Tuesday 23 January 2018

Riders Of The Past

Staggering towards the second quarter of the 21st Century, one matter I would not have expected to see was the return of Eugenics. Of all the theories in the world about humanity it would among the last. But in our new freedom loving age there are cries for it to be banned, its followers to suffer, and those in the past attached to it to be expunged from history.

Apparently, to my surprise, they are still around. This issue has arisen at the same time when the knives are our for the memory of Winston Churchill because of the new film "Darkest Hour". A cafe with a Churchill theme has been trashed because he was an imperialist. Worse still, also he was something of a eugenicist in his ideas.

When I was young Eugenics was one of the major forms of political correctness on offer. Indeed I was given a good ear wigging by one of its leading proponents of the day after straying from the path and along with friends causing the Metropolitan Police some grief, never mind his fellow eugenicists in the Cabinet.

It was Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, Director of the LSE, amongst whose founders was George Bernard Shaw, one of the philosophers of the day, a founder of the Fabian Society and a leader of the eugenicist pack then seeking to control our thinking through the media and notably, the BBC.

In that period, it is arguable that the Welfare State and the general policy of central control of the economy and major industries etc. was linked to this theory. Behind the giving hand was the ruling fist of the upper orders. The Empire was lost but the Commonwealth lived on along with the UK educating and supporting many of the new rulers.

As for Churchill, what else could be expected? A younger son of an aristocratic family, clearly unsuited for The Church or Law, he was packed off to the Army and the 4th Hussars. He was in Cuba and India, literally up the Khyber and in 1898 detached to the 21st Lancers in The Sudan taking part in the Battle of Omdurman, a major blood letting.

He was a man of Empire who when in politics became responsible for the struggles against Germany and winning to try to save the Empire who then found himself accepting and then presiding over some of the leaving of it in the 1950's.

When I played rugby against the 4th Hussars, he was Honorary Colonel in Chief, and I was told liked to be kept up with regimental affairs, he would have been happy that the 4th had given us a beating. Inside the ageing mind and body he was always first and foremost the young cavalry officer wanting to be let out.

At that time I was working in the office next to a Lt. Col. of the 17/21 Lancers. He had transferred in 1947 from Skinner's Horse, 1st Bengal Cavalry, the Yellowboys, and you do not get much more Empire than that. Trying to explain the mind world and lives of men like this to anyone young of the present is almost impossible.

As for Eugenics, since then we have learned much more. The major advances in archaeology  etc, science, technology and sheer data collection and analysis ought to made us very wary of any theories of the past regarding people, who they are and what they were. It is astonishing some of the skills of ancient peoples. What we do know is that there is much more to be learned.

But what do we do with the eugenicists of the present? Well, give them a horse and send them up the Khyber?


  1. after straying from the path and along with friends causing the Metropolitan Police some grief

    Do tell.

  2. I'm sure eugenics will be with us for a while yet in one form or another.

  3. If you look, you can find a film clip of George Bernard Shaw on the internet advocating the use of humane gas chambers for those who did not fit the socialist system - people, he said, who could not justify their continued existence. It was done with s twinkle of humour - " Sir, Madam - pray step this way" and the engaging accent which was sometimes called, the Dublin Protestant drawl.