Tag Archives: eugenics

Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – Book Review

Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro



In one of the most acclaimed novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England.
Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go dramatizes her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship, and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

My Review:

Hailsham is a seemingly idyllic setting for privileged boys and girls. It is a boarding school with acres of land, in which the welfare of the children and their education is overseen by “the Guardians”.

Cathy and her friends are encouraged to produce art, the best of which is taken away by “Madame”.

As the novel progresses, the reader is left with a growing sense of unease. Why is “Madame” fearful of the children? And why does she take their best work away to “the gallery”?

There is no cruelty at Hailsham, yet Miss Lucy seems troubled and attempts to communicate to Cathy and her friends something of their fate when they leave Hailsham.

As the story unfolds, we learn (following the departure of the students from Hailsham), of “carers” and “donors”. Every student from Hailsham (and the other institutions in England) must take their turn caring for donors, before themselves becoming donors.

The children reared at Hailsham, and other similar institutions are clones whose purpose is to provide organs to non-clones.

Much of the horror of the story lies in the euphemisms employed to describe horrific acts. The word donor implies a willing person who provides a kidney or other organ for reasons of altruism. However, in Never Let Me Go the students/clones have no option other than to furnish their body parts. Again, donors do not die, rather they “complete”.

There is no mention of any secret police in the novel. Therefore it is not clear how the state ensures that the clones fulfil their destiny and donate organs. Donors are not (as in Huxley’s Brave New World) subjected to intensive conditioning, yet there is no indication that any try to avoid their fate. This is, for me an issue with what is, in general a very well written novel. It seems almost incredible that none of the clones would attempt to rebel against the system.

There is talk by Ruth, Cathy, Tommy and other students about the possibility of students who have produced great art being, somehow able to defer their fate as donors, particularly if they can demonstrate that they are in love. To find out whether this is, in fact the case, you will need to read the book.

In Defense of Churchill

It appears to be the latest fashion to attack those who can no longer defend themselves, including the great Winston Churchill. I was recently involved in an event during which one of the participants labelled Churchill as a “war criminal”.

Whilst Churchill did, as with all of us possess faults, he was no “war criminal”, nor can one equate him with Hitler as some remarkably stupid people have done.

Below are a couple of interesting article which counteract some of the accusations leveled against Churchill:

https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/white-supremacy/. (An article about Churchill’s alleged white supremacist views).
https://openthemagazine.com/essay/churchill-a-war-criminal-get-your-history-right/. (An article by an Indian historian in which he argues that Churchill was no “war criminal”).
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/eugenics-skeleton-rattles-loudest-closet-left. (An interesting article which mentions Churchill’s support for eugenics. However the main point of the article is to highlight the left’s (including the Fabian Society’s) support for eugenic measures. I find it interesting that those who criticise Churchill are (for the most part) silent on the advocacy by many Socialists of eugenics policies in the early part of the 20th century. Double standards?).

North Korea is Murdering People With Disabilities North Korean Defector Says

On 30 November I published a post entitled “Lets Talk About Eugenics”, (http://newauthoronline.com/2014/11/30/lets-talk-about-eugenics/). In that piece I wrote about how eugenics has been embraced by people with divergent political views, including leading socialists, conservatives, liberals and, in the most extreme manifestation of eugenic measures Nazi Germany.

Eugenics lead, in it’s most virulent form to the Action T-4 Programme (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/t4.html) under which the Third Reich sterilised and murdered thousands of disabled people. One would hope that the attitudes which lead to Action T-4 perished with the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. However according to defectors from North Korea the killing of people with disabilities continues apace, (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2869792/Dwarfs-castrated-babies-left-suffer-horrific-deaths-Defector-claims-North-Korea-purging-disabled-population-humiliate-regime.html), with the disabled being used as guinea pigs in medical experiments and being forceably removed from their parents. Words such as horrific can not do justice to the barbarity of what the North Korean regime is inflicting on people with disabilities and the populace in general.

