Thursday, March 18, 2010

And More Stupid People

For those who were wondering about the identity of "D'Andre Dour" in my last post, that would be South Carolina lieutenant governor Andre Bauer, who earlier this year justified his opposition to reduced-price lunches for poor students with the following words of wisdom:

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

How to respond to the gargantuan stupidity, cruelty, and downright hatefulness of such sentiments? How to talk to someone who likens poor children to "stray animals"? How to reason with the sort of mind that imagines the solution to poverty in this country is to let the utterly blameless victims of that social malignancy starve?

But you know, Bauer's stupidity has a noble pedigree. Charles Darwin, in The Descent of Man (1871), came to pretty much the same conclusion:

"Man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his horses, cattle, and dogs before he matches them; but when he comes to his own marriage he rarely, or never, takes any such care. He is impelled by nearly the same motives as the lower animals, when they are left to their own free choice. . . . Yet he might by selection do something not only for the bodily constitution and frame of his offspring, but for their intellectual and moral qualities. Both sexes ought to refrain from mariage if they are in any marked degree inferior in body or mind; [and] all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children."

Darwin's argument, which would later be picked up by eugenicists on both sides of the Atlantic, suggests that the theory of natural selection may have been less revolutionary than many imagine: it may, that is, have been little more than an extension into the biological realm of principles that were already firmly believed about human society. (Thus Social Darwinism, rather than being an outgrowth of evolutionary theory, may in fact have lain at the root of that theory.) Such arguments would be used in the twentieth century not only to justify draconian immigration laws (which conservatives such as Bauer also support) but to advocate and in some cases actualize the sterilization of "inferior" individuals. Only in the most repressive of regimes--Nazi Germany being the preeminent example--would such theories be carried into widescale practice. But the principle is the same: the principle that innate genetic characteristics, operating entirely independent of social forces, dictate the reproductive tendencies, the future productivity, and the social value of persons or peoples.

Which is not to say that Bauer is a Nazi. Just that he's an incredibly stupid idiot who should be deprived of all nourishment until he's no longer capable of breeding.

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