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Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Big J, Oct 9, 2017.
If tiles could talk.
The same thing happened to the early 20th Century black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson as he, too, was charged with violating the Mann act basically because white America was looking for any reason to bring him down as they wanted a white heavyweight champion.
No group today / no country today - liberal or conservative in their roots - that is honest with itself can be proud of its stances on all the various eugenics and mental health policies they advocated for back in the late 1800s / early-to-mid 1900s. It's humbling but edifying to learn how wrong so many smart people and movements were and should cause all of us pause about judging people from a different period against our present day standards without some perspective and understanding of their times and norms.
Yes, the USSR was ahead of the curve on some views of gender equality - however, not a whole lot of women in the politburo - but your second observation on this is, IMHO, the reason. People (the masses) were inputs, cogs in the great communist machine, so maximizing their work was important to the state (and the state smartly saw women could contribute equally to men), but, as you note in your example, throwing people at the Germans without concern for loss of life - or reorganizing farms without concern for the starvation of millions - was also an result of seeing all people equal: equal to be used by the state in anyway the state wanted to.
Lest one get the notion we enlightened moderns are "beyond" eugenicist ways of thinking, consider how few pregnancies testing positive for Down syndrome (via amniocentesis) are now carried to term. In some countries, terminating such pregnancies is considered almost a civic duty.
When I moved to Seattle, in 1968, there were still signs painted on tavern windows reading "tables for ladies." It was later explained to me that those signs were vestiges of an era when state liquor laws prohibited unescorted women from sitting at a bar.
A factor not often taken into consideration in considering the actions of the Soviet government in the 1930s is that they were trying to take a feudal society from, in many areas, a 15th Century level of function to a 20th Century level of function within a few short years -- essentially skipping over the whole mercantile-capitalist period that Marx lays out as essential to the eventual development of socialism. There was a real sense among the Kremlin leadership that this speed of development was necessary due to the likelihood of a future war -- they'd already been invaded by outside powers, including the US, during the Russian Civil War of the early 1920s, and had every reason to expect more of the same down the line. Or so went the reasoning.
Women had their greatest reputation, and level of achievment, in the USSR in the sciences -- the 1960s spy movie cliche of the "brilliant woman Soviet scientist" was based on reality. Except the part where she took off her glasses and went to bed with James Bond.
One could argue, that after the fall of the USSR and a period of Yeltsin confusion, Russia has morphed into a quasi-capitalist economy with a dictatorship gov't (with a patina of democracy) - similar to, but less successfully executed than, China - and, thus, it finally got its agriculture output boost (it now exports agricultural products) from the capitalist phase Stalin tried to jump over.
My guess, if there was mixing of Soviet female scientists and UK or US scientists (or spies) - conventions, etc. - some canoodling went on.
Without getting into the thorny politics around abortion services, even in Northern Ireland - by far the most conservative of the UK jurisdictions on this matter, and where it is extremely difficult to procure a legal abortion (and still technically a crime to travel elsewhere to have one) - Downs Syndrome is the single most common reason for abortions being carried out (though rthere is also once case on record from the 90s of an embryo which was going to have six fingers on one hand being legitimately aborted for that reason alone). All of these choices must be very difficult for the prospective parents (I can't begin to imagine the commitment it would require to volunteer to raise a child who may never have the capacity to live independently), though certainly once you bring in any 'right to life' considerations, it does become a difficult ethical area. That said, the elected English political representative who call for abortion to be mandatory (as opposed to the existing provision, where it is the choice of the parents) a couple of years ago was roundly, unequivocally condemned by all quarters. As with so many of these areas, advancements in medical technology have very much raised new ethical questions - or, at least, new contexts for older ones - that we did not previously have.
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" ~ Ronald Reagan
I'm not arguing for one side or the other of what you smartly point out, but am arguing this: ten, twenty, fifty and hundred years from now, those things that smug (yes, smug) people today think they are perfectly right about - "on the right side of history -" be it on the left or right, will find that at least some of their ideas are - at those future dates - considered backward, arrogant, sexists, racists, homophobic, ignorant, etc.
And those views won't be any more perfectly right than our's today are or those 50 or 100 years ago were. We need a little more humility both to our own convictions and, for a forum that looks at the past, humility toward judging people in the past by our standards today without looking at the context, norms, views, convictions of their times.
To be fair, I think those on this site are awesome overall and do that (and I sometimes fail to hold myself to this standard on my worst days, but I try) - but our society writ large has many people who denounce past actions by judging it against a 2017 standard without any humility or respect for the context of those past times.
Eugenics is a discredited movement, and with good reason -- the Nazis were the apotheosis of that line of thinking. But twenty years before anybody ever heard of Hitler, some very earnest Progressive Era thinkers in the US were advocating it as a way of "breeding out" poverty -- at a time when many high school students were being taught that the economic success of a given nation had a biological basis, and that poverty was thus the result of allowing biologically-inferior specimens to breed. This was the new "modern scientific society" of the early 20th Century carried to a dangerous, ridiculous extreme -- but it was nevertheless mainstream thought for a great many "intelligent, educated" people of that time.
When you realize that, many of the social and political cults of that period begin to make sense. You don't have to agree with them to realize that, but you do understand *why* something like Eugenics became popular, and how people could have thought in the 1930s that someone like Charles Lindbergh had any qualification to speak on any subject other than aviation.
