Sweden Continued Eugenics Policy Until 1976

By Steve James, From wsws.org, March 19, 1999

most perfect baby

The "most perfect baby" in the Panama Canal Zone adjudged by the Eugenics Society of America. Truman State University

Social Democrats Implemented Measures To Forcibly Sterilize 62,000 People

For over 40 years, young socially marginalised working class women in Sweden faced the danger of forced sterilization. This was carried out under laws intended to purify the Swedish race, prevent the mentally ill from reproducing and stamp out social activities classed as deviant. The last sterilization took place in 1975.

Between 1934 and 1976, when the sterilization Act was finally repealed, 62,000 people, 90 percent of them women, were sterilized. 15-year-old teenagers were sterilized for "crimes" such as going to dance halls. One woman was sterilized in 1960 for being in a motorcycle gang. Orphans were sterilized as a condition of their release from children's homes. Others were pinpointed on the basis of local neighbourhood gossip and personal grudges. Some were targeted because of their "low intelligence", being of mixed race, being gypsies, or for physical defects.

The issue has assumed the character of a national scandal, although similar revelations have emerged in other countries including neighbouring Norway, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and the United States. Per head of population, however, only Nazi Germany sterilized more people than Sweden. How could such a programme be sustained in a country famed during the post-war epoch for its apparently enlightened social policy?

The Swedish Institute for Racial Biology was opened in Stockholm in the early 1920s. It emerged as part of a worldwide interest in eugenics--the notion that human stock could be improved by selective breeding, much like cattle. From the start, the Swedish institute was fascinated with the notions of racial purity, which were to be made notorious by the Nazis. The Swedish institute invited German speakers on Aryanism.

The sterilization Act was passed in 1935, under the government of the Swedish social democratic party (SAP). The Act shortly preceded the founding of the so-called "Swedish model" of welfare capitalism, based on a vision of national unity between large corporations and workers. The concept of the "people's home" (folkhemmet) accompanied a close corporatist relationship between the Swedish employers' federation and the major trade union federations. This was promoted by the trade unions, and the SAP, as an alternative to the bitter class struggles that had raged across Scandinavia since the turn of the century, and as a barrier to social revolution.

The relationship was formulated in the town of Saltzjoben, and the "spirit of Saltzjoben" was invoked on many occasions to anoint new agreements between the trade unions and big business. Yet, in the basement of the "people's home", social policies promoted by the Nazis were maintained by the social democrats. The sterilization Act was directed against the most oppressed and vulnerable, those without any legal or political voice. In the 1930s and 40s the victims were also those who simply failed to fit the racist stereotype deemed acceptable in order to ensure full membership in Swedish society.

the black stork

The Black Stork photoplay ad from Motography, April 14, 1917

Files recently released from the Swedish National Archives make clear that from the 1950s, after the Institute for Racial Biology was wound up, sterilization continued based on an agenda to promote social conformity. Those targeted were misfits and rebellious young people. The young woman who hung around with a motorcycle gang was described as being "without good judgement", with "no concept of ethics". Her doctors were, in addition, sure she was sexually active, and so she was sterilized.

People deemed likely to burden the state with the cost of child allowance payments were also targeted. When the new benefit was introduced in the 1950s, the rate of sterilizations doubled. In some cases, sterilization was also made a condition of obtaining an abortion.

In 1997, the Irish Times, quoting the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, reported on the work of Maija Runcis, a doctoral student who spent eight years researching 5,000 case files. The files brought out the horrible detail of a process reminiscent of a witch trial.

"Each file starts with a form applying for permission to have the person sterilized. This could come from a relative, social worker, teacher, politician or even a neighbour. 'These people would have the application forms in their possession, fill them in and send them to the Medical Board,' said Ms Runcis. There would also be a doctor's report and often results of intelligence tests. 'They would ask questions like: name the King of Sweden, what is the population of some city and where in the country is another city? They were ridiculous questions. I can't answer some of them.' The medical board, in Stockholm, would assess the applications. A single official, invariably a man, would finally sanction the operation. 'They made about 20 decisions a day.' The most disturbing cases Ms Runcis found were those of the teenagers, some as young as 15, who accepted sterilizations in return for a release from a children's home or special school. 'It was a form of blackmail and these people didn't have any choice,' she says."

