Sunday, June 12, 2016

Time to replace Eugenics with Germ Theory as the guiding metaphor of Modernity ?

None hated and feared progress more than Progressives - just as none hated modernization more than Modernists.

But if that hatred of and progress and modernization was the real reason for the birth of 'Modernity' and 'Progress', their avid proponents dared not say so.

They loved the direct -intended- consequences of all these new inventions and technologies, invented by themselves, so why not ?, but just couldn't handle what happened when their Genie slipped away from the Bottle.
So instead they picked a suitable-seeming metaphor, a similar seeming circumstance, as the stand-in scapegoat for their fear and revulsion against the inchoate spread of modernization.

Now unfortunately for the paranoid mind, modernization was not the self conscious actions of a global group of conspirators organized on a ideological, religious or ethnic basis.

Rather it was just the 'felt effect' of the sum ("the web") of a whole variety of the unintended consequences, all resulting from a sudden multitude of important inventions in technology and instrumentation that began occurring more and more rapidly, beginning in the 1870s.

Those consequences tended feed back into themselves and the other inventions, cross-talking and re-enforcing each other and so multiplied forth yet more unintended consequences.

It wasn't really each new invention that they opposed, on its own.

In fact, everybody tended to praise each additional new invention to the hilt.

But taken together, the results flowing from all these inventions seemed to produce an incredibly powerful dissolvent of long standing cultural certitudes.

Let us start with the key inventions, the ones in transportation and communications, to seek the nature of this cultural dissolvent.

Steam steel ships (together with improvements in shipboard safety, port facilities, rail connections,navigation aids and weather reporting, refrigeration, telegraphy and radio telegraphy) made the transportation and communication of people, material and ideas across oceans, continents & national lines much much faster, cheaper and safer than ever before.

Again the invention and improvement of the telegraph, railways, postal systems, steam printing presses, linotype machines, cheap abundant wood pulp paper, all worked to spread those ideas and life-like images (after photographic halftones and motion films were perfected) more rapidly and cheaply than ever before - not just between hitherto relatively sealed off nations, but to the furtherest corners of those nations.

The overall metaphor for modernization among those who hate and fear it might then be words 'dissolve', 'flood', 'invisibly seep', 'ubiquitous'.

Its effects are such as to intermix hitherto separate things together --- as if to turn hitherto pure dry soil and pure wet water into dirty, jelly-like mud.

It renders the pure into the heterogeneous - it renders the simple into the complex, into the flowing, the dynamic, the hybrid.

Perhaps a quarter to a third of us definitely likes lots of variety, diversity, change, flux but the other two thirds of us finds it only makes them mentally tired, frazzled and fearful.

Most all of us can tolerate - as opposed to love or hate - a fifty-fifty mix of brain-dumbing stability and fear-rousing instability.

By these lights, starting in the 1880s, the paranoid style of Modernity had a built-in permanent majority as that balance seemed to tilt suddenly well over into the dynamic new category.

'Stability' often just means borders, filters and walls : it half heartedly admits new things actually do exist, but uses some form of physical, legal and social barrier to avoid having to suddenly meet all these new people, new languages, new smells, new tasters, new colours, new textures, new ideas.

'New people' didn't just mean immigrants from distant lands either --- it meant suddenly having to share political, economic and cultural power with women, the working class or ethnic minorities from just down your street.

What made modernization so awkward to combat was that there wasn't actually any real organization promoting it openly and overtly.

It was thus not at all like the movements of Islam or evangelical Protestantism, western imperialism, liberalism, communism or socialism, anarchism.

Most people just left it at that.

But others, the paranoids among us, just felt there had to be invisible covert conspiracies pushing it --- and winning more often than not.

Now, previous to the 1880s, these thoughts would have been dismissed - in today's lingo - as those of out-to-lunch loonies with paranoid conspiracy complexes.

But the sudden acceptance of Germ Theory in that same decade bears serious examining.

There was long plenty of easy to find evidence linking microbes to disease but the scientific and general community declined to accept that evidence -----until a need arose for an apt metaphor/explanation for modernization.

Germ Theory was significantly different from the earlier Miasma Theory (bad smells) though both said that the plagues that destroyed even the strongest biggest most advanced ancient civilizations had come from tiny invisible ubiquitous particles.

Germ were different in being equally ubiquitous, invisible, small, weak, stupid but also 'alive' - they had 'agency'.

