Government policies are expressed political intentions, regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated socio-economic aims and consequences. None of the policies that this government have formulated regarding the “support and care” of some of the most vulnerable citizens, for example, could be seen as anything other than expressions of intended harm.
Unintended consequences may arise from implementing policies, however, governments usually evaluate the merit, worth and consequences of policies, using criteria governed by a set of standards for evaluating, after implementation, and before implementation by carrying out a cumulative impact assessment. There has been neither a review nor a cumulative assessment of the welfare “reforms” carried out by the government to date. (The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) submitted a report with several recommendations for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform, which were recently rejected by Lord Freud, in a letter, on behalf of the government).
Equality impact assessments, introduced in Labour’s 2010 Equality Act, involve assessing “the likely or actual effects of policies or services on people in respect of disability, gender and racial equality”. They are essential to improving fairness and in ensuring policies aren’t discriminatory. But the prime minister said there was too much “bureaucratic nonsense” and policy-makers should use “judgement” rather than “tick boxes”.
On the 19th of November 2012, the prime minister announced that equality impact assessments would no longer be undertaken for government decisions. That is extremely worrying, as this law was designed to prevent discrimination against people who are categorised as being disadvantaged or vulnerable within society. Removing this legal requirement also serves to hide the evidence of discrimination.
Services and support for the disabled people have been cut, lifeline benefits have been restricted by a variety of means, such as benefit cuts (not “reforms”), the revolving door process application of the work capability assessment, benefit sanctions, the mandatory reconsideration process, the Bedroom Tax, the Council Tax, and severe cuts to council support and care provisions. People are suffering, as a direct consequence of policies since 2010, some have died. These are policies that are blatantly discriminatory. The implications of the “reforms” really are a matter of life and death for many.
Disability-related harassment and hate crime has increased in Britain, the result of an implicit campaign by both the Conservatives and its media allies to discredit all disabled benefit claimants. This represents one element of a renewed campaign to label some people as a “burden” to society, a view that has gained renewed currency this past four years. Such ideas leave those groups particularly vulnerable to further socio-political abuse
The government are using the pretext of the economic crisis (that began with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008) and has now been extended through austerity measures to initiate a new war of attrition against disabled people, unemployed people and other disadvantaged communities.
Eugenic theories are most commonly associated with Nazi Germany’s racially motivated social policies. The Nazis sought the improvement of the Aryan race or Germanic “Ubermenschen“- master race – through eugenics, which was the foundation of Nazi ideology. Those people targeted by the Nazis were identified as “life unworthy of Life“- “Lebensunwertes Leben” – including but not limited to the “idle”, “insane”, “degenerate”, “dissident”, “feeble-minded”, homosexual and the generally weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity.
More than 400,000 people were sterilised against their will, whilst 275,000 were killed under Action T4, a “euthanasia” program. However, there is quite a broad definition of eugenics and I propose that because it has been so thoroughly discredited, it has been forced to “go incognito” over the last century.
The public support for eugenics greatly waned after the fall of Nazi Germany and the Nazi attempt to use eugenic justifications for the Holocaust at the Nuremberg Trials. Right-wing philosopher, Roger Scruton, said in an article in The American Spectator “The once respectable subject of eugenics was so discredited by Nazism that “don’t enter” is now written across its door” implying he would like to see more openness to eugenics as an idea. In a way, he does make a valid point, because when what was once stated explicitly becomes implicit and tacit, it is difficult to challenge, and essential debate is therefore stifled.
Eugenics is the infamous idea that governments should decide which kinds of citizens ought to be considered desirable – the consensus tends to be that these are white, athletic, intelligent, and wealthy – and which kinds of citizens ought to be considered undesirable – these tended to be black, Jewish, disabled, or poor – and employ the power of the State to encourage increases of desirable citizens (positive eugenics) and encourage decreases of undesirable citizens (negative eugenics).