Lets Talk About Eugenics

In 1913 the British Parliament enacted The Mental Incapacity Act. The legislation had it’s origins in the Eugenic idea that the poor, the mentally incapacitated and other marginal groups where placing an intolerable burden on the state and should be sterilised and/or confined to secure facilities (hospitals for “the mentally defective” as they where then frequently termed). Eugenics was predicated on the belief that defective genes where responsible for poverty, unmarried motherhood and other things which the eugenicists wished to eradicate. As a consequence of the Act 40,000 individuals where confined to institutions, those imprisoned ranging from those with learning disabilities through to petty criminals and unmarried mothers.

Eugenic measures where widespread with America being particularly zealous in their promotion via the Eugenics Society (a similar organisation existed in the UK). As a consequence of the murder of people with disabilities under the Nazi’s Action T-4 Programme eugenics, not surprisingly became a dirty word but as late as the 1970’s eugenic measures where being employed in Sweden against people with certain disabilities.

Support for eugenics has come from people with divergent political views. The Socialist Fabians (Sidney and Beartrice Webb) where strong proponents of Eugenics and the Labour MP Will Crooks described the poor as “almost like human vermin”. The Liberal Beveridge (the man responsible for drawing up the modern welfare state) advocated for Eugenics while Winston Churchill (a Liberal and, later a Conservative politician) advocated for Eugenics.

In “An Act of Mercy” I imagine a UK in which eugenics has been adopted as official government policy. Individuals are tasked by the government to visit families and identify those with disabilities. Anyone so identified is removed from their family and subjected to special measures. Such an idea was, in fact proposed by Leonard Darwin in the early 20th century although he did not support the killing of so-called “defectives” but their separation from the rest of society.


For an interesting article on the support for Eugenics by people on the Left please see the following piece in The Spectator, http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/5571423/how-eugenics-poisoned-the-welfare-state/. (The article is skewed as it fails to mention that many non-socialists also advocated strongly for eugenics, a fact mentioned in the comments following on from the piece. It is, none the less worth reading).

The New Statesman has a good article on Eugenics which can be found here, http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/12/british-eugenics-disabled.

For information on Will Crooks please see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Crooks.

For my collection of short stories, An Act Of Mercy And Other Stories please see, http://www.amazon.com/An-act-mercy-other-stories-ebook/dp/B00EHS74CS. An Act Of Mercy is free in the Kindle Store until Monday 1 December.

Brave New World, By Aldous Huxley – A Review

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (http://www.huxley.net/bnw/one.html) is one of those novels which have left a lasting impression on me. Published in 1932 Brave New World describes a global society in which genetic engineering and social conditioning rule supreme. Society is rigidly stratified with those at the bottom of the pyramid being only of sufficient intelligence so as to enable them to perform the most basic of functions, such as operating machinery, while those at the top are endowed with great intellects permitting the elite to govern the lower social classes. Due to genetic engineering, coupled with social conditioning the overwhelming majority of the population is content and lacks the capacity (or desire) to challenge the system.

Child baring has been outlawed with all children being created in facilities such as The Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The only exception to this state of affairs are “the reservations” in which “savages” continue to bring forth children in the traditional manner.

Sexual promiscuity is almost universal in Brave New World with lasting relationships being discouraged as they lead, in the view of the world controllers to the evils of attachment which breeds murder and other vices.

A “savage”, John is introduced into Brave New World. At first he is thrilled by the new civilisation and remarks,

“Oh brave new world that has such people in it”.

However, on discovering that his beloved Shakespeare (along with all literature) is prohibited he begins to question the foundations on which Brave New World is built. John’s disenchantment with Brave New World is heightened by his love for a girl who, despite being attracted to him is incapable of showing John the exclusive love which he craves. Lanena is conditioned to desire many sexual partners and can not comprehend John’s desire to have an exclusive relationship with her.

Things come to ahead when John’s mother (a woman from Brave New World who had a baby by traditional means and was abandoned by her then partner, the Director of Hatcheries in the Savage Reservation) is taken into hospital. John is incensed when a group of children undergoing “death conditioning”, to prevent them from grieving when people die, laugh and point at John’s dying mother. John boxes the ears of the children which leads to a full-scale riot requiring the use of Soma (the drug of choice) in Brave New World to quell the disturbance.

