Francis Galton never claimed that eugenics was a science, although he worked to develop a science to support its goals. Galton believed that eugenics was a kind of religion, a belief system based on faith, and more than 100 years ago he chose the word “jehad” or holy war to describe it. Naiomi, pictured on the left, is one of the several recent victims of the continuing war. An example of eugenics at its best.For eugenics to function at its most effective potential, it needs not rely on forced sterilization, large custodial institutions, restrictive marriage laws or other such blunt instruments. In its most effective form, it uses more subtle but more effective means. It simply employs the social attitudes that link a deep sense of shame to disability.
Recent cases from around the world tell us that these attitudes are still present. In the UK, Joanne Hill is on trial for drowning her four-year-old daughter Naomi. The court hear this month that this mother was ashamed of he daughter’s cerebral palsy and hearing impairment. Two weeks ago, Palestinian police stumbled on and liberated a brother and sister with mental disabilities who were kept caged and hidden in the basement by their father for more than 30 years. The father said he did not want to be laughed at for “bringing abnormal children into the world.” At the beginning of August, the grand Jury report in the case of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly who was starved to death by her mother revealed that Danieal was locked away in a dark room and neglected because her mother was ashamed of her own child.
Each of these parents is responsible for his or her own actions, but we all share some responsibility for the attitudes that lead to this deep sense of shame in many parents around the globe. While such attitudes persist, the eugenic holy war is not dead, it has simply evolved to a higher and more virulent form.