Friday, 8 November 2013

Cultural frames and cultural property -- part two

Wikimedia Commons public domain image
The past of any given geographical area is like an artist's palette: each dab of colour on the palette can be combined with others to create any colour that could be imagined. The choice is up to the artist. With light waves, red, green and blue can be similarly combined, and in computer applications we can create 6.7 million colours -- more than the human eye can differentiate, from those same three colours. The dna molecule has only four components, and yet no two people have the same dna. Do you think that nature is trying to tell us something?

Animals with lower genetic variability have less survival potential. The African cheetahs are almost clones and are endangered, the largest population (about 2,500 individual) is in Namibia. The Asiatic subspecies is in even greater trouble -- only 50 to 60 individuals remaining in Iran (see here). Yet, we are living in an age where the current power-bases are stressing monopolies, monoculture and immediate gratification in all things. We are actually trying to become extinct as a species.

In cultural matters, the current power-base is UNESCO. If you have the stomach for it then read the online PDF: UNESCO its Purpose and its Philosophy, by Julian Huxley, 1946. Huxley was its first director. It starts out very positively does it not? Read on, or, if you are short of time then search the page for "eugenics" -- there are seven occurrences. Here's a gem:
It is, however, essential that eugenics should be brought entirely within the borders of science, for, as already indicated, in the not very remote future the problem of improving the average quality of human beings is likely to become urgent; and this can only be accomplished by applying the findings of a truly scientific eugenics.
That the above could have been published so soon after Hitler's goals of world domination and the creation of a Master Race were dashed, really boggles the mind. Everyone knows about the Holocaust, fewer know that the same treatment was given to the Romani. But the evil did not stop with eugenics -- anything that offended Hitler's personal vision also had to go, and that included intellectuals, homosexuals, swing dancing and modern art.

It was in 1971 that my friend Bryan and me set the ball rolling that put an end to eugenics here in Alberta. I wish I could tell you that our motives were noble, but that is a story that must wait for some other time. It was prior to the provincial election and we attended a public address by the leaders of each party. We came with a plan and a question. It seemed that Peter Lougheed would win the election. I noticed that he would answer all questions directly and head-on -- strange behavior for a politician, I thought. He was going to be my target. When it came to questions from the floor, I stood up and asked him if he had any plans to put an end to the compulsory sterilization of patients in mental hospitals in Alberta -- a fact that had been recently reported in the London Times.

He had been sitting with his hands clasped behind his head and the front legs of his chair were off the floor. He seemed to be very pleased with the proceedings so far, as well he should have. When he heard my question, the chair almost fell backwards. He regained his balance and told me, in a typically political manner, that it was something that he was definitely going to look into very thoroughly. Bryan was strategically positioned near the stage, and afterward told me that Peter had asked his research assistant if he knew anything about this sterilization business. The young man replied that he thought that "they were just locked up". Peter asked him for a report on the matter and gave him a week to complete it. We met Peter Lougheed afterward, and he invited us to an upcoming convention in Edmonton. We attended of course, and spent some time talking with his research assistant in their reception suite at the hotel after the event.

Peter Lougheed won the election, appointed the right people for the task and even helped one of the sterilization victims, himself. The rest is history. The victims received the largest compensation ever paid out in the Province of Alberta, and eugenics was ended here. I generally don't think much good of politicians, Peter Lougheed was one of the few exceptions.

On Monday, we will look at some other aspects of the UNESCO document.

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