Mar 11, 2011
I have read most of the definitive works regarding the history and theory of eugenics, so I was pleased to receive a copy of the 1998 documentary Homo Sapiens 1900 directed by Peter Cohen; a work that describes the various eugenic programs that were practiced throughout Europe and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Homo Sapiens 1900 also takes a look at the Soviet Union's opposition to Mendel's theory of heredity; a science that was at odds with the political ideology of the plutocratic communist super state. Sir Francis Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin, is generally considered the pioneer of eugenics. Galton felt that with eugenics, man could pull out the "weeds" (which he felt were growing at much faster rate than "cream of the crop" genetics lines) out of the flower bed of humanity. Of course, eugenics was discredited after the defeat of National Socialist Germany during the conclusion of World War II, thus dying in it's infancy as a science. In Homo Sapiens 1900, a general overview pertaining to the history of eugenics is presented in a cold and emotionless manner, no doubt complimenting the inhumane approach scientists and governments would take against individuals after eugenic programs were incorporated during the early part of the twentieth century.
With the rediscovery of Austrian monk Gregor Mendel's (who was ignored during his time) science of genetics during the early 1900s, came a popular interest in bettering the human race by the way of eugenics. When I was in college, my Biology professor mentioned on the first day of class that Charles Darwin owned a copy of the original scientific journal that featured the genetic theories of Mendel. Had Darwin actually read Mendel's work, he would have concocted a more intricate and full-proof theory of evolution, but I digress. Scientists were not the only public figures interested in eugenics; poets, philosophers, and painters also saw much hope in the new sciences, as they felt it was capable of accelerating the evolution of mankind. In Homo Sapiens 1900, various völkisch drawings by the mostly forgotten German symbolist artist Fidus are presented as evidence that leading artists of the twentieth century had also been put under the spell of eugenic-obsessiveness. As shown in the documentary, Fidus created a variety of drawings featuring nude Aryan ubermensch. Ironically, Fidus' work , as well as his nudist ethic, would later be discovered and utilized by psychedelic hippie artists of the late 1960s. In the United States, eugenics started to gain notice in a rather odd and downright peculiar manner. Near the beginning of Homo Sapiens 1900, you viewer is exposed to clips from the 1916 film The Black Stork; a documentary-like work featuring real-life American doctor Harry J. Haiselden as he refuses to perform surgery on a deformed baby (which eventually dies). During the early twentieth century, in an attempt to preserve the best Nordic bloodlines, America, Sweden, and Germany created laws forcing sterilization on those individuals that were deemed not fit to breed. Of course, as modern indigenous population growth statistics in Germany and Sweden testifying to, the state-sanctioned eugenic goal of securing racial purity would prove to be in vain. Oswald Spengler, arguably the last great German thinker, once stated (despite his belief in race as a biological phenomenon) that, "Those who talk too much about race no longer have it in them." Interestingly enough, in Spengler's final work Hour of Decision (which was later banned in Nazi Germany), the philosopher (who argued against the Nazi's materialistic view of race) essentially predicted the "how", "why", and "when" in regard to the Third Reich's defeat.
The real value of Homo Sapiens 1900 is that it acts as a sound outline for studying the brief history of eugenics. The documentary also features various forgotten German racial theorist, such as eugenicist Hans F.K. Günther and Leonard Conti (the Swiss-Italian "Reich Health Leader" of the Third Reich), as well as the anti-eugenic "scientists" of the Soviet Union. Homo Sapiens 1900 dedicates a good amount of time toTrofim Lysenko, the director of biology under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Inspired by Lamarckism (a discredited pseudo-science that emphasizes environmental influence on genetic inheritance), Lysenko designed a pseudo-scientific "socialist biology" which supported the communist creed that humans, being property of the state, were malleable automatons that could be socially engineered to do anything. As explained near the conclusion of Homo Sapiens 1900, Lysenko had his opponents (especially those who agreed with Mendel's theories) lined up and liquidated via a firing squad. If a person needs evidence that science can be completed warped to fit the political agenda of the state and/or scientist, the life of Trofim Lysenko makes for a perfect example. After watching Homo Sapiens 1900, it will be apparent to the viewer that man, whether he be a Hitlerite or Trotskyite, will always fail in attempting to bolster the evolutionary fate of mankind. Who knows what will result from the modern experiment of "globalization." I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment (featured near the conclusion of Homo Sapiens 1900) that a man can only be judged by his accomplishments; not from fruits of another man that just happens to be of the same race (although one should take pride in their ethnic culture). If a person were to judge eugenics by it's accomplishments, one would soon realize why it has been naturally weeded it. Instead of reversing occidental decline as foreseen by Oswald Spengler, eugenics (with the help of unpredictable technology) has only sped up the process. For more info on Homo Sapiens 1900, check out First Run Features.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:20 PM
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