Destiny of Crime

In this New English Review piece that we missed last month, Dalrymple examines the implications of the idea that crime is genetic and its ensuing prescription, eugenics:

Eugenics, I suspect, was in reality a symptom of a growing impatience of intellectuals with the intractability of the human condition, with the fact that that Man was irredeemably imperfect. And this impatience grew because of a decline in the religious understanding of life (it was no coincidence that Chesterton, who saw so easily through the pretensions of eugenics, should have been firmly Christian, while none of his opponents was). In the 1920s sterilization of the unfit would do for humanity what psychopharmacology is now supposed to do: render it happy because perfect.

10 thoughts on “Destiny of Crime

  1. Mary

    Hmmm.

    “socialists were at least as keen on eugenics as plutocrats”

    This is not much of an argument from Chesterton’s point of view, since in his eyes, one of the biggest problems with socialism was that it was practically identical with plutocracy: a tiny, tiny, tiny group of people concentrate all the wealth and power in their hands, and push about their fellow men like so many chess pieces on the board.

    Voting? Let me quote Chesterton on voting

    Detect some difference between the two persons in frock-coats placed before you at this election.

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    1. Jaxon

      So socialism according to Chesterton tends toward a zero-sum game?
      Seems to me that we need to consider absolute deprivation vs relative deprivation. It’s surely easier to understand one man’s gain as another man’s loss in the the context of a subsistence community, where the essentials of life – food, shelter and clothing, are a daily struggle to attain and maintain; where deprivation is supposedly considered ‘absolute’, a matter of life and death.

      In such a community perhaps people are more likely to be stoic, fatalistic, less prone to relative deprivation, social comparison.

      Adam Smith had a formulation of sorts:

      “Of the corruption of our moral sentiments, which is occasioned by this disposition to admire the rich and the great, and to despise or neglect persons of poor and mean condition”

      I don’t know about in Smith’s time but seems to me, these days, the rich inspire more contempt than admiration. Even celebrities often seem to be hated by the very same people who supposedly love them. I don’t know about you Mary but it seems too easy, a rather zero-sum mentality, to project this hate/envy onto a supposed tiny, tiny, tiny ‘plutocracy’, nay this is wrong headed.
      To quote Dalrymple, on Turgenev’s story Mumu. from TD’s essay How and How Not to Love Mankind

      “Nor does Turgenev believe that the people who are subject to the power of the landowner are, by virtue of their oppression, noble. They are scheming and conniving and sometimes thoughtlessly cruel, too. Their mockery of Gerasim is limited only by their fear of his physical strength, and they do not sympathize in the least with his predicament. When Gavrila, the landowner’s steward, goes at the head of a delegation of serfs to tell Gerasim that he must get rid of Mumu once and for all, he bangs on Gerasim’s door and shouts “’Open up!’ There came the sound of smothered barking; but no answer. ’I’m telling you to open up!’ he repeated.

      “’Gavrila Andreich,’ remarked Stepan from below, ’he’s deaf, he doesn’t hear.’ Everyone burst out laughing.”

      There is no compassion in their laughter, not then and not at any other time in the story. Cruelty is not the province only of the landowner…”

      Actually, I don’t think TD would appreciate this and I confess I know very little about Turgenev… I got the impression that not only was his mother something of an ogre (on whom the landowner in Mumu is based) but that his father could practically do no wrong. Why the hell did he marry this ‘ogre’? Oh I see, she was nice but turned bad? I highly doubt it, I think the bastard married her for status and wealth. I reckon she was a pretty unsound prospect from the beginning, the fact (if it is fact) that this ‘father’ used this wealth and status to seduce and commit adultery with the peasant girls seems like a pretty good way of bringing out her inner-ogre.

      My point. The ancient Greeks had different categories of love, agape has tended to be the one considered most integral to Christianity. Whereas Plato, most notably in the Symposium, uses Eros as an ideal love… I guess it kind of conflates with agape (hence ideal, Platonic) but the focus on Eros is important, not least because sexuality is so obviously fundamental in affluent nations, where it becomes deeply perverse. I’d say that whilst Eros should be nothing to be ashamed of, it should be a force for good, a gift, when it ceases to be this gift, this force for good, it ceases to be Eros. It undergoes an inversion… A perversion, we see it all around. This is when Eros becomes Pornos, hence why the statistics on Internet porn are so sobering and depressing.

      So forget about the supposed plutocracy… what about the Pornocracy? That’s far more ubiquitous and therefore impossible to reduce to a tiny, tiny, tiny minority who just happen to have got rich out of exploiting the general mass’s failure to put moral constraints on their libidos… to use their Eros wisely. I think the concept of original sin is important, and it’s right and no surprise that forbidden fruit is basically a metaphor for infidelity.

