Social Sustainability

In the world of Gattaca, your genetics determine your social location.  For Vincent, his role is limited by his DNA.  His likelihood of illness is too risky for the insurance companies, so he is unable to attend daycares.  He’s deemed unfit to work anywhere near the space program that he longs to be a part of.  And yet, he poses and passes as a member of the genetic elite and succeeds among them, making a journey into outer space.  Gattaca reassures all that the American dream and idea of meritocracy will not die even in a world of genetic determinism.  However, Vincent is the exception in this society, not the rule.

Would a society like this be able to perpetuate itself?  If genes were used to determine ability, what would happen to human potential?  Those who are told they can achieve, will.  Or will they?  There are those, like Jerome, who was assured of his excellence all his life and still considered himself as falling short.  His psychological damage from being assured of his superiority and failing to meet it drove him to kill himself.  Society’s assurance of his superiority generated Jerome’s expectations for himself, which he did not meet.

What about those who are told their entire lives that they can do nothing?  Most would never try to be anything more than they are.  If you tell someone that they can’t do something enough times, they start to believe it.  Even Irene, one of the gifted, one of the elite, believes the limitations society sets on her.  In one scene, Vincent makes her run to escape from the police.  Afterwards she says: “You know I can’t do that.”  He answers: “You just did.”  She was actually capable of doing something she was told that she could not do.  Society pushed her to live below her potential.

Genetic determinism, like in Gattaca, would destroy a functioning society.  There would be no more drive or push into something new.  There would only be living up to expectations, striving for expectations you cannot reach, or failing to reach the expectations one has for him or herself.  Human creativity, human curiosity and wonder would be greatly decreased.  With your life determined by your genes, and no forseeable way of escaping, people would lose hope and drive.  Without potential of exceeding expectation, of standing out and being unique, what would people live for?  With their lives and deaths already determined for them, what would be the point of living?


~ by elmore12 on January 28, 2012.

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