Pandora’s Box: A Fable From the Age of Science

Published on Aug 23, 2012

Pandora’s Box, subtitled A Fable From the Age of Science, is a six part 1992 BBC documentary television series written and produced by Adam Curtis, which examines the consequences of political and technocratic rationalism.

The episodes deal, in order, with communism in The Soviet Union, systems analysis and game theory during the Cold War, economy in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, the insecticide DDT, Kwame Nkrumah’s leadership in Ghana during the 1950s and 1960s and the history of nuclear power.

The series was awarded a BAFTA in the category of “Best Factual Series” in 1993.

Black Power

This episode looks at how Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Gold Coast (which became Ghana on independence from the UK in 1957) from 1952 to 1966, set Africa ablaze with his vision of a new industrial and scientific age. At the heart of his dream was to be the huge Volta River dam, generating enough power to transform West Africa into an industrialised utopia and focal point of post-colonial Pan-Africanism. At first, it was hoped the UK would help finance the project, but after the Suez Crisis of 1956, interest was lost. Later, after meeting President Eisenhower and President Kennedy, American backing of the project materialised. A scheme was finally drawn up offering Kaiser Aluminum favourable conditions (including the smelting of aluminium imported from outside Ghana) and the dam was opened to great fanfare in January 1966.

Weeks later, in February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a military coup (possibly CIA backed), and evidence of massive corruption and debt revealed. As of 1992, for many Ghanaians, the promised benefits of the project were still unrealised.

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