On being taken to the controller for Western Europ John begs to be allowed to return to the reservation. However he is told that the experiment to ascertain whether savages can be integrated into society must continue.

Fleeing into the countryside to live the simple life John is pursued by Brave New Worlders. In a fit of anger he whips a girl to death and, the following morning is found hanging in the warehouse in which he has been living.

For me one of the most interesting (albeit minor characters) in the novel is the resident controller for Western Europe. Tasked with upholding the system he admits to John and his 2 friends, to loving literature. He opens a safe showing banned books, his attitude being that as he makes the laws he can break them. The Controller says that he serves happiness, not his own but that of other people. Society is stable now and to allow books and ideas from the past would only unsettle matters leading to the return of jealousy, war and other evils banished by the introduction of Fordism (the philosophy/religion in Brave New World). Art, beauty, all must be sacrificed for the common good. I suspect that behind his smiling exterior the resident Controller for Western Europe is not a happy man.


Brave New World raises a number of troubling questions, notable among them being whether the Resident Controller for Western Europe is right in his contention that the sacrifice of high culture is worthwhile as it promotes universal happiness. With a few exceptions, for example John’s friend, Bernard Marx and, of course John himself, all the people in Brave New World are happy. One can argue, as John does that their happiness is meaningless but perhaps, to the observer everyone else’s contentment is vapid. Undoubtedly the inhabitants of Brave New World are genetically predisposed and socially conditioned to like what they do which leads to almost universal contentment, however almost all crime has vanished from society which, on the whole functions like clockwork.


On reading Brave New World I am revolted by much of what Huxley describes. The crushing of the individual (not through ruthless violence but via genetic and social conditioning, is abhorrent to my liberal sensabilities). Yet I am left feeling uneasy that I have no killer argument to advance against that of the Controller for Western Europe when he states that society is stable, disease has been eliminated and people are content with their lot. How many of us in such a world (assuming we could see beyond our genetic and social conditioning) can say, hand on heart that we would join with John, the “savage” to upturn the apple cart even if by so doing we would loose the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (my words not those of Huxley).

Having posed the above question I suspect that a society such as Brave New World would be supremely ill equipped to deal with a crisis due to the narrow tramlines which conditioning compels people to traverse. Individuals possess the ability to think for themselves and the lack of this capacity would, I suspect, sooner or later lead to disaster in Brave New World. When Lynda (John’s mother) faces her own personal crisis, death she is ill prepared for it and can only cope by taking copious amounts of Soma. Despite the laughter, the “Feelies” (virtual reality films), at the end the Brave New Worlders come face to face “with that fell sergeant death” who, as Shakespeare says, “is swift in his arrest”. At the end there is no poetry, no family and friends to comfort the dying, only Soma, Soma and more Soma.


(I was prompted to revisit Brave New World by a series of articles in The Daily Telegraph concerning the predictions of Karl Djerassi (the inventor of the contraceptive pill) that by 2050 most sex in the west will be for recreational purposes. Babies will be born from frozen eggs and sperm implanted in women who will, when young arrange for the freezing of eggs and sperm enabling them to pursue careers and give birth at a time of their choosing. This is not Brave New World as there is no state impelling men and women to act thus. Again Djerassi does not point to the destruction of culture. However Djerassi’s predictions have obvious echoes of Huxley’s Brave New World. For the articles please see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/11219735/Well-defy-all-logic-to-make-babies-in-the-traditional-way.html

Richard Dawkins: Immoral Not To Abort If A Foetus Has Downs Syndrome

Scientist and author Professor Richard Dawkins has caused considerable controversy by stating that it is immoral not to abort a foetus with Down’s Syndrome, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/aug/21/richard-dawkins-immoral-not-to-abort-a-downs-syndrome-foetus. I have scant knowledge of Down’s Syndrome. I am, however disabled so have a highly personal interest in Dawkin’s comments. Having been born fully sighted I lost the majority of my vision at around 18-months-old as a result of a blood clot on the brain. I have gained a MA in Political Theory and live independently although I must confess to employing a cleaner which stems from my dislike of cleaning rather than the inability to perform household tasks.

