Mean genes nixed
Eugenics. The selfless service of present day individuals? Hoping to secure a healthier and happier future. For the next generations of a particular community? Or fucking with Mother Nature? I’m not to sure whats the proper nomenclature. But individuals have been choosing mates with eugenics in mind since the dawn of time. Sizing up their offspring whenever a desirable mate is offering. Or forgoing four eyes finding just two more favorable. I say we take advantage of such whenever it’s available. If it could spare a child the pain of some genetic malady. That would surely be passed onto them by their fore-bearers.
I remember the first time I saw a purple rose. Not a pink rose made to drink blue dye but a rose inbred by tweezers - the purplest rose with the purplest rose over and over - until one grew into the actual hue so popular for weddings in the 1990s.
The problem that always seems to come up with selective breeding is when accentuating the exaggerated feature sought after there comes accentuated downsides. Like those teeny dogs desperate girls bought to carry around in their purses, teacup chihuahuas as an example died after an average of 3 years compared to 15 years for an average size pup. Ashkenazi Jews, over thousands of year choosing to be fruitful and multiply with only their own, have created 19 genetic conditions which 1 out of 4 having those genetic roots can pass to other generations, observant or not.
I had a personal journey into the results of selective breeding that took a trip to a small village in Hungary at the age of 67 to find the truth. As a child, things happened within my father's two brother's and one sisters that I took as normal until I was eight.
I knew one of my uncle's lived in a sanitarium, as they were called then, but had no real concept of what that meant. I never met him until my other uncle's funeral. That uncle shot himself in the basement of his house in Chicago just a couple of weeks after he had sat on the floor with my brother and I recording our voices on his new wire recorder.
In the second grade "Show and Tell" was a big thing so I was excited to tell about our trip.
When my teacher stopped me in the middle of my presentation in horror and then called my father who had to come from work to take me home to spank me that I knew things in his family were not to be told.
It took decades after to really understand. My aunt called to ask if I wanted some of my grandfather's things. I drove to St. Paul, having not seen her since my grandmother died 30 years before. She was a wonder at 78 with long henna hair in a house smelling of patchouli that had once been a midcentury marvel now filled with paintings, sculptures, books, boxes and more boxes hoarded in stacks pouring over, leaning, falling down nearly covering her Persian rugged floors. She held me too tight, speaking non-stop explaining her whole messed up once glorious world. She kept me there two days, though I tried to leave, wanting to tell me everything, allowing me to take nothing.
And years later, after she died encased in her own madness for nearly 12 years, when her son called to ask me to help bury her in her husband's family plot along with the ashes of his brother, my cousin who had killed himself in the 1980s a drug overdose with the needle in his penis when identified, one's he'd come across going through those many many boxes.
And I did in a cemetery in Chicago acting as a lay speaker to no one even though the funeral home had set up white folding chairs on fake grass Good Friday 2013.
But I digress...
It came to me while doing a family tree on Ancestry that out of the four children in my father's family and their six children there were three suicides and five diagnosed with manic depression. The one cousin had a boy child named Sean born maimed with no feelings of pain. He could not cry, face twisted. Eyelids sewed partially shut at the corners. Tongue always out, dry and cracked. He never walked without braces. The first and the last great grandchild.
It all seemed like more than a coincidence. So I really began searching back, not to my extremely lucid grandfather who lived to be 103 born on the Danube in what is now Croatia from parents fleeing Bulgaria, but to the grandmother who died when I was only 9 and who I remembered as cranky and stout with white hair she'd let down to the floor and brush each night speaking some language to herself when grandpa would cuss and tell her to speak English around us kids. I one I look most like which each passing day.
Those locks and those of 3 of her children used to be what was called back then strawberry blond...like me, my aunt, my uncles, five of my cousins and Sean. Shared genetics.
Her story printed up in the local Bemidji paper when they interviewed my grandfather on his one hundred birthday. A wild one married to a master saddle maker in Budapest. Leaving him to be a house maid - part prostitute/part their - in New York in 1902. Deported on the same Cunnard steam ship my grandfather choose to return to his parents, one year richer for having contacted himself to an Ohio foundry as his father had before him. Singing folk songs through cabin walls. Taking his name and living with his parents as he returned to work 10 months for the $110 dollar to bring her back to America.