The Swedish press took up Ms Runcis's reports and the government was forced to concede a commission of inquiry. Since its inception in 1997 the commission has received 200 calls a month from victims of the state sterilization programme.

The commission reported in January this year and recommended that victims should be financially compensated. Earlier this month the Swedish Social Affairs Department, run by the same party that introduced the 1935 act, announced that victims would be offered a miserly $21,000, if they had not "consented" to the sterilization operation, and if they themselves applied for compensation.

Stereotypes About People With Disabilities

By Laurie Block, From Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project, 1998

On The Image Of Disability

The life that a person with a disabling condition can look forward to today is very often, though certainly not always, radically different from what it might have been just 20 years ago. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 extended to people with disabilities the civil-rights protections which have been extended to blacks, women, and minorities. It opens a broad front of new possibilities for people with disabilities, although--like other major civil rights legislative initiatives--it will take many years for the consequences to reveal themselves.

And yet when someone learns today that she will have a disability or a condition understood as disabling, when a parent-to-be learns that his child will have a physical or cognitive impairment, when television reports that a public figure has become disabled, certain specters are likely to arise--emotionally freighted, irrational, even mutually contradictory--of what the life of a person with a disability must be like.

Stereotypes And Constructions

Until recently, attitudes toward individuals and groups, embodied in popular culture images, would have been called stereotypes. This word suggests that the image or the attitude is unconsidered, naive, the by product of ignorance or unfamiliarity. Stereotypes are also by definition unchanging; when a stereotype has been exposed as inadequate or false to experience, it can be transcended and left behind. The "myths of disability" which we bring to encounters with physical and mental difference are beyond stereotypes. Such deep-rooted conceptions are what sociologists now call constructions.

Popular culture images both reflect and affect attitudes. Representations of disability will often reflect contemporaneous ideas in medicine, science, religion, or social management, but those ideas may themselves be affected by the assumptions inherent in popular images and fictional narratives. A film story of a courageous doctor helping a lame child to walk might reflect current medical approaches to disability; the film story broadcasts those attitudes and helps to impress them on families, care-givers, and people with disabilities as well as the general public. But doctors were also themselves seeing such stories; they formed part of the evidence by which doctors determined their own status and the status of their patients with disabilities.

Six common constructions, or ways of understanding and picturing disability, have been widely shared by medical professionals, educators, public health workers, blue and white collar workers, novelists, publicists, philanthropists, and by many of those who themselves have disabilities. They have been chosen for examination in Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project because they have been powerful organizers of experience for many people over long periods.

They are polar pairs, each pair expressing the same assumptions in negative and positive modes. They are rarely found in a pure iconic state. Even mutually contradictory conceptions often overlap, or appear combined in the same historical or fictional figure, creating ambiguous but powerful images that haunt the culture for decades.

Like myth and folklore (of which they are partly made) these constructions undergo transformations. They transcend geographical boundaries. They persist across generations. They go underground, and reappear, unacknowledged, in apparently rational and value-free analyses and plans. They still have power today to alter and affect the lives of individuals with disabilities as well as the lives of their family members and care providers.

People with disabilities themselves have at various times used and resisted the categories they were placed in for their own empowerment: to make, insofar as they could, their own way and their own lives.

  1. People with disabilities are different from fully human people; they are partial or limited people, in an "other" and lesser category. As easily identifiable "others" they become metaphors for the experience of alienation.
  2. The successful "handicapped" person is superhuman, triumphing over adversity in a way which serves as an example to others; the impairment gives disabled persons a chance to exhibit virtues they didn't know they had, and teach the rest of us patience and courage.
  3. The burden of disability is unending; life with a disabled person is a life of constant sorrow, and the able-bodied stand under a continual obligation to help them. People with disabilities and their families--the "noble sacrificers"--are the most perfect objects of charity; their function is to inspire benevolence in others, to awaken feelings of kindness and generosity.
  4. A disability is a sickness, something to be fixed, an abnormality to be corrected or cured. Tragic disabilities are those with no possibility of cure, or where attempts at cure fail.
  5. People with disabilities are a menace to others, to themselves, to society. This is especially true of people with mental disability. People with disabilities are consumed by an incessant, inevitable rage and anger at their loss and at those who are not disabled. Those with mental disabilities lack the moral sense that would restrain them from hurting others or themselves.
  6. People with disabilities, especially cognitive impairments, are holy innocents endowed with special grace, with the function of inspiring others to value life. The person with a disability will be compensated for his/her lack by greater abilities and strengths in other areas--abilities that are sometimes beyond the ordinary.