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  2. Mark Pilbeam

    If one accepts as axiomatic that no state or condition can be defined in the absence of its opposite, might it not be the case that “irredeemable imperfection” is essential to the purpose of life, and of reincarnation, which I believe is to learn unconditional love of all Creation?

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  3. Jaxon

    That the excluded middle is axiomatic? Does a state or condition necessarily have an opposite? What’s the opposite of coming back as a caterpillar, a butterfly?

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  4. Jaxon

    It’s not in the least surprising that society has a certain criteria that prospective parents are expected to meet in order to adopt a child.
    We expect them to live and really – whilst accepting that people can have lived unwisely and reformed themselves – for the most part to have lived a morally responsible life.
    And yet there is an increasing tendency for people to fly in the face of this… that is, it is on account of living in a manner that would make them the least suitable to be adoptive parents, the very kind of life that ultimately leaves them unsatisfied, opening up the very void that becomes the need and the ‘Right’ to fill with the reproduction of ‘Mini-Real-Me’s’ otherwise known as children, which coincides perfectly with the fact that sex (pornos) is on the the top of virtually every fool’s menu.
    I guess this is ugly thinking, the sort of thinking that gives rise to the eugenic impulse… I admit, I’ve certainly felt it and even feel it.

    When I came across so called ‘anti natalism’ on YouTube as much as it gave me a sense of disgust I recognised it instantly because I went a long way down that path back in the nineties – I’m much better now. We don’t, as far as I know, issue babies to thugs as part of a rehabilitation program, but of course there are I’d guess millions of wilful young women who are practically hell bent on pretty much doing just that.

    Elizabeth Bennett, in Pride and Prejudice, seems to acknowledge just such a wilful and therefore wrong desire to do something along these lines. That is, in a rather candid discussion with her aunt about the charming though deceitful George Wickham whom every girl fancies… Elizabeth more or less says ‘and after all, why not?’ Why shouldn’t I fancy him and, more to the point, encourage his attention?
    But she knows the answer only too well. She is no Lydia, and she knows that such wilful behaviour as Lydia’s is, or ought to be, rightfully frowned upon and stigmatised. It was the failure of most people around Lydia to do just that, that almost lead to disaster. This does beg the question of how to get the balance right between assuming moral agency, and therefore responsibility, of the individual and oppressive paternalism.

    I don’t think it takes much to discern and it is this very discernment that tells me that by far the greater part of society today is either capable of such discernment but too complicit in failing to exercise it (for obvious reasons) or they are increasingly like, but a lot worse than, Lydia (Mini-Real-Me’s) to really know where to begin.

    I am actually repulse by the thought of eugenics.

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  5. Jaxon

    Dalrymple discusses the idea of the ‘Real Me’ in The Knife Went In… I may have misappropriated it. The idea is that humans hi pave a tendency to hold dearly to an ‘intrinsic me’ untouched by original sin, hence ‘original virtue’. They give themselves licence to behave, well, licentiously, ascribing any failure of individual moral agency to external forces such as an unfairly organised society that, after all, is only the hypocritical product of a history of outrageous exploitation. All the while the pure essence of the ‘real me’ remains untouched, just waiting for the miraculous correction of all societal ill’s before it can emerge triumphantly from the oppression of discerning people like me, perhaps.
    Actually My ‘real me’ is anxiously awaiting that great day when I can finally overcome my untidy bedroom.
    Anyway, I’m supposing the ‘real me’ has a strong genetic component.

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  6. Jaxon

    I’ll just say it wasn’t so much disgust that anti-natalism (better never to have been) on youtube aroused in me, it was really more a sense of gloom.

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  7. Jaxon

    I know, I’m a bit of a pest, perhaps my last comment may have been marginally more on topic here. I’ve just found, again, a YouTube clip… I know journalists are probably somewhat obliged to ask fairly silly questions, as it were, for the benefit of the layman, but I, with my prejudice, can’t help but feel this interviewer is something of a parody of her sex http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=related&v=W2Fmt2FBctQ

    Fancy breezily saying of China, more or less, “we’ll what they going to do about it, they can’t just force us to cough up’. I don’t know, I’m not going to watch it again to see exactly what she said but that’s roughly how it came across to me. Whatever happened to honouring your contractual obligations? Obligations period… But on the international stage? I’m not sure how she meant it but I’d urge far greater circumspection on the matter, but then I suppose that’s the sought of killjoy sentiment that should have died out with Jane Austen.

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