Having read a good deal about the USSR, one of the things that strikes me is that, post Yeltsin, they ended up creating a country that looked a lot like horrors of their Soviet era propaganda regarding American culture. Totally weird.
I also spent some time in West Germany just as the wall was coming down. Watching easterners "do capitalism" was hysterical. Demand five times what something was worth and then scream at the potential buyer to try and intimidate them. Not only did they have the customer relations part grievously wrong but they simply could not get it through their heads that people had other places to obtain a good or service; the need to compete was answered with threats.
On the original subject: A number of the gentlemen of the era that I have known tended to have long "engagements" that never seemed to really be headed toward further commitment. I assume this was social cover for cohabitating. The way they talked about it, it seemed to be more common after the war. During the Depression there may have been less of a concern about appearances. Certainly the women I have known who came into their own in the post war period were MUCH more concerned about how they were seen. One older lady I interviewed for a writing project was showing me photos of her friends during the depression announced: "... and this is my illegitimate son." Fact of life. No sweat. In a lady who became an adult after the war I suspect there would endless floundering, coded language, and embarrassment.
In a similar vein ...
Few things set my teeth to grinding quite so readily as talk of IQ. I have yet to encounter a person who puts much stock in it who didn't think him- or herself in possession of a superior one, and who didn't mind mentioning it.
@lizzie, that Boston newspaper article is a real eye-opener! Thank you very much for posting it! I'm shocked!
@2jakes, is Professor Marston modern or Golden Era? Seems a tad racey to me (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Lizzie and Fading Fast mention above about gender equality (which is a good thing IMHO) in Soviet Russia. I want to say that one thing about China that I always like is that Chinese communism also left behind this legacy of gender equality unparalleled in Asia. I've met many female Chinese engineers, scientists, university faculty heads and successful business professionals, which is the exception rather than the norm in S. Korea and Japan, where gender stereotyping IS the culture. My wife is one of the 15% of Japanese management executives who are women (in fact, my wife is company president) and the constant discrimination she faces is just 'par for the course' in Japan, so hats off to China for getting that right!
I was reading that the Chinese woman marrying Japanese men make up the biggest number of international marriages in modern Japan, I'd love to be a fly on the wall the first time these Chinese wives stand up for themselves!
Also, someone mentioned abortion and eugenics. In Japan abortion is still very difficult to do due to the law, which results in babies being born in public toilets and flushed away, or just abandoned in public places to die. Hence the 'coinlocker baby' phenomenon leading to 'baby hatches'. It's a sad state of affairs all round really. Better education and less government interference is the key I think.
But due to 'the reverse course' during the US occupation, Japan backtracked on postwar democracy and re-introduced a number of imperial-era fascist policies (number one being to staff the post War Ministry of Education with former Kempeitai, like Japan's 'gestapo'). Another was Nazi inspired ideas about blood, purity, and race. For example, Japanese still obsess over blood-type believing that it tells you about a persons character. It even comes up in job interviews. Of course, it's all pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo.
Another is the legal requirement to sterilize anyone who develops Hanson's disease (leprosy). Leprosy is still a 'thing' in many parts of Asia, and even though it is NOT hereditary, Japanese law doesn't want lepers breeding. Seems like a criminal abuse of human rights to me, but then again, the Japanese taxpayer has been financial supporting Peruvian government initiatives to forcibly sterilize Peruvian minorities for decades, under the idea that 'those poor people shouldn't have children they can't look after', which is handy if you're the Peruvian government involved in oppressing these people anyway.
Which brings me to Nazis escaping to Peru and other S. American countries post-war and living new lives. Which strikes me as totally bizarre, but is surely a topic for a different thread...
'Professor Marston & The Wonder Women' Gets Comic Book ...
Doubtless. I've seen it in British television. When the first gay characters appeared in British soap opera Eastenders, it was revolutionary. Looking back now, of course, the portrayals are stereotypical and would even be considered offensive, ut in the context of the time.... As Arthur Miller once put it, "Even the greatest genius is limited by his own time and space."
The thinking behind the "prospertiy gospel" popular in some theological circles today isn't all that dissimilar.
@TimeWarpWife, that's a great comment!
@tonyb, I 'liked' your comment when I woke up and read it today. Now that I've caught up on today's news, I wish that I could 'like' it again!
My father has a working class chip on his shoulder that makes him look like he fell out of a Monty Python sketch. So on the day I got my Ph.D he couldn't even congratulate me, he just smugly reminded me of his MENSA IQ certificate hanging on his wall that he got by doing a five minute test on the internet. Never wanted to slap a mans face so hard in my life.
I could spend a few hours expressing my thorough contempt for such nonsense. And often do.
The example of Dr. Marston is a good example of how what went on behind closed doors in the Era is very much at odds with the stereotype too many people have of the period. Here's a rather prominent fellow in the popular-science world -- he invented the polygraph, he wrote a great many magazine articles on pop-psychology topics for mainstream magazines -- living in a menage-a-trois with his wife and mistress and enjoying a rampaging bondage fetish, which he manages to make a fundamental element in a comic-book character marketed primarily to children. In 1942, yet.
His arrangement and his inclinations were not widely publicized, but they were known to his close associates -- his editors at DC were constantly after him to tone down the whips and chains in "Wonder Woman" -- and yet he continued to go right on about his business for as long as he lived. He was happy, his wife and his mistress and children seemed to be happy, and there you go. Family values.
More likely that you're thinking of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who wrote in Buck v. Bell, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough".