Exterminate all the brutes?

As I think I’ve mentioned before on a couple of occasions (in my Pollyannaish way), this is the time of year when thoughts begin to turn to the Spring, to the return of life to the bounteous earth and so on.  In a recent post the poet Francis Meynell was musing thus – “I keep this time, even before the flowers/ sacred to all the young and the unborn /to all the miles of unsprung wheat“.  It’s time we saw a lamb or two : the birds are in song in the early morning and are eyeing up suitable locations for their nests (e.g. my roof).  Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day and the young uns have got a bit of a glint in their eyes.  You get the picture.

It does seem, though, that some people’s thoughts are turning in quite a different direction.

A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I read the following alarming piece of writing on the blog Stumbling and Mumbling – A modest proposalIt’s too complex a piece to paraphrase accurately (and, as always, frighteningly brainy) but it asks why, if we accept three commonly accepted beliefs (that the population needs to be reduced, that public spending needs to be cut and that there is a self-perpetuating criminal underclass) we should not be in favour of the compulsory sterilisation of those who are likely to produce feral children.  As the title of the piece implies, the author isn’t actually advocating mass sterilisation, and, indeed, states explicitly that he is against it (though he doesn’t exactly seem to be motivated by savage indignation about the idea either).  But I do find it alarming (and baffling) that the thought came into his head in the first place, and equally so the calm and rational way in which the debate proceeds in the comments.

There are any number of rational arguments against this proposal, but I don’t think I can get past what I think the author means by ” The Urgh Factor“.  Imagine what it would feel like to be a woman with few other prospects who had set her heart on having children, only to be informed (presumably by some government functionary) that she was to be carted off to hospital and sterilised instead.  At which point the mind of anyone with an ounce of sensibility would  indeed revolt and go “Urgh – what a disgusting idea”.  And that would be an end to it.

I might have forgotten this, if, a couple of days later, the comedian Ricky Gervais hadn’t come out with the following, in an interview with The Times –

“Should we impose a limitation [on having children], then? “Yes, based on … stupid, fat faces,” he snarls. “If there’s a woman in leggings, eating chips with a fag in her mouth, sterilise her.” (Why leggings, incidentally?)

I do realise that Gervais – as a comedian (that new clerisy) – is only joking, but it’s still worth noting how many people seem to agree with him – though perhaps they too are only joking.  The most highly rated comment on the Mail Online, for instance,  is “you know how the saying goes…’many a true word said in jest’! I’m with him on this one 100%” and there is a frankly flabbergasting discussion on the official Richard Dawkins fansite  – http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=108274.

I might also mention in this connection the enthusiasm expressed in a couple of comments on this (excellent) post – This article is not witty– for the idea that castration is the way forward in dealing with those who are likely to perpetuate a cycle of abuse.  The slight difference of emphasis here (castration rather than sterilisation) is, I think, down to the commentators being women rather than – as in the case of S&M and the Mail – mainly men. 

And then again, at a slight tangent, we have Master Amis’s latest amusing thought experiment – that we should set up euthanasia booths for the elderly to prevent “a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops.”

Now of course S&M is really saying something about the nature of managerialism.  Gervais is only joking and Amis is being satirical, but I do find it shocking quite how many people there seem to be going around with this stuff swilling around their heads – this fear, this disgust, this contempt for the poor, the feckless, the old even and quite how little permission they seem to need, once the unsayable has been said, to indulge in these weird fantasies of mucking about with other people’s reproductive systems.   Slowly the poison the whole bloodstream fills …

Mind you, I do quite like the idea of “The Urgh Factor” and think it could work as TV programme.  The aim would be for a succession of controversialist bloggers – contrarians, sweary libertarians, what-iffers and general loons – to see who could make the panel of judges  – all bleeding heart liberals – the most angry and upset.  Bonus points would be awarded for the superficial plausibility of the argument, but making the panel physically sick would ensure instant victory.


9 thoughts on “Exterminate all the brutes?

  1. I wanted to really think about this before I commented. One frequently sees appalling families and children wandering around, or on the television, and you can’t help instinctively feeling “Those people shouldn’t be allowed to have children” without thinking through what that means.

