Word association. Ready?
Right? Well, that's what I thought. It's automatic. I can't help it.
An idea once considered progressive, one which the Bill Gates and the Bonos of the time promoted fervently as a cure for all the poors' ills, has simply disappeared.
Thanks to a bunch of bloodthirsty social engineers in Germany, so the story goes. Vielen Dank, Adolf and Co., what you did for a lovely 4000-year-old symbol of good fortune, you have also managed to do for a word meaning 'well-born.' What a triumph. Take something positive, potentially helpful, and blow it into a million pieces.
Not so fast. The reader is invited to fill in the following blank:
"________ was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics."
If you guessed 'Germany,' guess again.
Americans may have led the charge, but in the early 1900s quite a few countries dabbled in the 'eugenics by coercion' business. It was the done thing. Nevertheless, Hitler's minions had a special gift for 'bad press.' If they touched it, it's tainted. Irreparably.
Rehabilitate the swastika? The poor Indians, it's plastered all over their ancient temples, what would you have them do? Spray-paint over it? In the West it's a lost cause, in Germany flat-out illegal to even display it. As the French say, laisse tomber.
Rehabilitating 'eugenics,' however… Perhaps not such a lost cause.
Let's go to China.
You're a social engineer in Hunan Province.
The powers that be have given you a simple task: Take the Hunan population (a pretty smart bunch, these are Hans) and lower their average IQ as fast as you possibly can.
In Chongqing Province, next door, your colleagues have the opposite task: Make the already smart Chongqing-ers even smarter. As fast as possible.
You hatch a plan: In Hunan, a girl in late adolescence will have a choice. If she would like to receive a roomy apartment, with electricity and potable running water, her weekly grocery bill paid for, and on top of it all a nice monthly stipend, she may. The sole condition? That she give birth. Without marrying the father. If she does, she loses it all.
Let's call her Ling.
For each additional baby Ling has, her stipend will increase, whomever the father may be, as long as she doesn't marry him. This is essential.
However, if Ling has a schoolmate who elects a different path—for example, to marry the father of her offspring, find gainful employment, and pay for her own lodging—this schoolmate (and her spouse) will see their income reduced each month by the amount it takes to pay for Ling's upkeep.
Her classmate is Mei.
Ling can't believe her luck, and sets to work laying golden eggs as fast as she can. The caliber of her many bedmates interests her little, as they won't be called on to provide for the little nestlings once hatched. She tends to wake up in the arms of the kind of suitor who lingers in bars until the wee hours of a Tuesday night, no time clock awaiting him in the morning.
Why is she that way? Well, that's just how she was raised.
Mei has put off kids to go to college. Accounting degree in hand, she weds a gainfully-employed lad and takes time off from work to have children. She stops at two, though--against her will--as she and the mister are called on to pay ever higher taxes to care for Ling's growing brood. Mei, after all, wants the best life possible for her children.
Why is she that that way? Well, that's just how she was raised.
Mei raises her children. Two of them.
Ling 'raises' hers. Six of them.
Mei's daughter and son, much as they long to have families, are forced to stop at one child each. They are after all on the hook for the upkeep of Ling's brood of six, each of which has gone on to sire at least six more, each and every one of which is living happily on Mei's offspring's dime.
A few generations down the road, where is Hunan Province on the great intelligence bell curve, Mr. Social Engineer? How well have you done your task?
It's not in fact 'eugenics' you have accomplished, sir, but 'dysgenics,' its very opposite. Which is of course what you were asked to do. Bravo.
Stay tuned for Part II...