Friday, January 02, 2009

A conundrum.

How is it that it is invariably the most backward, least evolved people--mentally, spiritually, socially, emotionally--who are the most fervent advocates of some form of Social Darwinism?

They look at the world, they see a fallen creation that's nasty, brutish and short (not unlike themselves), and they decide that the best way forward--o, for the good of the -species-, mind you--is to get rid of all those -other- people who really aren't contributing anything to the greater good, or at least their capacity to reproduce. You know, THEM. The BAD people. The DEFECTIVE people. The OTHER people.

They will tell you this, with much passion and spittle, using "logic" and often syntax that can be most generously described as "twisted," but more accurately is in fact "sprained." Sometimes--most often, no doubt-- they're the equivalent (virtual or not) of the town drunk. Sometimes they clean up decently and actually sound sort of plausible. Even publish books, occasionally. Sometimes, God help us, find their way to actual power.

But you get right down to it, and -none- of these people manage to make a terrifically good case for why -they- should be exempt from the chop. Oh, sure, they might recognize that no one can actually stand their ass; but -that- is not about their own inherent moral or existential deficiency, no; -that- is about society's failure to -understand- them properly. See.

Which means, clearly, that society is -wrong-; and therefore it's -society-, more or less, that should be up against the wall.

Ah, solipsism. You gotta love it.

35 comments:

GallingGalla said...

Hrmmm. I wonder if we have to include Obama in that "least evolved" group - after all, the inauguration will be utterly inaccessible to many disabled people, and the powers that be aren't doing anything to ease that situation even a little bit.

belledame222 said...

Wasn't who I was thinking of (people actively calling for eugenics online, basically), but, yeah, hadn't heard that, wankers.

cripchick said...

no kidding.

Anonymous said...

I suspect you're referring to the guys just arrested for the rape of our gay girl in Richmond, CA. WHY did they see her that way? I just don't know.

Mór Rígan said...

Orwell says it all - some are more equal than others

Daisy said...

Okay, what/who is this about?

(I arrive utterly late as usual!)

Nick said...

I am with you on social D-ism. No one has ever provided me with a convincing argument for sacrifice for the "good" of the race volk.

belledame222 said...

Most recently inspired by the charming Internets persona known as greenconsciousness, whom you may have encountered; here's a sample of her wares:

http://autistscorner.blogspot.com/2008/12/bit-more-on-reproductive-choice.html

...but also musing more generally on any number of sad sack MRAs and the like that I've encountered, and their various heroes. Among others.

I mean, seriously, the Nazis? Most of 'em not exactly physical and/or mental ubermenschen even according to their own supposed standards, yanno...

belledame222 said...

GC in the comments, not the OP, above, just to be crystal.

Kim said...

"How is it that it is invariably the most backward, least evolved people--mentally, spiritually, socially, emotionally--who are the most fervent advocates of some form of Social Darwinism?"

Clap clap clap!
Right??!

GallingGalla said...

I read GC's comments, and I'm gobsmacked.

She prolly wants to eliminate those ev0l trans* people, what with how we all muck around with the God-given gender binary and all that, o so crewllll!!!!!!!!!1111111!!!!

And trans folk with autism? *shudders* to think of what GC wants to do with us.

Come to think of it, what does GC want to do with Jewish trans folk with autism?

ok, done gagging now.

GallingGalla said...

Uhmm, not done gagging. Sorry.

GC: I am asking for a fair use of limited resources which includes respect for nonhuman as well as human species.

Yeesh. This makes explicit one reason that I'm uncomfortable with veganists (as opposed to vegans; think of our friend Elaine V) - their extremism comes pretty damned close to a fascist ideology, so it suprises me not, that GC is throwing "environmentalism" into the fascist mix.

I am asking for men to have veto power in reproduction since their economic life will be affected.

And GC's throwing fucking misogyny into the mix, too. Again, not suprising.

Sara E Anderson said...

I've always wondered why these types always defer to the lowest common denominator. Why should we all be held captive to the assholes?

Alon Levy said...

How is it that it is invariably the most backward, least evolved people--mentally, spiritually, socially, emotionally--who are the most fervent advocates of some form of Social Darwinism?

How is it that so many attacks on social Darwinism use social Darwinist language? It happened on Berube's blog, when many commenters attacking Peter Singer's anti-disabled people philosophy by accusing Singer of having Asperger's; it's happening here, when you accuse social Darwinists of being "backward and unevolved."