These pictures of disability are not mistaken in any simple way; in fact each of them contains kernels of experiential truth about encounters between the able-bodied and those with disabilities. But when tacit theories and assumptions such as these underlie public policy and social relations, they tend to limit the full humanity of those who are affected by them.

Clean, Modern And Reasonable

Interview From Cutting Edge Voices, By Michael Foster

martha davis

For Martha Davis, the most important thing has always been the songs she writes. Martha began writing songs at the age of 15. Born and raised in Berkeley, CA., she moved to Los Angeles in the early '70s, along with the first incarnation of The Motels. The band reformed in 1978 and was immediately signed to Capitol in 1979.

The Motels recorded six records for Capitol. Their self titled debut was greeted with positive critical reviews in 1979, and exploded in Australia on the strength of the #2 Pop single, "Total Control" (which was later covered by Tina Turner for the We Are The World album). In 1981 their sophomore effort, Careful, went Top 50. Then, in 1982, the Motels released All Four One and the smash single "Only The Lonely" rocketed into the Top 10, immediately propelled the album to gold status and truly broke The Motels in the United States. The group dominated the music scene and was voted Best Performance for "Only The Lonely" at the 1982 American Music Awards.

1983's Little Robbers album went gold on the Top 10 single "Suddenly Last Summer" and the second Top 40 hit "Remember The Nights." In 1985 the Shock album yielded the Top 20 hit, "Shame", and 1987 saw the release of Martha's first solo effort, Policy. In 1988, Martha took a sabbatical from the music scene. Prompting the question "Where have you been?" Looking for my sense of humor she says "I seemed to have lost it somewhere around 1984. It's not a business that one should be in without a sense of humor." Though constantly writing, Martha left center stage to work on various collaborations with artists including Ivan Neville, Arthur Barrow (Frank Zappa), Jeff Daniel, Kiki Dee, Richard Feldman, written songs for a new musical for the Civic Light Opera, and a new musical of her own entitled Rebecca, and is now involved in producing a children's music project. Additionally, Martha is back on the scene with her newly formed band and plays regularly to packed houses.

When you look back at the beginning of your interest in music what do you remember as a deciding factor that motivated you to become a singer/songwriter/musician?

I began playing guitar when I was eight. I would sit in my room and make up little melodies for hours. My guitar always provided safe haven when anything bothered me. At fifteen I had my first child and moved to Tampa Florida to become an Air Force wife. It was there, in our very small house, very far from home, I wrote my first songs. But the deciding factor in my decision to attempt music professionally, was probably my moms suicide. After her death I found her diary. I read of her desire to be a writer. How she abandoned her art to be a proper wife and mother. How she ended up alone and heartbroken, and how sad her life was. I realised that even though I was mother of two and doing music was about as crazy an idea as I could come up with, if I didn't try, there was a possibility things could be worse. She was responsible for me doing music, it's the great gift that she left me. The album I released last year titled "A Beautiful Life" (a slight miscalculation) is for her.

How was it that you learned to play? Formal training or self taught and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each one?

I was taught my first guitar cords A, E, and D, by my baby sitter Thelton Henderson, (check wikipedia, there is also a great documentary about him called Soul of Justice). I learned the chords he taught me and how to put them together to make songs. The first song we played together was "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley" From that point on I taught myself. There are pros and cons to formal vs self taught methods. I'm kind of sad that I can't read music. But sadder than that is a brilliant player who can read anything placed in front of them, and yet not be able to improvise a note.

How did you go about distinguishing yourself from all the other artists out there who also wanted to be successful with their music? In other words how did you go about creating a sound that eventually could be identified as the "Martha Davis" sound?

More than any thing I think writing creates character and distinguishes an artist. I think the uniqueness of an artist is not just vocal styling but story. I have always loved singer/songwriters, I guess I'm just a sucker for that first hand information.

Tell me about some of your first gigs and what you learned about performing in front of a live audience. Was it something that you enjoyed?

