The death of a prostitute, a homeless person, or an average Joe does not seem to have much of an impact. But the death of a middle class student in Aruba seems to be big news. There isn’t much doubt that human beings are valued and de-valued according to social class, perceived morality, and perceived exchange value.
Eugenics is a system of ostracization or sterilization aimed at preventing undesirable human beings from breeding and creating more undesirables. This was the spirit in Nazi Germany with the mass genocide of people they considered to be undesirable. The Nazis also carried out the practice of eugenics with the spirit of the master race in mind.
When we consider the fact that we are moving in that direction through time and that we are increasingly placing value on human beings depending on a very judgmental, classist, and racist pecking order, we should remind ourselves of how dangerous facism can be. We should also be aware of how dangerous liberal do-goodism can be because there is no shortage of these often phoney charity minded and reform minded do gooders. Just as surely as liberal do-gooders can rationalize their aim for a ubiquitous and rightious middle class, the Nazis could rationalize their aims for a master race. Both sentiments are dangerous and have the same sinister designs.
Here are excerpts of an article on eugenics derived from research done by the author, Stephen Ellis. There are also links to take you to articles in a recent issue of Shunpiking Magazine:
(Lifted from Shunpiking Magazine)
'Modern science has it well in hand':Nova Scotia's 'experiment' in eugenics
By STEPHEN ELLIS*
30 April 2004Canadian Legal HistoryDalhousie University
"Behold ye simple moron,He does not give a damn,I'd hate to be a moron,Ye Gods! Perhaps I am."The Medical Society of Nova Scotia
HALIFAX, NS -- IT WAS sixteen years before those fateful days in May, 1945 when the consequences of the German eugenics movement and the Nazi program of Josef Mengele could no loner be denied.
On the occasion of the founding of the Brookside Training School in Nova Scotia, Dr. Samuel H. Prince, noted social reformer and mental hygiene society president, exemplified the tireless commitment of many of his generation of progressive activists. Progressives of this period agitated for a better world, one where science, humanism and Christian values would play a large part. There were many evils to be overcome in the early part of the twentieth century, tuberculosis, influenza, among others, and more and more, people were putting their faith in science as a way to cure society's ills.
For middle-class progressives, however, no phenomenon matched in gravity the type of danger the existence of "feeble-minded" people represented in Nova Scotia. And on this November day in 1929, the campaign against the blight of "feeblemindedness" had for the most part reached a successful conclusion: a publicly-funded institution had been established to ensure this "most pernicious element" was eliminated from the arteries of the nation.
Boiled down, eugenics is the notion that the quality of the human race can be improved through selective breeding. It is based on the assumption that individual traits are passed through heredity. Francis Galton first popularised this form of determinism in 1865:
If a twentieth part of the costs and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create! We might introduce prophets and high priests of civilization into the world as surely as we can propagate idiots by mating cretins. Men and women of the present day are, to those we might hope to bring into existence, what the pariah dogs of the streets of an Eastern town are to our own highly-bred varieties.
Maude Merrill in a 1922 article in the Dalhousie Review reflected well the tenor of the time:
The Nams, the Kallikaks, the Zeros and the rest of the innumerable tribes of Ishmaelites, unearthed in our insatiable thirst for the truth about heredity, have abundantly proved that certain mental traits are characteristic of generation after generation of the same stock. ... The social significance of inferior mental capacity is strikingly apparent in its intimate relation to all forms of anti-social conduct.
Alexander P. Reid, Dean of the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine from 1868 to 1875 and Superintendent of the Nova Scotia Hospital for the Insane, was typical in many respects of the middle-class professionals of his time. His faith in eugenics was unwavering:
Eugenics steps forward as the guide that can safely pilot it [society] to the safe harbours of health, wealth and desirable possibilities ... and points out the means by which the undesirable recession in race propagation can be controlled, nay, eliminated. F.C.S. Schiller, humanist philosopher and founder of the English Eugenics Society, laid out the basics of the eugenic doctrine in an essay for the Dalhousie Review:
The license society allows at present to the criminal, the insane and the feeble-minded to multiply at pleasure, and to have their worse than worthless offspring cared for at the public expense, or rather, at the expense of those who feel too heavily taxed to produce children that would yield better returns to the community ... The gist may be stated in a single sentence. Society, as at present organized, wastes its good material and extirpates its better stocks, while it recruits itself from its inferior elements. It does this unconsciously and unintentionally, but at a growing rate.