People are flawed. This tends to be exaggerated for people who are leaders of a movement or who believe in heterodox ideas. It's not surprising that there are eugenicists with social flaws, any more than it's surprising that there are feminists with social flaws.

belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...

"unevolved"

"having Aspergers"

One of these things is not like the other.

Alon, I'll see your irony impairment and raise you one, because I suddenly haven't the patience. Are you trying to say you are in fact a eugenicist, with or without social flaws, or are you just being your usual lovable contrarian self for no other reason than to annoy the crap out of me?

belledame222 said...

and Singer is not -socially flawed- for arguing eugenics for people with disabilities, in my book, whether he is diagnosable with Asperger's or not (I have no idea). That there in my book would be -morally- flawed, as is the greenconsciousness person, whatever else her problem is or what its origin (I really don't care), who in fact was arguing eugenics for people with autism -to a woman with diagnosed autism-, who if you'll notice was not only -not- making similarly horrid arguments but was being rather astonishingly gracious to GC, even though she clearly was just as appalled by the appalling bits as the rest of us.

And no, I am not interested in pursuing the argument of whether it is valid to judge Singer or fucking GC on a moral basis on account of they obviously have their own "moral" code wrt animals which I clearly do not ascribe to. There are -also- committed vegans and radical environmentalists who do not make similar arguments. I am willing to concede that my meat-eating and relative laxity over animal rights makes me morally flawed. I still think it takes a special kind of -something- to argue "really, you shouldn't breed" right to someone's damn face. And what I am saying about GC, and could well say about other people who -most- of the time I don't find actively repulsive so much as simply incredibly annoying, after the invective is over, is simply this:

"Honey, you ain't all that."

That of pretty much all of the people who want to rid the world of all but their ubermenschen, I am not interested in their utopia, because (among other reasons, this one only being the most amusingly ironical) I am -really- not impressed with their template. It's really fairly straightforward.

belledame222 said...

People are flawed. This tends to be exaggerated for people who are leaders of a movement or who believe in heterodox ideas.

And, perhaps tangentially, I also have never been terribly impressed with the "special dispensation for appalling behavior on account of Talent/Genius" argument, even in the cases where I might actually agree that the person in question is possessed of Talent/Genius.

This goes double or triple for people primarily known for their -ideas- that are meant to have practical social/political application, (as opposed to artists) much less "leaders of a movement;" "do as I say, not as I do" doesn't seem to work out that well. Personal character and beliefs of the leader really -do- impact the nature of the movement sie's leading; one doesn't demand sainthood but one does expect a certain degree of internal consistence. Not to say what happens when one finds certain of those beliefs not only morally repulsive but in active conflict with the -core- principles that one had assumed the person in question would need to believe in in order to espouse the ideology/goals sie's best known for.

As for people who only write theory and leave the actual activism to others, yes, you can argue that someone's ideas are good in theory and that the author's personal failings in living up to them don't really say anything for or against the relevance or goodness of the ideas. People often do, that is, make such arguments.

I'm not so sure. It depends on who or what we're talking about, I expect. But it does seem to me that there is often a direct correlation between the degree of impracticability of a given utopia and the magnitude of the author's failure to embody it, at the very least. In which case, well, it's worth examining -why- the author or anyone else thinks this was such a hot idea to begin with.

belledame222 said...

also, too, for every Real Genius who's tragically flawed and Misunderstood By Society and thus blazes or gutters out under the weight of their own torturedness (even as The Work Lives On, or will do many years later, of course, and isn't it all just so Womantic, really),

...there are about 1,000,000 miserable plonkers whose only real talent is for making other people as miserable as they are; but gosh, doesn't the Je Suis Une Artiste/I Am The Smartest Person In The World make the assholery seem so much more -gilded-? So -mysterious- and -intriguing,- you really ought to be more -tolerant- of this person because

Or...not.

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

--Carl Sagan


And, again, if you're actually proposing a better -society-, this tends to involve at least some sort of understanding of how society actually -works- and some method of existing within -some- form of it, even if it's not the mainstream one. One is proposing a radical overhaul of society on a macro scale; the ability to not only create but function in/help keep functional for others -some- kind of society, even if it's not the mainstream one, on a micro scale (i.e. one's own relational network/community/what have you) is, I would say, not sufficient of itself, but certainly -necessary-.