My very first was probably the best. Halloween night, San Francisco 1971. I was scared shitless. did not want to go on. Then about 30 seconds before we were supposed to go on I snapped, changed into someone else... We went on, I started stalking the stage, staring into peoples eyes, (something I could not do in real life), dropping down on my knees, acting completely crazy. Being on stage unleashed the beast, and I loved it! Also there was a naked man painted blue dancing in front of me.

Where did the idea of forming a band come from and how did you go about doing that?

I did not form the original band. The band was pretty much together, they only needed a singer. The bass player, my friend Lisa calls me and says, "you say you want to do music, well I got a band and we have a gig in three days!" ( Halloween 1971)

The Warfield Foxes became the Motels somewhere along the line so what was it precipitated this name change and why call the group The Motels?

The "Warfield Foxes" moved to L.A. in 1975, the name was changed to the "Angels of Mercy". I didn't much care for the name and started griping. We were on our way to our first gig at Barney's Beanery. We were driving down Santa Monica Blvd where all the old motels used to be. As I was complaining Dean Chamberlain looks up at the signage and says " What about the Motels?" The rest is the rest.

the motels capitol records promo photo

The Motels, Photo by Jeffrey Scales, 1979

The Motels have been through quite a few incarnations over the years. I'm not sure all of the readers will have been familiar with all of them so could you give us a capsule view of the changes up to your current working group? Why all of the changes over the years?

I probably could not give you the line up changes for my entire career. During the Capitol years it was mostly guitar players. First Jeff Jourard then Tim MC Govern then Guy Perry. In the nineties there were so many changes I don't remember them all. Bottom line having a great line up is not easy. there are many factors. 1. musicianship 2. personality 3. reliability 4. availability and many other subtler factors. I am pleased to say I now have a great lineup in L.A. Eric Gardner on drums, Clint Walsh on guitar, Nick Johns on keys, and Jon Siebels on bass. I am also working on a North West line up... never enough!

As a woman in the music business what kinds of additional challenges did you face that were not faced by your male counterparts? How did you deal with this inequity then and possibly now?

I really do not feel like I suffered from being female, not in the music business anyway. I am a firm believer that if your art is good your gender does not matter. Now days I think ageism is more of a problem. A lot of artists will improve with age, yet the media seems fixated on the belly button of the young.

The Motels were the beneficiaries of the video generation and of the push that MTV used to be able to give to artists looking to get the maximum exposure for their music. Some musicians didn't care for videos because it locked the song into a single visual interpretation. How do you feel about the videos that helped to bring the Motels' music into the spotlight?

I really loved making videos, and worked with some of the best, Russell Mulcahey and David Fincher, among others. It is true that videos have that arguable quality of 'fixing images', not allowing the imagination full rein over the music. It's very much like the book vs the movie syndrome.... but I do miss the old days when you could actually watch videos on MTV.

Do you think that with the advent of YouTube, MySpace pages and the Internet in general that videos are still a powerful tool in your promotional arsenal? Are you intimately involved with creation the look and feel of your videos or does that fall into the hands of the video director? If the director determines the course of the video how does that work out between the two of you so you are involved as well?

I am currently not making any videos, but there will most likely be some blogging going on. I was always very involved with the videos,sometimes even storyboarding them. It was great collaborating with the directors, especially David and Russell.

I know that as artists get older they want to keep their original fans but they still want to appeal to the younger listeners as well. How is it that you create the next generation of Martha Davis fans? How is it that you tune into the vibes of the next generation so that your music will appeal to them as well?

You have just asked the million dollar question! I try to surround myself with younger people, from band, to behind the scenes people, engineer, assistant etc. I've always felt more comfortable with the 'new generation' probably because I refuse to grow up! The other means to a new audience is through film and television which I'm also working on. Bottom line I think your stuff has to be cool!

I know sometimes fans lose track of a group over the years when they are not getting the same amount of publicity that they used to get but that doesn't mean you as an artist have quit playing music. Over the last few years The Motels have reappeared in a large way. Tell me about what The Motels have been up to recently and the several new CD's that have come out.

I have been working my ass off, both with Motels and without. In 2007 I recorded three new albums "Beautiful Life", "This", and "Clean, Modern, and Reasonable".I also scored a pilot for a TV show with my engineer and co/producer Matthew Morgan. We were on a reality show "High School Reunion" Shot in Hawaii for a day. I made two trips to Australia, one week for promo, and a month long tour, with a bunch of domestic gigs as well. 2008 has been even crazier, but in a different way. Lots of gigs, collaborations, (look for a new artist, Kennon Bell, we have a sweet collaboration.) I have also taken over managing myself and am in the process of starting an artist resort, studio, bed and breakfast crazy thing called, KeeperTown. Plus other projects new and old that I'm trying to finish.

