who supported the heretic Akhenaten. This pharaoh had tried to replace the Egyptian pantheon with a single deity named Aten, but when he died, the priests of Egypt destroyed his cult and restored the old gods. According to Freud, Moses escaped the purge and brought his Egyptian god to Israel. There Aten became Yahweh. While mythologist Joseph Campbell embraced Freud’s theory, both theologians and Egyptologists reject it.

According to some Islamic traditions, Moses is buried in Nabi Musa in the West Bank, Palestine.

Sources: King James Bible, World History Encyclopedia

See Also: