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Eugenics: The sinister ideology behind COVID “normalization”

By: 
Left JAB by John Bell

February 9, 2022

The headline of the January 12 Bloomberg.com op/ed says it all: “Say Goodbye to Self-Isolating, WFH Mandates, Mass Testing.”

The authors boast, “The balance of power between human and virus is shifting. Better armed against a lesser enemy, our species no longer needs to hide in a bunker waiting for a viral wave to pass. That means it’s time for our Covid response to change.” Note the militaristic rhetoric.

It is one of hundreds of reports and opinion pieces appearing in the corporate media intended to “normalize” the ravages, death and destruction of COVID-19 and its variants.

Exhibit A: from January 21, by National Post Senior Writer Sharon Kirkey. “’Very nice spring, very nice summer’: Omicron will bring us closer to normal, experts say”. 

Too bad the actual article isn’t as reassuring as the rose-tinted headline. The expert quoted is Anna Bershteyn, an assistant professor at NYU. And her actual statement is admittedly based on “hope”, “…if I had to make a guess, I would say that what Omicron will probably give us is a period of respite.” Note the 3 qualifiers in that one short sentence.

This is not scientific information, it is the equivalent of “hopes and prayers”.  Pseudo-science at best.

Here’s what they hope: Omicron will infect virtually all of the population, but it is as “mild” as it is virulent. In its wake it will leave a hardier humanity, with natural resistance to any nastier variants that may follow. So why try to stop it? Why bother testing for it? Why even keep track of its indicating numbers?

Omicron: get it and get over it

When pressed about the inevitable death toll, these opinion pieces blithely shrug it off. (On the day of writing 68 people died from COVID in Ontario.) The majority of deaths will be people with pre-existing medical conditions, anything from asthma to arthritis.   It will be the elderly.  It will be the weak and vulnerable. 

EUGENICS

There is a word for the belief that humanity can be made stronger, improved, by weeding out the weak and sick: eugenics. This set of beliefs and practices aims to improve the genetic quality of a human population, historically by excluding people and groups judged to be inferior or promoting those judged to be superior.

Eugenics got a pretty bad reputation in the 20th century thanks to its most enthusiastic practitioners: the Nazis. But Hitler and his followers were building their atrocities on the backs of pseudo-scientific ideas popular throughout the western world.

In Canada, through the 1920s and 30s, eugenics societies and clubs were everywhere. The earliest movements to create public health services were entangled with eugenics. Dr. Helen MacMurchy, a turn of the century pioneer for public health, was a tireless crusader for eliminating the inferior, the “feeble-minded”, from the population. She argued such people should not be allowed to reproduce.

In the minds of MacMurchy and her followers, being “feeble-minded” led to criminality, prostitution and moral depravity, and delinquency. And if they deemed that these traits were more prevalent in some races, then those races were inferior too.

MacMurchy’s brand of eugenics seemed benign, for she argued that the “feeble-minded” should be treated with paternalistic care: “It is the age of true democracy that will not only give every one justice, but will redeem the waste products of humanity and give the mental defective all the chance he needs to develop his gifts and all the protection he needs to keep away from evils and temptations that he never will be grown-up enough to resist, and that society cannot afford to let him fall a victim to.”

What better way to help the inferior resist temptation than sexual sterilization. Not only would “degenerates” not pass their traits to their offspring, but their remaining lives would be happier and more pious. 

These eugenicists convinced themselves they were doing a service to society and the victims as well. Icons of the left, like Tommy Douglas and Nellie Mclung, were influenced by eugenics. Douglas’s graduate thesis was a treatise on “The Problems of the Subnormal Family.” To his credit, when he witnessed to logical extremes of eugenics in the 1940s – the Holocaust – he rejected those ideas. But even while Mclung and the “Famous Five” were battling for recognition of personhood for women in Canadian law, she was a campaigner for the forced sterilization of the “feeble-minded”. 

For them and their ideology, eugenics was “normal”.

While outright popularity of eugenics waned after the 1940s, the ideas and practices of institutionalization and forced sterilization lived on, particularly in Alberta. Laws allowing sterilization of “degenerates” remained on the books until 1972; 50 individuals were sterilized in that year.