Has your music evolved over the years from what it used to be when you released Only the Lonely to what you are playing now?

Yes I think my music has matured, but in a way that makes it fresher, if that makes any sense.

Do you miss the fame that went along with your hits back in the 80's?

Not at all!! It's my least favorite part of the business.

Tell me about the current personnel lineup of The Motels and how you came together?

It started when my ex and I went to see Wayne Kramer. He had this awesome drummer, Eric Gardner, my ex who was also my manager at the time says,"you've got to play with that guy". So Eric became my drummer. Next we needed a bass player. We asked this one guy but he couldn't do it so he sent his friend Clint Walsh. He was a cool bass player, but a better guitar player (his real instrument) so he went to guitar and we still needed a bass player. Enter Nick Johns. Nick is also a great bass player, but an amazing keyboard player, so Nick went to keyboards, (his main instrument), and we still needed a bass player! Along comes Jon Seibels, a great bass player, as well as guitar, drums you name it. The fact of the matter is these guys can all play everything, and play it all very well! The funniest part is , the one guy who didn't join as a bass player Eric, the drummer is becoming quite a good bass player... go figure.

Comparing what you are writing now with The Motels with what you wrote back in the 80's what kinds of differences in subject matter do you see yourself covering?

I think the subject matter is pretty much the same, the thing that is different is that I freed my muse. In the old days I pretty much wrote Motels songs, but somewhere in the 90's I decided to branch out. Country, Jazz, Children's songs, Musicals, Not a lot has been published yet, but at some point I'm sure it will.

Have your fans from the 80's followed your music into 2008? Who are you seeing "finding" The Motels in terms of current fans here in 2008?

Definitely the die hard fans have never gone anywhere. That said, I am currently trying to expand the fan base to a younger demographic. At the shows we've been playing the new music has been going over great with new and old fans alike.

Are you happy with where you are at with The Motels right now in terms of your music and your career?

Couldn't be happier!

It's a brave new world for artists in 2008 compared to the 80's. How do you use the Internet to keep in touch with your fans, distribute your music and promote it?

We're putting together a vast inter network of fantastic new technology... just kidding I just started emailing this year. I'm doing my best to join the rest of the planet, but that's always been difficult for me.

I'm about your age so I have seen the drastic shift that has taken place in the music industry in the last 25 or 30 years. Do you think that the major labels are going to survive this transition to new forms of distribution or have they seen their better days? Why?

I think it may be over for the record labels. There are already new label less record deals starting to emerge. It's possible some of the old majors could figure it out, I'm just not sure they'll do it in time. Sadly the record labels you and I knew have been gone a long time.

Any thoughts as to where you'd like to see your music go in the next few years?

I would just like to see it out there in any shape or form. Film and television would be great. A nice IPod commercial would do wonders to support my thrift store habit.

With Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney still going strong do you see yourself playing your music until you are unable to pick up your guitar anymore?

On stage or not I will continue to do music... I can't not!

And finally is there anything else you'd like to say to your fans who have stuck with you throughout the years?

Thank you all for your support over the years. I'm excited about the future. There will be lots of new projects, plenty of new music, and if we're real lucky a brand new Democratic administration and filibuster proof congress... Amen

Thanks Martha for taking the time to talk to us here at Cutting Edge Voices and it is nice to see that some artists continue doing what they love to do when others have abandoned the path and gone on to sell insurance or something. Good luck for as long as you decide to sing your songs.

Cannot Versus Can Not

By Alex O'Neal

dancing in virginia by carol rowan

Dancing In Virginia by Carol Rowan

There is a grammatical misunderstanding common to many U.S. Americans, largely because we learned about grammar in the either/or terms of right vs. wrong. Here's the misunderstanding: can not or cannot? My public school teachers said can not was the correct form, and that cannot was a corruption. A friend of mine from a previous generation was taught the opposite. Her son, much better at using the language than either of us, said both were right, but usage depended on context.