Grandfather Eastern Catholic but my grandmother clung to her Evangelical Lutheran faith, all four of her children baptized but never churched. I traced her family back from those old church records copied and kept by the LDS on microfiche. I sat in a library for hours reading those from ink staind entries of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Nagyborzony going back to when they came to that place as a group in the 1700s.
More research. The Borzsony mountain rich in gold, silver, and nickel at the time.
The King of Hungary hiring professional miners, entire self-contained crews from Bavaria, to come from Germany to work and live digging. They brought their families, their religion and their language choosing maintain the purity of their identity in a foreign land to have when they returned back home. Chorea killed so many. The families had many children. Buried many children. The families married only their own within their church.
In 1796, the King of Hungary decreed those not of Hungarian blood had to take new two syllable surnames that told of their profession. The law intended for Jews but this clan of Danube Swaian also complied and Gos became Goldschnickel. I always wondered about such an ugly name until the night my aunt told me never to forget Gold/Nickel. The long name beginning with a G made my forage through all the Hungarian so much easier.
Now it made sense and the records continued scanning to my grandfather Janos born 1842 whose first wive and first son died and then my great grandmother Rosa from Germany came with her parents and they had a new Janos and three Rosas before one lived and my grandmother and another two sons. And the records from the church shrunk as the families just a few to begin with had intermarried and intermarried and intermarried until they were all just one genetic thread pure in the way they had chosen, much like the purple rose.
When my mother died, I took the trip to just to see it with my own eyes the mountains from which you now could see the country of Slovakia. Writing ahead to secure a room, I was told family still existed. A cousin was now the village mayor. When we met, I knew the stout man with strawberry blond hair and deformities needing a cane to walk since birth. as he walked toward us from a distance. His smile twisted. Tongue partially out, dry and cracked, as he embraced me too hard. Not wanting to let me go though I tried.
He showed me with pride the family home with its many extensions back into the surrounding woods. Almost 250 years accommodating first growing then shrinking family units. Then a stone bridge over a flowing creek. that lead to the miner's train. A tourist attraction now. Painted bright green. The tunnels stripped bare before 1990. The church, one of five in the village, with a huge plaque for those ethnic Germans who were first drafted by Germany in the great wars and after taken to Russian camps never to return. So odd to see the name Goldschnikel etched in faded gold.
He had a daughter, a pretty blond girl from the small snap shot in his wallet, he was raising on his own. Teaching her the old ways. He brought a satchel filled with papers, photos, maps spilling out as he sat on the floor with me speaking so quickly often forgetting and lapsing into that language only a handful yet understood. He was quite not right in a way I also found familiar, holding on wanting to tell me everything. As if I could ever forget.
So eugenics? Probably man is not best at picking which features and values to accentuate for those who have to live, or chose not to, in the lifetimes beyond the benefits selected.
A Hairy Decision
Toupee signals stress.
A Beard means business.
Goatees showcase villains.
Mustaches are outta fashion.
With questions like this, I tend to form my opinion as I write, I like to start of by outlining my understanding of the topic at hand. This is a marker for me to measure the resulting thought spiral against in order to see whether I'm on track.
Eugenics is the proactive limitation of human autonomy by way of selectively eliminating aspects of the human condition that are deemed by some higher power to be unnecessary or distasteful. Selective breeding, and a racist, ableist, ageist and sexually prejudiced philosophy which funnels the human capacity into little boxes made of ticky tacky doing nothing more than looking pretty and moving rocks.
I think the most disturbing aspect of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was the fact that even though, to the reader, the society outlined in the novel is a disturbing dystopia which utilizes human capital in order to progress the arbitrary continuation of human life while systematically breeding out any sense of desire or purpose in people, everyone that partakes in the society is happy to do so, even if they are among the lowest, most deformed classes.
Smiling drugged up faces, state sponsored orgies, and the opportunity to get out without being killed or brainwashed if you decide it isn't for you.
It's frightening that this sounds like a desirable way of life to me.
But I'm no nazi, man. I can see how and why we should be disturbed and feel conflicted by the novel. I know the human potential is boundless and beautiful, the diversity of thought and aspect are so endlessly interesting and sweet to the taste (and often on the eyes). I think sometimes my freedom is overwhelming and is the root of many of my insecurities.
How easy would it be to be assigned a purpose at birth and to love every second of whatever it is I am to be doing. Then one day, I'm coming out of the top of a smokestack powering the breeding machine that will make my cousins.
Isn't that efficient? Isn't it proper? Doesn't it offer the most satisfaction for the smallest cost? Why the fuck are we here at all, man?
Not to say that BNW is a probable eventuality, or even a possible one given our sensibilities and desire for the natural (state supported) self-actualization of all earth's people. But it's still a scary thought that we could get there?
Are we facing a social eugenics? Are social media, cancel culture, compelled speech and restrictive moralist ideologies doing the same thing to people that genetic manipulation might? Changing everyone to fit into boxes of right and wrong through a perfect system, a litmus test that determines a person's worth by their opinions and how they express them?
Is that system a way of protecting those who need to flourish and disallowing the tide of society to continue to move in the same directions it has since the beginning?
I really don't think there is an accurate enough narrative to make a strong enough opinion.
Just don't fuck with my DNA, man.
Is Eugenics Morally Right?
All human life has inherent value from inside of the womb to a life full of years and near to death. Eugenics is murder.
Murder as a noun is defined as "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another." It's taking a life. Is it morally right for one to take a life because of the potential suffering they might go through in this life?
By that logic, no one should be having kids, even if they are healthy. What if their parents die while their child is young? If they had been aborted, they wouldn't have had to suffer through that. You can't prevent everything. I've heard stories of doctors pressuring women to abort their babies because of some alleged defect, sometimes it's proven, and that child ends up born perfectly healthy. Allegedly Planned Parenthood makes good money selling baby organs... that's some questionable motives.
Is the point of life to avoid suffering at all cost? It's not even possible. The most comfortable person in the world is still uncomfortable about something. Always searching for comfort in this world. I'm comfortable in my sweater until I start feeling really hot and sweaty and then I might take it off and get cold again and have to put it back on again to get comfortable again.
If it's okay to murder the disabled in the womb, why don't we just do it to those already born? Why not kill everyone who is deaf or blind or crippled? Why not kill the elderly who are old and dying and wasting oxygen? I think there is a difference between pulling the plug on someone who is, other than life support, dead, and pulling it when they're still obviously alive.
Maybe it's because we know humans have inherent value even when they have defects and disabilities and are old in age?
From sticks and stones to unbreakble bones
ideas that people have , go through a winding path, the idea gets involved with other ideas, builds up, evolves, and so what we start never shows itself whole. If there is an inevitability to things, it is mostly well-hidden.
Man took a long stick, made one end pointy. He had in mind certain applications for this contraption. as the fire dimmed in the cave, and the work was done, he must have spent a sleepless night, thinking of the possibilities. What he will do when dawn breaks, and he could grab that stick and start field testing.
He did not envision, i am almost sure that someday, someone will take his stick make the pointy end a little bit dull, coat it with laquer, and then use it to hit polished wooden spheres with precision, upon a felt-covered table with six holes cleverly dug on the corners and the midpoint of the longer sides. The rules of this game, the chalk he would use, to 'soften' the tip, the beer that would be occasionally drunk in conjunction, the loud music. All probably escaped our anscestors' imagination.
The lesson we get from this is, obviously, that ther are so many consequances that we have no idea of or any hope to seriouly anticipate. Some of it may be very beneficial some most destructive. even the difference between the short term and the long term may be completely misleading. What seems to be terrible at the onset may seem to be the best thing in the long run.
What then, is the purpose of eugenics? Simply put, it is the concerted attempt to rid our species of undesirable traits. In a way, it has been practiced on some level from the dawn of man, with the rejection of individuals who did not meet some standard . babies who were born with deformities, for exmple , were often abandoned, adults who did not look "right" were shunned or disallowed the prospect of marriage and union. The moral caviat is made apparent instantly; what are the standards that are imposed, to distinguish those who are 'undersirables' to those who are not?
Who gets to make the call? What is THEIR motivation? Cliches upon tropes...
it immidiately raises the question of racism, or body image. having learned progressively more about the role of biological diversity, the threat of actively thinning out the gene pool, ostensibly to remove undesirable traits is a concern and the more "scientific" objection to the idea: not all is what it seems. Once traits are removed, even if they appear weak or unproductive in some way, they are gone and can not be there to ressusitate our species, in a conceivable event that only those traits, or only those individuals that held these traits are missing from our species.
But are these rational arguments? Are the fears of a Darwinist doom, justified?
Are the moral boundries which we so desperately hope exist really broken by this idea of selective breeding?
The fact that eugenics has been associated with some of the most neferious governments and people in history has also not helped the rational argument. people who do evil are not necesserily incapable of doing things that are beneficial , or entertaining "good" thoughts. Could it be the eugenics is one of those good thoughts, shining in very dark minds?
though methods they employ or steps that they take nor (most importantly for this essay)the interpertations that they make for other ideas and facts. Could it be that through some miracle, we lost sight of the idea from looking at the people that entertained it before us?
I can see the fear though. We will create a species, were all are strong, healthy, attarctive, highly dexterous in thought and action, capable of working together, yet possessing a competitive, individialistic spirit. I can see the concern, that all divergence will be bred out, ideally. Yeah, scarry. As my composition teacher often called my work: white bread with mayonnaise. Nothing spicy, nothing interesting. Nothing to really prepare that master race for calamity and hardship. But is that really the necessary outcome of a wide ranging policy?
Furthermore, it seems, that there is this innate fear in many cultures of monster creation. The fear that the son will rise above and destroy his parent returns again and again in many forms, from the greek Oedipus, to the golem of Prague. today that fear is menifested in a very real way, with the creation of artificial intelligence.
are the fears of long-term genetic enhancment of our genes really justified?
When we made that long stick with a pointy end, did we consider the posdibility of letting go of such dangerous tools, because they could conceivably be used against other people? Didn't we do a fantastic job of eliminating all of our hominid ancesstors? Will the supermen we create think of sharp-pointy-stick equivalents to run us through with?
I propose that we already practice eugenics.
We do so in the form of idealising certain traits, versus others, shaming and marginilizing people, based on superficial , or prejudiced conceptions.
We do so with abortion. An unwanted foetus, is aborted. It doesn't really matter why it was done so. Wether a pregnancy was unwanted or a certain defect was found. It was AVOIDED.
We make borders between people and enact laws that prohibit the risk of migration and integration, out of some hope that the definition of a nation will be ostensibly a series of similar individuals.
The only difference between these current examples, and eugenics, is that these desicions are made reactively. They are not policies that look towards a betterment of the species.
Now, this is where i get suspicious: did humanity ever erect a policy of central control that looks forward , with improvment in mind, without it going horribly wrong?
Is the concept of eugenics something that could be separated from utopian thought?
I say that this is the real test: if eugenics is meant to create a better world for humanity, then it is utopian by essence and so should be rejected! We are not capable of utopias. We just hurt and destroy when we try . the more advanced the tools we possess, the worst it inevitably gets.
If eugenics is treated though conceptually as a more survivalist attitude, and just re-labled as genetic enhancment then perhaps it does have a place. We practice genetic enhancment on many organisms we make use of, and are getting better at it all the time. The usage of genetic modification on specific individuals has also been tentatively practiced . when i was growing up, cistic fibrosis (CF) a genetic desease, was a death sentence at an early age. It is now treated with engineered viruses, that inject corrected genetic code into the patiant's lungs.
We seem to have got past certain technological and normative barriers .
The dangers our species will face are unpredictable to some extent.
We may need to insert some traits to our pool, to protect ourselves from extinction. It is fitting that many of the dangers we face, are of our own making. We can not forsee the unintended consequenses of our action by definition, the least we could do, is try applying our acumen towards survival.
Oddly this concept of gentic borrowing has occured since the dawn of life on this planet, with organisms of different species sharing genetic material. Are these survival freaks to be scorned or learned from?
When we made that long stick with a pointy end, we looked with positivity and optimism at the future, if it wasn't for that, we'd have gone on fighting the cavebears with our nails. . Could we not readopt this outlook?
So. How could we adopt a non-utopian, non-arbitrary, unbiased, and flexible intentional intervention in our collective genetic makeup?