As faith in nineteenth-century liberalism declined, social Darwinist ideas guaranteeing "survival of the fittest' ensured that eugenics was planted in very fertile soil. The belief in the right to be "well-born" had literally swept the world. In the United States sterilization laws were enacted in as many as thirty-one states and became the inspiration of the later Nazi eugenic campaign in Germany.
Canada, too, took up arms against the foe from within. Alberta's sterilization laws remained on the books until 1972. In its forty-four years, Alberta's Sexual Sterilization Act had authorized four thousand, seven hundred and twenty-eight sterilizations, and was directed disproportionately at women, and people of aboriginal and Eastern European descent.
Eugenics as social policy: Canada
History has now provided ample evidence that eugenics was far from a passing fancy in Canada. Some of this country's most prominent social reformers were quite naturally believers in the need for eugenic measures to protect the nation against racial degeneration. People like J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, Charlene Whitton, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung and Agnes McPhail, among many others attest to the fact that far from being the preserve of a fringe group, eugenic ideas were mainstream.
The medical profession in particular took an early interest in the need to combat "race suicide" in Canada.
In a piece read before the American Medico-Psychological Association in 1900, Dr. James Russell of the Hamilton Asylum opined that while there were many processes that aimed to "destroy the moral and intellectual fibre of the race," the elevated status of the Anglo-Saxon race would not be undermined. Speaking in less than subtle metaphors, Dr. Russell painted the picture thus:
The immense virility of the Anglo-Saxon race, like that sturdy oak, may resist the encroachments of the canker worm for generations, but unless purge and purified of the disease it will at last crumble and decay.
No individual was more prominent in the campaign against "mental defectives" than public health crusader Dr. Helen MacMurchy. Next to successful campaigns on such vital issues as birth control and infant mortality, MacMurchy saw dealing with the problem of the "feeble-minded" as a national priority. With a rather disconcerting mix of compassion and cold-heartedness, MacMurchy in her 1920 book The Almosts: A Study of the Feeble-Minded viewed the problem in this way:
It is the age of true democracy that will not only give every one justice, but will redeem the wastes 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 him evils and temptations that he never will be grown up enough to resist, and that society cannot afford to let him fall victim to.
Dr. MacMurchy was a fervent advocate of the forcible segregation and sterilization of mental defectives and claimed that society would pay dearly in "expense, crime, immorality, crime and national degeneration" if these "unfortunates" were allowed to reproduce. Mentally defective children become mentally-defective men and women -- mentally defective paupers and criminals ... then the community must be protected from the feeble-minded and the feeble-minded must be protected from many in the community who would lead them into evil ways.
The mental hygiene movement in Nova Scotia
The politics of eugenics (or mental hygiene, as it become known) had equally erstwhile proponents in the province of Nova Scotia. As early as 1890, Alexander P. Reid in a paper read before the Nova Scotia Institute of Natural Science, viewed the danger the feeble-minded posed in alarmist terms:
These "ulcerous and diseased outgrowths on society" whose affliction is "sixty to eighty per cent" inherited will pass away with sufficient effort.
Speaking of the "tyranny of defective organization," Dr. Reid remarked, "There are many congenital defects, but crime, idiocy and insanity are the most potent for ill in the culture of the race, and will society not interfere to protect its successors when they cannot help themselves?
" In an article written in 1913 entitled "Eugenics", Reid speaks in terms eerily reminiscent of the later Nazi campaign against the Jews:
[M]ust society continue to be oppressed by this increasing mass of expensive and worthless humanity ... Were these ideas carried out the whole lot of irresponsibles, imbeciles and criminals would be eliminated in two generations, and some States are now on the high road for this termination ... if we cannot reach perfection let us get as near as we can.