As for the people whose brilliant idea is that there -is- no such thing as "society," bluntly, Fuck Off.

belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...

besides which, there are also plenty of certified Brilliant People who are not only -not- vastly more flawed than your average bear but are in fact rather menschy. I've met some, even. Not -perfect-, no, but nicely well-rounded. Not because they didn't -have- fucked-uppedness, (big Shadow, what you will), maybe in fact even more than your average bear (or not), but because part of the -reason- they're particularly awesome is that they actually had some insight and willingness to work on changing -themselves-, not just everything around them.

Again, not sufficient of itself, but for damn sure it helps.

ArrogantWorm said...

People are flawed. This tends to be exaggerated for people who are leaders of a movement or who believe in heterodox ideas. It's not surprising that there are eugenicists with social flaws, any more than it's surprising that there are feminists with social flaws.

Hm. How to put this. Human rights violations, forced sterilization, attempted annihilation of - entire demographics - and the lauding of these as something to aspire to, (et cetera and so forth) are not to be called 'social flaws'.

Because the behavior and the views are - not - 'social flaws'. If they were labeled anything the highest it could possibly be called is a moral failing. I mean, fuck. A social flaw is when I fail to match for company or mispronounce shit. Let's not gild the dying lily here, a talent for understatement isn't useful at the moment.

In your possible reading haste I think you missed something important. You've probably done these exercises in school, but I've found that reviewing them as an adult helps keeps the mind from jumping to erroneous conclusions.

All Molks are Blurbs, all Molks believe in Remy, but not all Blurbs are Molks.

"How is it that it is invariably the most backward, least evolved people--mentally, spiritually, socially, emotionally--who are the most fervent advocates of some form of Social Darwinism?"

"it's happening here, when you accuse social Darwinists of being "backward and unevolved."

There's three bits right there, and yours is not like the others. You noticed she typed 'most fervent'. She did not say 'all social Darwinists', although Im hard pressed to think of a 'most fervent' decent one. Darwin himself didn't even think the idea was applicable and that people should - decide for themselves - instead of getting his cousin's theories crammed into lives. Granted, he can take his sympathy and shove it - rather have empathy. The difference between those spewing that particular 'social Darwinism' vulgarity (like GreenConsciousness) and I in the lived realities section is about five seconds.

Alon Levy said...

Right... except I'm not saying GC's a genius, just weird. If she weren't, she wouldn't come to believe such a weird idea. And I'm not saying she deserves special dispensation, just that talking about "the most backward, least evolved people" posits that there's some progressive evolution from meanness to niceness is like complaining that Ann Coulter is ugly or that Peter Singer has Asperger's.

I still think it takes a special kind of -something- to argue "really, you shouldn't breed" right to someone's damn face.

First, she didn't say it to anyone's face; she said it to a screenname. People are a lot more assholish online than in person.

Second, who cares? GC isn't an important person, and there are very few people like her. Beyond a certain point, armchair analyzing people you dislike over and over becomes wankery.

Alon Levy said...

Human rights violations, forced sterilization, attempted annihilation of - entire demographics - and the lauding of these as something to aspire to, (et cetera and so forth) are not to be called 'social flaws'.

The human rights violations came about precisely because eugenics enjoyed wide support among people who are nothing like GC. The average eugenicist in the 1920s and 30s, and even the average Nazi, was a fairly normal person. The SA members were thugs, but the rest were normal people and would never say things like "People like you shouldn't reproduce because of your disabilities." Even the SA members generally didn't when out of uniform. They'd talk about the Jewish problem and the disabled problem and the gay problem, but would quickly make exception for Jewish friends.

Armchair-analyzing that average eugenicist would be interesting. That's what Hannah Arendt has done. Armchair-analyzing the more brutal variety, the SA, would be as interesting.

None of this has anything to do with the personality of GC. The other issues aren't even present. It's not the ideas, or else BD would've actually offered an argument. It's not the institutions that created the human rights violations, because their current parallels ignore disability issues (how many times has Lou Dobbs called for euthanizing the disabled?). And it's not the activism, or else BD would've talked more about the Obama inauguration and less about some unknown person.

ArrogantWorm said...

....Besides which, it's much better to keep us around. Social Darwinism never seems to plan for the loss. You don't gain - anything - without losses, they seem to have forgotten that. People would run around like chickens with their heads cut off if they ever managed to get rid of all the 'undesirables'. Think of all the things that'd be lost, not to mention - exactly - where you'd land if anything, knock on wood o'course, ever happened to make you the smidge less than acceptable you so obviously are. Not so far a drop from 'you shouldn't breed' to 'you should be underground', after all. Wasting resources, y'see.