As might be expected certain groups, especially Indigenous women, were targeted for forced sterilization. Indigenous people made up about 3% of Alberta’s population, but they accounted for about 25% of the forced sterilizations. Together with Residential Schools, eugenics was a tool of genocide and land theft.

2-TIERED HUMANITY

It seems we’ve wandered a long way from where we started, the normalization of COVID. But there is a direct link to the neo-liberal ideology that rules almost uncontested in capitalism. 

Alberta’s top doctor Deena Hinshaw, Ottawa’s CMHO Dr. Vera Etches and Ontario’s chief doctor Kieran Moore have all issued statements in recent days, arguing for the normalization of COVID Omicron. BC’s chief doctor, Bonnie Henry, argues that we should keep up the fight, sort of, but yes now is the time to learn to live with COVID.

In line with their shared ideology, they are stepping back from public health to private, individual “self-management” (Henry’s phrase). 

Ontario health officials have announced they are combing through the records of all the COVID deaths to determine how many of those where people with pre-existing conditions. Prepare for a new way of counting fatalities: those killed by COVID, and those who’s deaths are “associated with COVID”. The majority will be in the latter category.

This will allow the “get it, get over it” people to minimize the loss and suffering of tens of thousands past, and many more yet to come. They were weak. They were old. They were sick already. They don’t exactly deserve to die, but it was going to happen anyway, so what can you do….

If the word eugenics is out of style, all this fits with a reactionary, pseudo-scientific ideology of “human nature”. Survival of the fittest, law of the jungle, the clichés that have been used for centuries to justify racism, slavery and oppression.

These arguments all allow capitalism and its defenders off the hook for prioritizing profit-making and business as usual over public health and human need. Capitalism has used COVID as a cash grab. Our rulers refuse to suspend man-made patent laws and trade rules in order to make vaccines freely and universally available. In the name of “intellectual property” they have created a global petri dish where viruses thrive and mutate. And they will blame the results on “nature”.

Dismantling public health regulations won’t produce a stronger, healthier race. It will only make us more vulnerable to an endless parade of new, and potentially more lethal variants to come. 

It will mean creating 2 tiers of human beings, those who can fight off the viruses and those who can’t. Those include your grandparents, your friends who are fighting or have survived cancer, those with relatively mild respiratory conditions like asthma, those who are transplant recipients. In fact, why bother to perform some of the medical procedures that allowed those people to live long and productive lives before COVID. 

The word “triage” has become common, grim medical decisions made in emergency circumstances as COVID victims outnumbered resources. But now the genie is out of the bottle. Will “triage” become regular medical practice? Unless significantly increased resources are invested in our public health system, that is likely. As more and more services are privatized, ask yourself: will a for-profit business invest expensive care in a patient with a pre-existing condition? Look at the track record of the US health system, dominated by private insurance companies to find the answer.

HUMAN NATURE

The right-wing view of human nature is based on the assumption that capitalism is the perfect reflection of human behavior. It is an ahistorical and deeply flawed view. It is a logic that defines the vast majority of humanity as losers. It seeks to destroy our empathy and urge toward solidarity. Human need is not a guide for decision making. But capitalism is torn by a fatal flaw: it wants to treat workers as isolated, disposable parts; but to maintain its rate of profit it must bring workers together in large numbers to collaborate in production.

Another view of human nature, more consistent with the long history of human development, is that our species seeks to defend and protect weaker members. Current archeological research shows that our ancestors found ways to help elders or those with disability fit in and contribute as they could. 

COVID has often brought out the best in most of our population, and the worst in the tiny subset who own and control production and profiteering. But now, after 2 years and more of personal effort and sacrifice, fatigue and depression are real factors. It is in that context that a propaganda campaign pushing a eugenics agenda – get it and get over it – is particularly dangerous.

The disability community and seniors are acutely aware of the danger they face. We know it is political decisions, prioritizing the economy over our health, that is the biggest threat. We know that ultimately, normalizing COVID means normalizing our untimely and unnecessary deaths.

 

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