In the movie Logan’s Run, a not so fantastic or well-acted and produced movie released in 1976, related some of the problems and attempted to blast holes in theories which approve of eugenics, especially those which call for the elderly to be terminated simply because of their age and the potential to no longer being able to contribute more to society than they cost. In Logan’s Run the age at which you were determined to be beyond your use-by-date was thirty, obviously chosen for the fact it was so ridiculous and possibly because that is also around the age where youth ends and the rest is a fight to avoid the decays caused by age. A recent article by Victor Davis Hanson at TownHall.com, “Old and In the Way?”, related about an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel argued that living to be seventy-five years old was long enough. I have decided to give Dr. Emanuel’s thoughts the nickname of Zeke’s Run because I can.
In the world of Zeke’s Run people do not necessarily have to report at age seventy-five to their nearest disintegration chamber or join that month’s Carousel celebration wearing their ceremonial white toga, because a black shroud would not have played as well cinematographically, and float up in the hopes of being regenerated and thus float back to the ground and live for another ten or so years before being called to Carousel by the stone in the palm of your hand turning black, but they would be encouraged to refuse any further life extending treatments including things as mundane as flu shots, I am unsure if Band-Aids would be permissible, as they had lived long enough. Dr. Emanuel, the brother of former Obama Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and chief architect of Obamacare, gave as the reason he will likely take such drastic actions when he attains age seventy-five was because, as he was quoted in the article, “I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, seventy-five is a pretty good age to aim to stop.” Where making such a decision for himself is absolutely fine, and possibly wonderful because who knows what other brilliant forms of eugenics he might discover past age seventy-five, he may watch the movie Logan’s Run and seek out the President of that era and demand that the national healthcare system he designed was flawed and that a celebratory event should be held for those upon their turning thirty called Carousel and show the sitting President the applicable portions of Logan’s Run leaving out the final and most poignant scenes at the end of the movie with aging star Peter Ustinov. The curiosity he generated in the inhabitants inside the City of Domes for whom living beyond thirty was unheard of, let alone living to the age which Peter Ustinov was made to appear, was evident in their initial apprehension and then almost celebratory joy they took in examining his peculiarities. Their fascination with the wrinkles on his face and the roughness of his hands amazed them and also blew apart the entire basis for their society as it proved that there was life beyond thirty and Carousel was a hoax perpetrated to keep people controlled. It also proved that life existed outside the domes, another controlling canard which kept order and obedience within their society. Read the book Logan’s Run as it takes little more time to read than it does to watch the movie.
Where if any physician were to decide that life beyond a particular age is beyond reasonable expectation and even should one reach such an age question the quality of life and decide for themselves to refuse any further medical treatments, such is their private choice, and I am sure somebody out there would be more than glad to point such out and chastise me for being so critical of Dr. Emanuel. Normally I might agree with such a position but Dr. Emanuel is no ordinary physician and he did not just decide for himself but made the choice public very likely to provoke a discussion of such as policy for everybody. How can I say such a thing? Well, Dr. Emanuel, as noted above, authored and designed much of what is now the healthcare system being incorporated in fits and starts in the United States, is very prominent in the political discussion of what exactly defines a useful, productive and valued life and in defining when a life no longer contributed to the society and thus should be denied medical care beyond the most benign care. He gives speeches and lectures in which he supports eugenics, though I doubt he uses the term as it has such a distasteful reputation for those old enough to remember the eugenics programs started and supported by Dr. Margaret Higgins Sanger, the founder of the organization known today as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and supporter of eugenics programs that were particular to birth control and the aborting of those in society which she claimed were genetically or genealogically inferior, and where such misguided ideas which held the worth of human life to be measurable by criteria which regarded some groups of people as being less worthy than others and thus society would gain by their eradication. Her ideas were well received by many intellectuals in Europe and particularly by one Austrian corporal who rose to prominence after World War I. Dr. Emanuel is very prominent and holds influence in circles in which policies are made and to have a physician who supports eugenics of any nature near the levers of power should frighten any sane individual.
Eugenics came into prominence towards the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century and is often credited with the efforts and writings of Francis Galton, the half-cousin Charles Darwin who wrote extensively on genetics most famously in “Origin of the Species.” There were three gatherings known as International Eugenics Conferences which presented a global venue for eugenics theories which were held the first in 1912 in London and next two in 1921 and 1932 in New York. Eugenics found particular favor in the United States where it was supported by many famous, well known and recognized individuals even outside of the medical fields such as Charles Lindbergh and Carl Sandburg, among others. The study of eugenics received extensive funding from almost every research and other funding institutions, societies and funding groups including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institute, Harriman railroad fortune as well as John Kellogg who once commented, “As a child I had a dream, a marvelous dream, in which I saw a wild place in the country. Dirty children were pouring down the road. The dream gave me the idea for my lifework…the Sanitarium. Everything here has behind it one ideal: biological living to improve the American race.” Fortunately for many who would have met with the wrong end of any eugenics programs, the horrors of Nazi eugenics programs in which initially the insane were sterilized and the infirm were euthanized and later homosexuals were also euthanized and eventually Roma and Jews were mass euthanized in the concentration camps, eugenics fell out of favor and any idea that mankind could engineer a better, stronger and more perfect human race than trusting such things to G0d and chance lost its appeal, apparently only temporarily.
