Friday, August 18, 2006

Better For Whose World?

I just read a great book, but I’m not ready to write a full-blown review. At the same time, I do think the book is worth reading, even though I can’t get all my thoughts together.

So here are some bits of knowledge I gleaned from “Better for All The World” by Harry Bruinius (2006). These random items should intrigue you to pick up the book. If not, well, I didn’t waste my time writing a regular review.

The sub-title, “The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity,” should clue you in on the subject matter and the fact this is non-fiction (even though parts of it read like fiction).

---“Eugenics” was the reason to sterilize the genetically “unfit” during the early decades of the twentieth century. By 1927, 8,500 indigent and poorly educated citizens were forced to undergo sterilization, the number rising to 65,000 as time went on. Yes, there was a human cost but within three generations all genetically based problems – from alcoholism to pauperism – would be eliminated under such a program if followed through to its final solution. Or so declared the proponents.

---Targets for sterilization included women deemed to be “morons,” “imbeciles,” or some other subjective term created by eugenicists. The motto, “Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” justified the method. As Bruinius explains, a third generation “imbecile” was adopted by a good family and ended up as an honor student in grade school. Apparently this genetic business wasn’t fully understood by those promoting racial purity.

---The targeted women, residents of mental institutions, prisons, and other state-run establishments, were told that by law they had to undergo sterilization. In other cases doctors sidestepped any potential legal challenges by not informing the women that they were being sterilized. The surgery, they explained, was only to remove a bad appendix.

---A leading eugenicist, Harry Laughlin, in 1936 was invited by the University of Heidelberg to have an honorary degree bestowed upon him for his work in “race hygiene.” Of course, Hitler and company was really interested in such hygiene. For some reason eugenics fell into disfavor after World War II.

---Eugenicists proclaimed that they had the best of intentions. After all, if they had their way, such disorders as epilepsy would be wiped out. As mentioned before, one of the leading voices behind the movement was Harry Laughlin. It should be noted that he kept a secret: he was an epileptic, one time suffering a seizure while driving a car. But that had to be overlooked because even though he was one of the “unfit,” he wanted to keep the Nordic race untainted and let the other lesser races fall under the control of the genetically superior.

---In the 1930s the state of Virginia took eugenics very seriously. In one county the sheriff rounded up some mountain folks, men and women – poor white trash – and hauled them off to the hospital so that racial purity could be maintained.

Of course, we in this modern, enlightened world won’t repeat the mistakes of the past with scientific breakthroughs such as genetic engineering – right?


Doug said...

I feel awful for admitting this, but there are moments when I could be on-board with that preventing-more-morons thing. I like to believe I'm better than that, but eugenics didn't breed more altruistic tendencies in me.

Ray said...


From what I've seen lately, most "morons" aren't born that way; they're created by their environment, especially with bad parenting. For example, a parent brings a kid into the public library and let's the rugrat run around, screaming, or let's the brat throw a tantrum, rolling all over the floor.

The stupid parent (unfortunately, it's usually the mother) talks to the kid as if dealing with another adult. "Now, you shouldn't do that." "Please don't do that." "That's not nice." Of course, since there's no discipline, the kid keeps running wild or throwing a tantrum. After all, the kid's getting attention, he's being rewarded for bad behavior.

No, I'm not advocating severe spanking, slapping, or other forms of child abuse. I'm talking about teaching a kid some manners, some respect, using a firm tone and following through with proper discipline.

As it was pointed out in "Better For All The World," so-called "morons" could have intelligent kids. Even the "morons" would respond to a good environment. But if parents don't motivate and discipline their kids, then the kids grow up to be stupid and disrespectful.