ArrogantWorm said...

"And I'm not saying she deserves special dispensation, just that talking about "the most backward, least evolved people" posits that there's some progressive evolution from meanness to niceness"

I think there is, though, although it isn't 'meanness to niceness' but more 'mineminemine to oh dear god, is -this- what they're/We're dealing with?' Empathy plays a large role, and with a lot of people who let greed run you only get it, if at all, when they discover their own problems are similar to someone else's, or that they could just as easily acquire someone's difficulties for themselves. Call it the spark of humanity that a lot of people seem to lack.

"The human rights violations came about precisely because eugenics enjoyed wide support among people who are nothing like GC. The average eugenicist in the 1920s and 30s, and even the average Nazi, was a fairly normal person."

Of course they were. I'm no stranger to WWII. But what you have there is a bit of a different situation, it combines living possibilities of the 'please don't notice/hurt me I'm like You' variety with a human's love of themselves as Just Fine, We're Better For Everyone. What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a swamp area you thought was dry land? Why, you keep on slogging, because dammit, dry land is Around Here Somewhere, My Perception Can't Be That Far Off.

GC is I'm Best For Everyone And You Can't Touch Me while her living conditions are a hell of a lot better than viewing camps and workers as a 'day job'. Not quite the same thing, personality and situation wise.

ArrogantWorm said...

*progressive evolution in an individual basis, that is.

ArrogantWorm said...

"Second, who cares? GC isn't an important person, and there are very few people like her."

The few people like her collect the hordes of everyday buggers that agree in "moderation". Note the quotations, because while an individual's moderation will differ from their peers, individuals just -adore- joining causes that will see their vision come alive. Kinda like How The World Runs Today and Autism Speaks, as an example, is I b'lieve the groups name.

belledame222 said...

Alon, do you have some particular point here? I'm sure you do, you're a smart guy.

I was, as I said, most immediately thinking of GC, as I'd just encountered and been thoroughly sickened by her behavior (again), and certainly a longtime reader such as yourself is well aware that I am not exactly above taking a shot at a relatively unknown person when I think they are being an utter fuckstick, on account of even if they don't influence the greater body of thought, they are capable of hurting other people in their small, mean way, and also I am a bit of a drama queen and enjoy venting my aggression in the direction of people I believe have earned it. One could argue that this is one of my flaws, or can be. I would not argue the point. I would however point out that this is, again, not exactly news.

Certainly, I -could- have gone to the library and picked up a copy of "The Bell Curve," read it from cover to cover, and then provided a thoughtful analysis of why in fact I think it's a bunch of racist crap. I -could- do this, but it wasn't what I was interested in, at the moment; I was interested in making an offhand snarky remark as a way of venting steam and expressing solidarity for my friends. It hardly bears the label of "analysis," an off the cuff post such as this; most of my posts lately really don't.

If you do not find this "interesting," you are cordially invited to not continue to read here, among other things.

If you wish to make an argument -against- those such as Singer; or for that matter, defend them, by all means, go ahead and do so, here or elsewhere. I might find your arguments compelling, or boring, or downright repulsive, and I might or might not bother to respond in depth (AW is already doing a fine job at trying to actually engage what -might- be the actual content here); but at least I might have a better idea of what exactly crawled up your ass and died, -this- time, and can proceed accordingly.

If your main purpose is to note, several times now, that I used the word "unevolved" in order to snark in the direction of people who fancy themselves an Improver Of The Species, yes, well done you. I Make Funny. Or, not, but yes, irony is so ironic innit. Clap, clap.

If you are only here to provide a living demonstration that indeed, I am not always as tolerant of people who terminally get on my tits as I could be, considering I am basically arguing for more tolerance, by all means, keep going the way you're going, and I will be happy to provide you of a more thorough demonstration of my -flaws- in that regard.

And, let me be very clear, here. I am saying this now, Alon, because, while I was -not- in fact thinking of, for instance, the time some months or years ago you said something to the effect that you couldn't possibly understand why anyone would -want- a Down's Syndrome baby, and made another of my commenters who has a much beloved brother with Down's -cry-, and I told you if you had anything to say other than an apology I would chew on your eyes. Something like that...

...while I was -not-, as I say, thinking of that particular incident before you showed up in the comments section, indeed hadn't thought of it in some time, as you can see, I am thinking of it now.