As stated earlier, I have scant knowledge of Down’s Syndrome. Due to my lack of understanding I wouldn’t dream of advising women carrying a foetus with Down’s regarding whether the pregnancy should proceed. I most certainly wouldn’t advise a lady facing such a difficult and highly personal decision that they should opt for an abortion as to carry the foetus to term would, in the words of Dawkin’s be “immoral”. The fact is that many parents with Down’s Syndrome children love and cherish them and the danger with Professor Dawkin’s comments is that they can be construed as devaluing people with Down’s Syndrome.

A civilised society should value all people irrespective of disability. Individuals with Down’s will not become leading scientists or world leaders but they are non the less human because of this.

As a disabled person I am used to people making erroneous assumptions regarding my life. I well recollect passing by 2 elderly ladies and hearing one remark “He’s blind” to which I aught to have responded, had I been on the ball “but he isn’t deaf”.

The above comment demonstrates the “pity” which many in society feel towards people with disabilities. In effect such people are putting their own fear of becoming disabled onto people with disabilities. I have, on several occasions had individuals say words to the effect of “I admire you. I don’t know how I would cope in your situation”, failing to realise that I and many other disabled people cope extremely well.

The fear of disability causes people to believe that the lives of Down’s Syndrome individuals and other disabled persons are a constant trial rather than realising that, in many instances our lives are fulfilling.

As stated above I am not an expert on Down’s Syndrome and I am sure that parents of children with Down’s face many issues. However I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to presume to tell potential parents of a Down’s child that they aught (or aught not) to give birth to a baby with the condition. I most certainly wouldn’t tell potential parents that they should abort a foetus with Down’s on the grounds that to carry the pregnancy to term would be “immoral”. Professor Dawkins is a great scientist but ethics and science do not necessarily meet.

An Act Of Mercy And Other Stories Available In The Kindle Store

My collection of short stories, “An Act Of Mercy And Other Stories” is now available for sale in the Kindle store, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EHS74CS. This collection encompasses a range of dark tales dealing with murder, blackmail and the abuse of power. For the book please visit the above link.

The Long Shadow of the Past

On 16 July I published a story entitled “An Act of Mercy” (http://newauthoronline.com/2013/07/16/an-act-of-mercy/). In “An Act of Mercy” the government has introduced a eugenics programme under which those with mental and physical disabilities are eliminated as in the opinion of the authorities they are unproductive and place an unacceptable burden on society.

The view of disabled people as “useless eaters” and “life unworthy of life” lead to the forced sterilisation and (later) murder of many mentally and physically disabled people under the so-called Action T4 Programme (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_T4), however the atrocities of the Third Reich where forshadowed in other countries long before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. In the United Kingdom legislation was introduced in 1912 aimed at segregating the “feeble minded” from other “healthy” members of the community. Feble minded could mean anyone a doctor deemed to fall into that category. Thus unmarried mothers became lumped together with people with mild learning disabilities and where segregated from their fellow citizens.

Support for eugenics was not a matter of party politics. The Webbs (both prominent members of the socialist Fabian Society) where strong supporters as was Winston Churchill (in 1912 a Liberal but later a Conservative politician).

In both the USA and the UK eugenics societies played a leading role in arguing for eugenic measures. In the USA legislation went further than the measures introduced in the UK with many sterilisations of the “unfit” being carried out on individuals against their will. Nazi Germany modelled it’s sterilisation law on US legislation and at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals accused of forceably sterilising the disabled the accused pointed to what had been happening in the USA in their defence.

Some supporters of eugenics where no doubt genuinely horrified at the use to which their theories had been put by Nazi doctors and the term eugenics fell out of favour largely as a consequence of the abuses perpetrated by the Third Reich. However some have argued that proponents of eugenics such as Leonard Darwin (the son of Charles Darwin) helped to create the atmosphere in which atrocities could be commited. The leading American eugenicist Charles Davenport openly expressed his admiration for the German’s eugenics programme (see http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/themes/25.html).

Eugenics is a fascinating subject and I will write more on it in future.