Loyal to the idea, Reid reiterated that the source of the "problem" must dealt with conclusively: "The disciple of Eugenics is thus given a sound basis upon which to construct practical work and formulate laws which can in time eliminate the undesirable elements of society." Lamenting the fact that the Nova Scotian public remained unfavourable to the recourse of sterilization, Reid settled for segregation: "Let us place all the feeble-minded under such restraint that procreation be prevented."
Probably the most active member of the medical community in Nova Scotia to take on the "problem" of the feeble-minded was Dr. W.H. Hattie, Medical Superintendent from 1898 to 1914 and Provincial Health Officer from 1914 to 1922. In an article called "The Prevention of Insanity", Dr. Hattie's analysis mirrors that of others engaged in this battle: "The average imbecile is not of much use as a citizen. He is usually at least in some degree extra-social if not anti-social. But he is capable of procreating his kind." State intervention, according to Hattie, was also necessary to ensure couples were "properly" paired. With respect to the feeble-minded:
More than mere suasion is necessary to any measure of success, however, and there is good sense in the efforts which some lawmakers are putting forth to prevent promiscuous marrying and to place some restrictions on the marriage of the unfit.
Seven years later in an article of the same title, Hattie developed on his idea of the type of "suasion" necessary. In the event the deemed defective demonstrated any sexual impulse, the state must intervene:
When there is evident defect, particularly if any tendency to eroticism is manifest, the safety of the community, as well as of the unfortunate individual, demands segregation in a suitable institution. This costs more than sterilization or the lethal chamber, but does less violence to sentiment. Some authorities, as Archibald R. Douglas, of the Royal Albert Institution, assert that the imbecile is a much more potent agent in producing racial deterioration than the lunatic. I doubt if we have any more pressing need in Canada today than the proper provision for the feeble-minded members of our country, particularly those who are still sexually competent.
In an article entitled "The Physician's Part in Preventing Mental Disorder", Dr. Hattie repeated the mantra of the mental hygiene movement:
The so-called lesser grades of mental defect are perhaps really those of paramount importance, for these are accountable for a very large share of the criminality and immortality and delinquency and pauperism which cost us so dearly, and it is these lesser defects which are most likely to be passed on from generation to generation. The problem then is many-sided, and bears so intimately upon national efficiency and national progress that we cannot afford to disregard it.
Echoing the apocalyptic tone of his contemporaries across the continent, Hattie warns of a national emergency; only the fittest will survive on the national and international stage:
Canada is faced today with a situation not less perilous that that involved in accepting the challenge of the Hun. We have entered upon a period of competition such as never before dreamed of. Our place among the nations depends upon our ability to meet this competition, and this in turn depends upon the physical, mental and moral qualities of our people.
I. A movement is born - The Halifax Local Council of Women
In one of the very few references to Nova Scotia, McLaren in his work points out that Canada's first eugenical movement was formed in 1908 in Nova Scotia in the form of the League for the Protection of the Feeble-Minded. True as this may be, organized agitation in support of eugenic measures in Nova Scotia was taken on by the Halifax Council of Women (HCW) at least a full decade earlier. And given the boundless energy and influence of such women as Mrs. J.C. Mackintosh, Mrs. Charles Archibald, and later, Mrs. Agnes Dennis, the dubious honour rightly goes to the HCW.
II. The Nova Scotia League for the Protection of the Feeble-Minded
The group with the well-meaning name was formed on June 3, 1908, no doubt at the inspired instigation of the HCW. The League for the Protection of the Feeble-Minded, with the Lieutenant-Governor of the province, J.C. Tory, as its honourary president brought together people from many walks of life to carry out this vital social task. Dr. William H. Hattie, Ernest H. Blois, Sir Frederick Fraser, Judge Wallace, Archbishop McCarthy, Agnes Dennis, Eliza Ritchie, Mrs. F.H. Sexton of the I.O.D.E., and Dr. Frank Woodbury. Later, as the Nova Scotia Society for Mental Hygiene, it would involve such personalities as A.H. MacKay, Superintendent of Education, and Dr. Samuel H. Prince, founder of the Maritime School of Social Work, Kings College professor and prominent social reformer.