Fortunately there have been a number of articles expressing righteous indignation and inexorable horror at the comments by Dr. Emanuel, but I fear that those of us who felt the stark terror that such an idea should engender are few and older and soon to no longer be heard from, especially if Dr. Emanuel’s concepts should bring eugenics and its evils back to prominence. Part of the reason that the time is approaching where eugenics will make its return into polite society and once again become the recommended panacea for all the ills of society is that nothing once thought ever completely dies off and no matter how evil it may have been proven, in time that stigma is removed by the fog of time and forgotten lessons. It is another axiom of Santayana’s famous admonition which states that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
What many might find strange is that there is a story in the Old Testament which could be interpreted to be a warning to beware of those claiming they have a path to perfection if only their idea were applied. It is actually from commentaries on the Torah and the story of the Tower of Babel comparing some of the concepts from that story with the commandment that only unhewn stone when construct in altar to make a sacrifice to the L0rd. The story of the Tower of Babel does not begin with the words; Let us build a tower to the heavens so we can see G0d. The opening command is, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” Rather than continue tediously, let us jump straight to how this applies to eugenics, in my humble opinion (or for those who love texting, IMHO) the Tower of Babel condemned in its way the sins which come from building with bricks where every brick is perfect and constructed to be as solid and perfect a building material possible. Meanwhile, the unhewn stones demanded by G0d for the construction of altars used to sacrifice acceptable by the L0rd are each one difference and completely unique. Where bricks fit together perfectly and in only one manner while unhewn stones may fit together giving more stability in one arrangement over another, there are likely many multiple ways that any group of unhewn stones can be erected in making said altar. Thus, the commentary explains, we are to love all because they are different and not seek uniformity as such pursuit will cheat us of the wonders and beautiful precious things which often come from unexpected places and are only possible by allowing everything to play out as G0d has planned. Further, where bricks can be perfected and are the result of planned and ordered steps laid out in a specific order from particular elements carefully chosen and always the same thus they are produced by a set combination controlled by man and chosen for their purpose by man. Stones, on the other hand, come in varying sizes, shapes and internal materials and are constructed by measures beyond the control of man from different sources, each one producing stones best used for different purposes. Where bricks may be best for the designs of man and make things easier to control and have a basic and consistent manner in their manufacture, much like eugenics has its specific formula for producing offspring which the eugenicists claim will be superior and produce a more homogeneous and superior offspring of human beings. Allowing people freedom to marry and have children in the random and uncontrolled manner of a totally free society, without eugenics pairing people for genetically suspected superior offspring, their offspring will be like the unhewn stones, each one different and constructed with unique genetic combination producing random qualities and abilities and sometimes very unexpected results which the eugenicists would be unable to predict and unlikely to have ever been permitted under the control of the eugenicists.
Still, the greatest evil comes when a single question is considered, who gets to decide who may and who may not be permitted to reproduce, who should be forced to marry in order to produce the most desirable results, and in the worst case scenarios, who should be permitted to live and who must be removed from the gene pool. Such decisions could reasonably be considered trying to be a god with the powers of life and death over future generations by controlling the genetic matches in the present. The most simple and straight forward way to depict the evils of eugenics would be to ask yourself a simple pair of questions. First, how many people do you know who would pass the eugenics test of perfection and be allowed to have children for the good of society. Second, how many people do you know whose parents would have been chosen to be permitted to have offspring in order to improve society. I have met some impressive people with off the scale intelligence or physical abilities and met very few whose parents or children would meet the criteria put forth by the eugenicists. May people like Dr. Emanuel not become the arbiters of our futures as their ideas of what constitutes a worthwhile life frighten me to the core and should everybody. Eventually we will all, G0d willing, reach an age where the prevailing opinion of the medical profession will assume that we would require far greater expense on efforts to sustain our lives than we could ever give back to the society as a whole. Those people making these decisions will not be asking your children, grandchildren or, if you are blessed, great-grandchildren if they want the patriarch or matriarch of the family euthanized so there will be more stuff available for them. They probably would not even be old enough to understand that by enough they are talking about food, air, medical provisions and whatever else they care to measure as an undue expense to waste of old geezers and would just find it horrific that somebody wanted to rob them of sharing their next birthday party with Nana or Gumpa and that is all they would really care about after all. Who’s to say that their scale for measuring importance is any more or less valid than that of the eugenicists such as Dr. Emanuel? My vote is with my darling granddaughter and newborn grandson and I trust them far more than any supposed authority, especially if they are advising some red ribbon government panel who get to decide what age we should stop allowing people access to medical treatments beyond the least expensive and which consume the most minimal amount of any physician or other healthcare professional’s time. Oh, wait, Dr. Emanuel already got to make those very recommendations when the initial stages of the Affordable Care Act were first crafted, didn’t he.
Beyond the Cusp