One of several reasons why I hadn't made that connection was that, while I thought your comment at the time was gross and ableist and far beyond anything resembling the sort of -social- insensitivity that might just make me sort of grit my teeth and ignore it, and needed calling out, I never seriously thought that you had any sort of coherent -philosophy- behind a remark like that, and was merely being a -particularly- thoughtless asshole.

If I -had- thought such a thing, Alon, I can promise you I would not have let the incident go as easily as I did, when you returned to commenting some months later. Certainly your remarks here suggest that you are -not- in fact the "average Social Darwinist" that I should have been taking down instead some random fuckwit who I do wish would recuse herself from the blogosphere, if not actual physical existence or the gene pool, yes, and are merely being a tiresome prat for reasons currently only known to yourself. Which, let me be clear here, if I were 100% positive that that were all it was, the latter, I would not be as longwinded and -blunt- as I'm being right now.

Now. What. Exactly. Is. Your. Point?

I think there is, though, although it isn't 'meanness to niceness' but more 'mineminemine to oh dear god, is -this- what they're/We're dealing with?' Empathy plays a large role, and with a lot of people who let greed run you only get it, if at all, when they discover their own problems are similar to someone else's, or that they could just as easily acquire someone's difficulties for themselves. Call it the spark of humanity that a lot of people seem to lack.

Yes, this.

belledame222 said...

First, she didn't say it to anyone's face; she said it to a screenname. People are a lot more assholish online than in person.

Well, that is a whole 'nother long argument, but basically:

1) Yes, people are often more assholish online than in person, myself included.

2) This does not mean that there is no connection between an online persona and the "meatspace" persona, or even that the latter is a more authentic expression of the author's "real" character/beliefs than the former.

3) More to the point, there are real live people typing onto the screen, and reading the words written thereof, and the feelings evoked by such are at least as "real" as those coming from a face to face exchange. I know a lot of people who make a career of being an online asshole don't -want- to believe this--Gerard Van der Leun used to be a particularly tiresome advocate of the idea that he could be as assholian as he wanted to online and no one had the right to object to his behavior on account of it's "not real" and everyone else was taking it far too seriously--but I, you know, strongly disagree.

4) Once again, such lines as "You say people call you a 'drain on society' like there's something wrong with that concept" (I paraphrase out of laziness, but not by much) goes way beyond such Internets looseness of manners as calling someone else a fuckwit. I really don't know how to make it any clearer.

belledame222 said...

And if "feelings" is too squishy a concept to take seriously, again, read what AW is saying. Yeah, no one necessarily thinks GC is likely to go out and instigate a eugenics program, herself. She's still representing an extreme end of rather popular ideas in many ways, and contributing to a general poisoning of the discourse, and an extension of the limits of what's tolerable to entertain. Same as Coulter is in her own way (and on a larger scale): she's a clown, yes, but a dangerous one.

As for calling Coulter "ugly," it's...you know, it's a really fatuous comparison.

belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...

belledame222 said...
I had to run out before elaborating on that last. To complete that thought, then, for completion's sake if nothing else:

In the case of mocking Coulter's looks, it -can- be "people in glass houses oughtn't to throw stones," when she's specifically making fun of other peoples' looks. One can argue that one still shouldn't do it, at all, because it's sexist and often (the way it's usually done) sizeist, ableist, transphobic, and some other shit, which hurts -
other- people; at minimum, even if one is okay with snarking at her bad hair or eternal LBD in response to her snarks about "hippie pie wagons" on the "honey, you're no spring onion yourself" tip;

but it's certainly fair to say that of all the multiple things wrong with Coulter, her looks are not among the top 1000 that one -usually- ought to focus on, probably, for a whole bunch of reasons. "It's a cheap shot" is one of the arguments I personally find less compelling, all by itself, but again, there are others.

In the case of the Berube Singer thread, without actually knowing which thread this is or having read it, you know, I really can't do much more than speculate. It could well be that the posters there were being ableist themselves in their calling Singer out; I've seen such phenomena quite a lot.

However, I'm not really clear in what way this is equivalent to my using the rather nebulous term "unevolved" here, unless you are suggesting that observing that someone is a stupid fuckhead with no particular redeeming qualities is not just "mean" and a cheap shot but actually ableist.

Natalia said...

*First, she didn't say it to anyone's face; she said it to a screenname.*

Just a minor correction here: I don't use a screenname. I post under my own name.

The "you suffered abuse once, hence you don't get to be a parent" thing wasn't brought up for the first time, with me.

A person did say it to my face before. Seeing it in a blog's comment section somehow didn't feel any easier.