Here's the explanation: If I can not do something, then I can also do it. I can not write these words if I choose (and you may think I shouldn't), but I also can, and am, writing them. What I cannot do is know who will read them, or what they will think. I can imagine such things, but I'm limited by my experience and perceptions. So this is the rule: if you either could or could not do something, then you use two words, because you can leave out the second word if you so choose. If you could not do something no matter how much you desired or tried, then you use one word, cannot. There is no other option.

Sometimes both are true. Witness:

I cannot change the world.
I can not change the world.

It's true, I cannot change the world. What I mean, and what many mean when they say or think this to themselves, is that the world's problems are too big for any one person, or group of people, to take on. Poverty, sickness, hatred, love, weather, earthquakes, political and religious differences—these are inevitable conditions. Even Jesus said, "the poor you will have with you always," and, "Let the dead bury the dead."

It's also true that I can change the world. I, and every other person on the planet, can make a difference. We can give to the poor, and try to cure ourselves of the sickness of wealth (more on that later). We can be courteous, we can provide emotional (listening) or physical (assisting) or financial (donating) help to others, we can feed and help and forgive each other. (More about forgiveness later, too.) We can take in an abandoned dog or cat and give it love. We can plant a garden. We can put in a day's work and know we earned our pay, and someone, hopefully, was the better for it. We can not cut off someone in traffic. We can dedicate our lives to healing. We can dedicate our lives to loving our family and community. We can respect the differences of others. In other words, what we can do, we can do.

Grammar is the tool we use to communicate and should be taught as such. Our bodies, our minds, and our voices are the tools we have to interact with our universe. We must use them while we live; we cannot evade using them except through death or dire injury. In this sense we cannot not change the world. And now, while the world suffers on every level, from the sky to the deeps of the sea, from humans to tiny coral polyps, we can make what time we have count.

Don't berate yourself for previous behavior. Don't congratulate yourself, either. Just take the next opportunity to make a difference to the next person, and help make what we cannot change bearable.

Population: A Look To The Future

By Charltom Ogburn, From As We Live And Breathe: The Challenge Of Our Environment, 1971

a 6½-week-old human embryo

A 6½-week-old human embryo - In the world today, four births occur every second. Photo by Lennart Nilsson, Life Magazine © Time Inc.

"If you had to predict what the population of the United States would be in the year 2000, knowing that a bolt of lightning would strike you if you missed by more than five million, what would you say?"

The slightly built, gray-haired man sitting across the cafeteria table from me smiled at my question. "I believe I would just go ahead and drop dead," he replied.

A topflight demographer, Conrad Taeuber was reflecting the caution of his profession. He is associate director of an institution so proficient at amassing and digesting information about population that countries all over the world sends specialists to study its methods. For I was visiting the United States Bureau of the Census.

My question had been prompted by four varying projections Dr. Taeuber had given me showing the probable population growth in the United States for the years ahead. Each estimate assumed a different number of children born per female.

"You'll notice," he said, "that the most conservative projections shows a population of somewhat over 266 million by the year 2000. I think that's low. The second indicates more than 280 million - and that, I think, may be fairly close (The population of the U.S. on April 1, 2000 was 281,421,906). The next one projects a population of more than 300 million, and the highest, more than 320 million."

The famous clock in the Department of Commerce illustrates how our population is growing. A light below the clock flashes once every 8.5 seconds, signaling a birth. Another registers a death every 16.5 seconds. Two others indicate an immigrant every 71 seconds and an emigrant every 23 minutes.

A meter resembling the odometer of an automobile balances these figures and records the current population estimate. By August 1971, the total had reached 207.8 million - just about twice that at the end of World War I.

Although the figure is increasing all the time, this does not mean that American woman are having more children; in fact, they are having fewer. But the number of births continues to grow because there are more American women than ever to bear children.

The Census Bureau seemed a logical place to begin to find out what our expanding population may have in store for us. I also would have to look beyond our borders-for mankind as a whole, now numbering 3.7 billion, is multiplying at a rate twice our own.

Like most parents, I wonder anxiously about what kind of world my children will live in when they are adults. They are in high school and at the turn of the century will still be younger than I am now. What has the future in store for them? Three-dimensional television, commercial rocket ships, immunity to cancer, mechanical hearts? But will they find clean air and water? And will they have those intangible rewards that have made life worth living for most of my generation?