One can call a human scapegoat 'a bad smell' but it doesn't really have any impact - humans are alive and have agency, free will, can break laws --- but bad smells and rocks can't --- they can't really be condemned from pulpits or tried in court for 'breaking the law'.

Tiny, weak, stupid germs were granted, by scientists, just enough agency to be pure evil predators (well they did cause pandemics that killed tens of millions did they not  --- when did human evildoers ever do that much ?, said the 19th century.)

Now to call people of one ethnicity or social group a 'fungus, 'bacteria', 'plague' or  'disease' had a real sting - it said they were pure evil predators.

Weak, small, invisible,ubiquitous, all powerful - germs seemed a potent paradox to the teenagers of the Edwardian Age (the adult malefactors of WWII).

This admittedly was because the media popularization of Germ Theory decidedly oversold the argument - a chronic sin of too-generalist, jack & jills of all trades but masters of none journalists.

Germs simply weren't all that powerful - not even the worst ever pandemic in human history, the globe-wide Spanish Flu of 1917-1919 ever killed more than a few percent of the people infected.

But a headline like "98% survive flu attack" didn't sell newspapers --- and still doesn't.

These facts were ignored because beings that are both all powerful and tiny/weak and invisible and ubiquitous are such a wonderful metaphor for feeding unbridled paranoia.

Unconverted to Christianity Jews only a tiny 1% of the German population ( small), denied access to many economic and social activities (weak) really run the government cabinet and boardrooms of the biggest corporations.

'But they're not represented in either place, at all' --- 'that's because they're invisible,silly, just like microbes'.

Yes, they're everywhere and do their evil invisibly, all sneaky-like, eyes down sly: you can see how they converted to Christianity many centuries ago, just awaiting for their chance to final destroy the German Volk from within.

The process of modernization is all powerful, ubiquitous and invisible but it has no agency, no one (or everyone) is to blame for its successful penetration into any single society on earth, from the largest and most advance to the smallest and simplest.

Germ Theory is its closest equivalent in the real world.

This led to organized efforts to blame modernization effects as being 'caused' by the germ-like (in their moral behavior) scapegoats : Negroes, (Jews), (Chinese) by most the Americans, (Germans), (Japanese) of the Era of Modernity.

While Germany lynched six million Jews, America only lynched one - while America lynched five thousand blacks (and perhaps another five thousand through quasi-legal lynchings), Hitler did not systemically execute the mixed race black kids of the Ruhr and Hamburg.

Obviously there was nothing in the behavior of either ethnicity to make them universal scapegoats - each nation selected its victim based purely on local whim.

In 1933, the year Hitler came to power and began his reign of terror, the northern California mass media, together with most of the legal authorities, including the governor and the FBI, orchestrated a publicly broadcasted (newsreel and radio) lynching (of two white men), that was never equalled by even the worst of the Nazi mass killings orchestrated before the public in Eastern Europe.

Murderous Modernity

Democracy or dictatorship, Murderous Modernity didn't seem to care.

Mass (and massively sadistic) lynchings of ordinary black American families watched by huge crowds of ordinary white American families, the mass shootings of entire Jewish families by ordinary Germans, the mass and massively sadistic rapes and killings of ordinary Chinese families by ordinary Japanese soldiers ---- these are what really need explaining by something stronger than appeals to Eugenics Theory.

Eugenics in its theory used gene talk not germ talk and in its practises tended to actually sterilize only a tiny fraction of one percent of each national population in its most negative aspects and promote beautiful healthy babies in its most positive aspects.

Even Aktion T4, the  Nazi attempt to kill off of Germany's Aryan 'unfit' ceased (officially) when the German population indicated strongly that it didn't want its feeble grandparents killed.

Others' grandparents ? No problem and so the plan moved onto Jewish and Roma grandparents instead.

Killing of the innocence only worked if they had been confirmed first to the 'other', and you couldn't get any more other than the germ.

Genetics, as Darwin saw it (though Dawson's HGT disproved him), was the very opposite of infectious and invasive --- totally fixed --- unless you count miscegenation as an infection - some did, but it was a real metaphoric stretch.

Inflexible genetics was thus used to define modern 'ethnic' nationalism, to act as a firm bulwark against fluid modernization's sneaky invasive methods.

Jews were to be all murdered, like the smallpox virus, not because they were a genetic threat to Germans but rather an infectious moral threat to the German soul....

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