    When I was in hospital having my first child, there was a young girl in the bed opposite me who was having her fourth baby. The first three had been taken away and Social Services arrived while I was there to sort out when they would take away the new one. Her boyfriend visited before she left, the curtains were drawn around her bed and they were clearly having sex.

    The only possible upside one can extract from that situation is that four babies were then available for adoption for people who could not have children themselves.

    The biggest question about the prospect of sterilisation of the unsuitable, is who makes that decision. Do we trust the Government? Do we trust Social Services? And on what criteria would such decisions be based. I’m quite sure that there are some people who would consider my methods of child-rearing unacceptable, whilst others would applaud me wholeheartedly. There are parents at school who, I consider, need a damn good talking to, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to have children. And let’s be clear – abuse (at whatever level) doesn’t only occur at the bottom end of society.

    Sterilisation rears its head when dealing with the handicapped as well. Should they be allowed to be sexually active at all? Is it a human right to have a sex life? Should they be allowed to reproduce when it is clear from the start that they will require huge amounts of social care. I’m not qualified to make those decisions and I think every case needs to be decided on its own merits.

    As in nature, we have no idea what are the wider implications of every action we take; whether there is greater meaning, or simply that life is a monstrous maelstrom where everyone and everything is swirlingly interdependent. Throughout history, every generation has complained bitterly about the decadence of the young and at least now, we are in a society where there is some support for the most needy in society.

    Compulsory, non-compliant, sterilisation is a horrible concept, but we do have to make sure that everyone involved in the support and care of the people who are deemed to be on the bottom rung are doing their best. That’s all any of us can do.

  2. Many thanks for this. I will reply when I have the time for an adequate response. I’m afraid my household is a bit chaotic this evening.

  3. I suppose the trouble with my original post was that I was conflating (if that’s the word, or indeed a word at all) two points which are really slightly separate – I think I was just struck by the fact that I’d read all these comments at the same time and there did seem to be a common thread.

    One point is that I’m dismayed to see the return of the apparently quite commonly accepted view that there is an entire class of people in society who are completely beyond redemption, and that this seems to be not on the grounds that they are likely to be neglectful or abusive parents but simply that, as a class, they are economically unproductive. This was a fairly common view in the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and led to a great enthusiasm – even among people who had some admirable qualities (the Fabians, for instance) – for eugenics. I really didn’t think that was an idea that would ever make a comeback but – with varying degrees of seriousness – it does now seem to be various people’s minds.

    The other point, which I think is far more difficult, is what to do with people who, like the woman you encountered in the hospital, presumably, have already demonstrated that they are severely neglectful or where there is a demonstrable likelihood that the child is likely to come to harm. I think about the best I can do here is that I don’t envy the people who have to make these decisions. My natural inclination would be that the state should interfere as little as possible in people’s home or personal lives, but in these kinds of cases it is clear that someone has to interfere to protect people (the children) who are otherwise unable to defend themselves.

  4. Before i laucnch into my anti-life rant: Only those who prove themselves worthy and able to bring up the next generation should be allowed to breed. The country is being brought to its knees by the cost of benefits and kids, so why let it get worse.

    What’s so special about creating more FUCKING LIFE anyway??????

    To paraphrase Sade’s views on life: We’re born, we eat, we shit, we fuck, we kill and then when we die.

    My own view on the miracle of life: Picture some blocked sewer, blocked with used tampons toilet paper and shit, and some rats fucking on this disgusting pile-up. The rats will breed, and their descendants will procreate in similar places. This will probably go on for ever, give or take; THAT IS THE MIRACLE OF LIFE.

    LOVE AND HUGS, HANDSOME PADDY xoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxo

  5. Thank you for that, Paddy – what a delightful image, to be sure.

    Is that really Sade’s view of life? I was always quite fond of “Smooth Operator” – “Coast to coast LA to Chicago dum-di-dee South to Key Largo- love for sale!”. Remember that one?

    But perhaps you’re thinking of another Sade altogether?

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