If I took my daughters to the Long Island shore or the New Jersey march, once happy hiking grounds for my boyhood bird club, we'd find the first occupied by apartment houses, the other by a smoldering dump. The ospreys I used to see sailing northward with the spring thaw, the bald eagles riding the ice cakes on the Hudson - they are going, or are all but gone, from the whole country.

From other regions of the globe come more grievous calls of distress - reports of ill-fed, unemployed, or underemployed millions in festering slums. If my daughters ignore or isolate themselves from the hunger and poverty elsewhere, they will be guilty of the logic described by Paul R. Ehrlich, professor of biology at Stanford University: To consider the population explosion and the attendant threat of starvation solely as a problem of the underdeveloped world is like saying to a fellow passenger, "Your end of the boat is sinking."

I once studied a zoology textbook published in 1943 that predicted the world population would stabilize around A.D. 2100 with some 2,645,000,000 people. We reached that number 17 years ago.

What on earth has happened?

Robert C. Cook, former president of the Population Reference Bureau, told me that question had been posed to him many times. "To understand," he said, "you have to go back to shortly before 1800, when an English physician, Edward Jenner, discovered a vaccine for smallpox. Deaths from smallpox in London fell almost overnight from more than 2,000 a year to about 600.

"Until that time a fourth of the babies usually died within a year of their birth within a year of their birth. Half or fewer reached maturity. Disease and famine sometimes wipe out a quarter of a country's inhabitants in a single year. But after Jenner, a wave of discoveries in medicine, sanitation, and agriculture gradually helped to bring major diseases under control and to an extend the average life span. Women once had to bear six to eight children just to maintain the population. When the same high birth rate continued as the death rate declined, the population swiftly increased."

Mr. Cook, a wiry, youthful septuagenarian, tuned to statistics to emphasize what happened. "It took nearly 700 years - from 1086 to 175 - for the population of england and Wales to increase from 1 million to 7.5 million, but between 1750 and 1901 it jumped from 7.5 million to 30.5 million.

"Still, that quadrupling took some 150 years. As more of their children survive, the Europeans began to realize that they did not need so many offspring to replace themselves. They responded spontaneously, and had fewer children. By 1925 much of the Western World was approaching a near balance between birth and deaths. Moreover, Europe had a safety valve during this adjustment period in the vast unsettled lands in the Americas and elsewhere, and more than 60 million people emigrated to these regions from crowded cities and impoverished farms.

"In Latin America, Asia, and Africa, especially after World War II, the campaigns against malaria and other dread diseases caused the death rate to plummet. In Ceylon, for instance, it decreased by 50 percent in less than a decade - a feat that had taken the United States the first half of this century to accomplish. But in most of the developing nations, women have kept on bearing just as many children as before."

population chart depicting rise in world population

Geometric Progression

What this means in population growth is illustrated by a Middle Eastern legend. A minister of the king's court invented the game of chess for his monarch's pleasure, so the story goes, and the king sought to reward him. The clever minister appeared to want but little. "Just give me one grain of wheat for the first square," he said, "two for the next, four for the next, eight for the next, and so on, doubling with each of the 64 squares of the board."

The king quickly assented, for it seemed such a modest proposal. But he soon found that he could not fulfill his pledge - even with all the wheat in his realm.

In many countries human beings today are multiplying by that same geometric progression, doubling every generation.

For millenniums the birth rate and death rate maintained a near equilibrium, and the population grew, but slowly. It took centuries - from the early years of the Christian Era to the founding of Jamestown - for the world population of some 250,000,000 to double.

But by 1850 the population again had doubled, to more than a billion. And by 1950 it had doubled once more, to two billion. on a global scale the doubling period will be down to an estimated 35 years by 1975.

But won't birth rates in developing nations drop as they did in countries like ours?

I carried this question to New york and to the Rockefeller Foundation, which has sponsored programs of public health in needy countries for half a century.

Said Dr. John Maier, associate director of the foundation's program that supports family planning in more than 20 countries:

"In places with populations of hundreds of millions, increasing by 2 to 3 percent a year, we haven't got a hundred years to slow the birth rate. In most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America a spiraling population largely cancels out the increases in food production. These countries find themselves running to stay in the same place.

"But this doesn't mean that the industrialized nations stand in the clear. A growth rate of about 1 percent a year, like that of the united States, doubles the population in 70 years. Even if couples began right now having only enough children to replace themselves, our population wouldn't level off until the 2030's."