III. The Murray and Rhodes governments respond
On two separate occasions, in 1916 and again in 1926, the Nova Scotia Legislature saw fit to organize royal commissions to investigate the nature of the social danger facing Nova Scotians. Interestingly, both inquiries found that the social, moral and economic welfare of the province was "gravely menaced" and that immediate steps had to be taken to "limit the multiplication of this unfortunate class". Moreover, both commissions concluded that sterilization as a method of selective breeding, though effective, offended popular sentiment. Instead, the more "cost effective" method of segregation was preferred; "defective" boys would be required to learn a trade so as to become a productive member of society and "defective" girls would be kept in care until the child-bearing years have passed.
Both inquires drew the same conclusions about the societal impact on the "unwatched" mental defect:
We may reasonably assume that this condition is responsible for a very considerable share of the pauperism, illegitimacy, vice, and crime which exist in our province, and we are aware that the defect is one which is singularly prone to be transmitted from parent to child. It would, therefore, seem reasonable that from the economic, as well as from the moral and sociological points of view, a strong effort should be made to limit the multiplication of this unfortunate class.
In 1927, the Rhodes government moved quickly to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and, by so doing, became one of Canada's few governments to give eugenic doctrine a legislative form. Bills 64, 70 and 84 were all enacted to amend the Children's Protection, Poor Relief and Education Acts, respectively. Also, Bill 174 was enacted to establish the only "training school" east of Orillia, Ontario.
It is not difficult to imagine the pride that comes with having finally achieved what one has dreamed of for decades. Speaking at an annual meeting of the Nova Scotia Society for Mental Hygiene the day before the cornerstone was laid, Dr. Prince was glowing in his appraisal:
We are turning a new page in our book of golden days. There is a spell upon us and about us, which is more than the spell of autumn. It is like the night before Christmas. It is like the denouement of a beautiful story. For at last all is in readiness for the silver trowel, when a few hours hence there shall be well and truly laid the corner stone of the new Brookside school, which to bring into being this society was born.
As the history of eugenic social policy has demonstrated, one person's beautiful story is always someone else's nightmare. Hundreds of "worse than worthless" children were herded into this institution to save the rest of society from ruin. Not one of their names is known. Compounding the problem is the fact that this disturbing chapter of our history has all but disappeared from the history books, if it was ever there in the first place.
Where there is oppression, there are always victims. The scapegoats in this eugenic crusade were the children. In fact, it is likely that thousands of children passed through the doors of the Brookside Training School, branded with the stigma of mental defect and treated as the "waste products" they were perceived to be. One thing is certain: Nova Scotia must atone for the violence committed against these helpless children.
Disturbing still is the fact that by the time Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia had drawn up legislation to eradicate mental defectives from society, eugenics as a scientific doctrine had largely been discredited. By 1926, one of the main architects of the Nova Scotian eugenics movement, Ernest H. Blois, in a paper read before the Annual Conference of Children's Aid Societies drops the following bombshell:
[W]e were told once that most crimes, sexual immorality, especially among females, and evil in many forms were due largely to feeble-mindedness. This we now know to be untrue, but nevertheless, in dealing with these particular forms of vice and crime, feeble-mindedness is one, and in some cases a very large factor in a very complex problem.
Yet, he still argued for their incarceration. One of the conclusions from the 1926 Royal Commission included the incredible statement, "too little is known regarding the hereditary nature of feeble-mindedness". They, too, argued for confinement. How the eugenic argument survived without its main theoretical support remains a mystery.
A look at the historical facts from across the continent shows that eugenics left no territory untouched. It was perhaps a movement that seemed impeccable in its logic and unstoppable in momentum. After all was said and done, the victims paid the price and the "progressives" went on with their lives as if nothing had happened. 
Link to Full Article:
Link to Shunpiking Magazine featuring more articles on Eugenics in the May-June 2005 Issue. This Magazine is well worth perusing for interesting and well researched artiles: