This privately funded scheme offers $300 to support addicts who volunteer to be sterilized. The link was posted by someone who saw the logical appeal of the scheme but who said that they felt like a Nazi for wanting to do this.
I couldn't get the post out of my head.
My first response was to push against the eugenics arguement in general. I wrote:
Ask yourself this, what kind of person privately funds an organization
that is focussed not on helping any particular individual or group but
on eliminating them from the genepool?
What else would people like this fund?
What would you have to be or do to be on their list to be given
the opportunity to volunteer?
18 US states passed legisaltion in support of compulsory sterilization
as part of eugenics initiatives, believing that poverty and crime
could be sterilized out of society.
(See this Yale studyand this article on the Racial Integrity Act of 1924)
I believe that it was wrong then, it is wrong now and it will always be wrong.
I believe that the educated, wealthy people who fund these initiatives deserved to be compassionately reminded to join the human race as equals rather than as architects of genetic improvement.
The argument continued and cooler heads than mine said: what about the planned parenthood, what about the fact that this is voluntary and applies only to people who already have children, what about the fact that it is such a small amount of money and makes such a big difference.
It made me think about what we really bothering me about the idea. I'd like to share my response with you.
I don't think considering this proposal in a positive way makes anyone a Nazi. I think it puts you in that difficult position where a problem that makes your heart ache seems to have a solution that makes your conscience itch.
I know $300 goes nowhere. Yet $300 establishes the principal that this is an OK thing to offer. That seems like a marketing bargain to me. It is the inverse off the old joke (which was never anything but serious) where a man offers a woman $5 million to have sex with him.When she
agrees he offers her $5 instead. She asks what kind of woman he thinks she is. He replies,we've established what kind of woman you are, now we're just haggling about the price.
The heart of the problem is that many kids are born to parents who fuck them up.
The kids offer unconditional love and in return they get abuse, neglect, hatred, indifference, cheerful incompetence, exploitation, etc. Of course, not all these parents are addicts nor are they necessarily poor or uneducated. Lots of parents fuck up their kids one way or another. Yet there is no doubt that the chances of having a shit life increase when your parents are lost to addiction or ground down by poverty or twisted by ignorance or all three.
Of course, we want to protect the children and give them a better life. Yet things just keep getting in the way. I admire the courage and humanity of the social workers who try to protect children at risk but I know many of them would tell you that "Care" has become one of
those Orwellian Newspeak words.
Children in care often abuse each other or are abused by others, there is a high incidence of drug use, under-age sex, and violence. When the kids suddenly stop have the "child" label at 18 or 16 depending on the country, the "care" label is stripped away from them and they are dumped on the streets, often with no job, no education, and no expectation that life will get any better.
There is an endless flow of children. There is never enough money.There are never enough good parents. Most of all, there is neverenough love.
It is, literally, heartbreaking.
Logically, we should recognise the overwhelming odds we struggle with and stop the problem at source. If there was not such a flood of children being born to those incapable or unwilling to offer them love and the hope of happiness then the world as a whole would be a better place, wouldn't it? The sum total of unhappiness would be reduced. Over time the balance would shift as children where born to parents who loved them and cared for them?
All of this could be achieved if we just had the courage to act at the source of the problem, if we were just willing to accept that one small restriction on the lives of people who anyway don't give a shit, could save so much suffering. Surely any moral scruples that stand between us and this course of action should rightly be described as at best muddy thinking and at worst moral cowardice?
Who would not off $300 to help people volunteer to stem this flood of misery and break this cycle of abuse?
Its a powerful arguement isn't it?
Maybe I should stop there but I can't. I see a maggot at the core of this apple.
Perhaps I see the maggot because of my background.
My family is genetically weak. I was born with an extra finger, fucked up eyesight and a stubborn streak. Many of my family have small examples of poor genetic coding: club foot, wall-eye, emotional instabilty, a tendency towards addiction to alcohol or drugs or sex or
violence or all of them on a Saturday night.
My parents, I believe, did their best most of the time. Who could ask for more than that. When I was 12 and my sister was 7, she asked me: "If our parents weren't our parents, would we still like them?". Our childhood was not a nightmare but it wasn't idyllic. Few people's childhoods are.
We got through it. We made the best of what we had. We took love where we could find it and learned to live without it when we had to. In other words, we lived a normal life.
So what is the maggot at the centre of the apple? Life can't be made perfect, SHOULDN'T be made perfect. Perfect is for abstract math. Perfect is inhuman. Perfect is a standard that makes all of us failures.
I am glad I wasn't saved from the potential misery of an imperfect body, imperfect parents, unstable emotions and innate resistance to authority. Maybe I'd have been saved some unhappiness but it would have been at the price of missing the whole show.
So I'm a bit sensitive to a solution that brings into question my right to be born,
I accept that a woman should have the option of choosing not to have a child. I prefer adoption as a solution because it gives everyone a second chance. I understand sterilization because you can't run therisk of having any more children. That, in its way, is about choosing love.
I abhor the idea of choosing sterilization becuase it might avoid unhappiness
This is a hard idea to get across, so let me fall back on someone else's words.
I've quoted below, a poem from Philip Larkin. I think the first two verses are true. I think the third verse is a moral surrender. I always hope he meant us to see that and not to take him litterally.
Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
I think the $300 is a vote for that third verse.
I vote for putting more money into child care and less into foreign wars.
I vote for spending $300 on something that will show your love for a stranger, not deprive a stranger of their opportunity to live a life better than you expected.
I vote that Larkin was wrong and that this sterilization scheme is pernicious.