"And what would happen if it went on increasing?" I asked.

"Look around you," Dr. Maier replied.

I already did. Rockefeller Center had been an inspiring sight when the groupingof tall buildings took form back in the days of the Great Depression. But now, huge dark slabs of other structures towered all around, blocking out the sky. I said that they made me think of bar graphs of ominous statistics.

"Maybe they are - if they show the way cities are going," Dr. Maier replied. "In any case, we are already witnessing a deterioration of the quality of urban life - declining public services, crowds when offices let out, more noise, more dirt, more insecurity, less access to cultural opportunities.

"This is congestion. In the United States the number of people alone has something to do with the effect on the environment: but how they are distributed has even more. Seventy percent of us are jammed onto 2 percent of the land, with the imbalance steadily growing."

zero population growth, 1972

Movie poster for ZPG, 1972

Forty-two floors below Dr. Maier's office, I jostled with lunch-hour crowds. Where work sheds and machines - harbingers of yet another behemoth building - crowded the sidewalk, the pedestrian overflow spilled out into the traffic-filled streets. On a crowded Manhattan bus, which was taking twice as long to get me where I was going as it did when I was a boy, I thought back to when I was 12 or 13. My friends and I had marched up and down a stretch of Long Beach on Long Island yanking out stakes that marked the boundary lines for future subdivisions. Futilely we hoped to rescue the beach we loved from the developers, from the rash of houses that today spread over the area.

Anthony Storr, a British psychiatrist, wrote in his book, Human Aggression: "The closer we are packed, the more easily resentful of each other we become. It is probably on this account that many people find life in cities irritating and exhausting, since they are compelled to control aggressive impulses which arise solely as a result of overcrowding."

Studies of animal suggest that crowding can be damaging in unsuspected ways. In experiments conducted by John B. Calhoun of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, crowded rats showed highly abnormal forms of behavior. Some became aggressive, some apathetic. Even when given more space, they huddled together compulsively in a "pathological togetherness." And eventually they stopped reproducing.

Dr. Calhoun of course recognizes that we should not leap to conclusions about human beings based on observations of the behavior of rats. However, he believes that the effects of overcrowding in his experiments are so disturbing that the world cannot wait for proof that they apply to man.

Population explosions among deer and rabbits in confined compounds the problem of population growth, modern man's capability and zeal as a producer and consumer pose major threats to the environment.

"More and fancier" has been a slogan of our civilization. We wrest what we want from the earth, caring little what damage we leave in our wake. then we dump what we create when we no longer want it.

For Americans, more people traditionally have meant more business, greater prosperity. Specialists I talked with as I traveled agree that the population problem in affluent America differs from that created by the hungry poor in developing countries. Slowly we are beginning to realize that a rapidly growing population in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world, is placing a greater and greater burden on the earth.

Technology and ingenuity could stretch the limits of the earth's resources; but authorities disagree on just what those limits are. They argue about the optimum population. they argue even more about controlling population growth. Deeply concerned, some ecologists contend the problem is infinitely more serious than most of us realize, and they ask: Is there anything we can do at this eleveenth hour with the world's population of billions to stave off a colossal disaster?

In the opinion of Philip M. Hauser, director of the University of Chicago Population Research Center; "Given the present outlook, only the faithful who believe in miracles, the optimistic who anticipate scientific wonders, the fortunate who think they can continue to exist on islands of affluence in a sea of world poverty, and the naive who anticipate nothing can look to the future with equanimity."

"We're adding some 40 million to our population in 15 years, and that creates problems" said George H. Brown, director of the Bureau of the Census. "But while our population is going up by about 1 percent a year, our incomes have increased by as much as 4 percent. Convert the expanding population and incomes into the resources it takes to make things people buy and the wastes left over, and you have an idea of the magnitude of the problem we are going to face.

"Don't mistake me," he quickly added. "I'm not against affluence. Apart from everything else, it offers people options in life. And I trust people. I believe they'll decide to devote some of their affluence to saving the environment."

Dust In The Wind, Dude

diogenes by john william waterhouse

Diogenes by John William Waterhouse, 1882

A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation -- or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.

- Ayn Rand from Philosophy: Who Needs It?


Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person's own life.


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