Eugenics is specifically State interference in and engineering of the “survival of the fittest”. That is happening here in the UK, with Tory policies like the extremely punitive welfare “reforms”, which are aimed at the most vulnerable citizens – such as those who are sick and/or disabled – all too often denying them the means to meet basic survival needs.
Prior to the Holocaust, eugenics was widely accepted in the UK, particularly as it fitted well with the dominant paradigm – comprised of laissez faire economics, competitive individualism, Malthus’s ideas on population control and Spencer’s Social Darwinism. The ruling elite feared that offering medical treatment and social services to disabled people would undermine the natural struggle for existence and lead to the degeneration of the human race. Those ideas, once explicitly endorsed are now implicitly captured in policies and Conservative narratives about sanctions, “conditionality,” “making work pay,” (compare with the principle of less eligibility enshrined in the New Poor Law) “fairness,” “incentives,” “scroungers,” and so forth.
A crucial similarity with the early part of the century and now is reflected in Tory austerity rhetoric – a perceived shortage of resources for health and welfare. Another parallel is the scape-goating process and a rise in the level of social prejudices and discrimination.
Anti-immigration rhetoric, reflected in the media, with the vilification of sick and disabled people and the poor, has preceded policies particularly aimed at the steady removal of State support indicating a clear scape-goating process, and this isn’t indicative of a government that is “neglectful”- it is patently intentional, hence the pre-emptive “justification” narratives to garner public support and acceptance towards such punitive and harsh policies.
So, the first purpose of such justification narratives is to make cruel and amoral policies seem acceptable. However, such propaganda narratives also serve to intimidate the targeted minority, leading them to question whether their dignity and social status is secure.
Furthermore, this type of hate speech is a gateway to harassment and violence. (See Allport’s scale of prejudice, which shows clearly how the Nazis used this type of propaganda and narrative to justify prejudice, discrimination, to incite hatred and ultimately, to incite genocide.)
As Allport’s scale indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subtle expressions of prejudice. The dignity, worth and equality of every individual is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings. Article 20(2) of the ICCPR requires states to prohibit hate speech.
Hate speech is prohibited by international and national laws, not because it is offensive, but rather, because it amounts to the intentional degradation and repression of groups that have been historically oppressed. In the UK, we have a government that endorses the repression of the historically oppressed.
This government’s schadenfreude, the intent and motivation behind the draconian policies that we’ve seen this past 4 years, which target the most vulnerable citizens most of all, is debated. Some people believe that the policies are a consequence of a redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the wealthy rather than being malicious acts. But the Tories laughed on hearing the accounts of suffering of the poor because of the bedroom tax and the food bank, for all to see, during parliamentary debate with the opposition.
But entertaining the idea for a moment that the inflicted suffering is not a motivation but, rather, a consequence, well that would make the Government at the very least indifferent, callous, indifferent and unremorseful, since they show a supreme lack of concern for the plight of those least able to defend themselves against injustice and inflicted poverty. And such indifference contravenes fundamental human rights. It violates international laws.
Either way, I feel shock and anger at the recognition that all of those principles and beliefs we held dear – such as justice, fairness, democracy, freedom, Government accountability, equality (at least in terms of the worth of each life), institutionalised philanthropy – all trodden under foot by advocates of Social Darwinism- an aristocratic elite – in just 4 years. And the faith we each had in those collective ideals undermined by the constant perpetuation of socially divisive propaganda tactics from the right. Dividing people by using blame and prejudice further weakens our opposition to oppression.
Where is the investigation into the very high number of deaths associated with the Tory-led welfare reforms? The government have been made aware of those deaths through parliamentary debate, yet they persist in denying any causal link with the significant increase of vulnerable people dying, and their savage cuts to lifeline benefits. If there is no causal link, an inquiry would demonstrate that, surely?
It’s a universally recognised fact that if people are prevented from meeting their basic survival needs, they will die. Benefit sanctions, and cuts to welfare and public services, the rising cost of living and the depression of wages are having a detrimental effect on many. I don’t imagine that it’s the case that everyone but the government are aware of this. Yet the policies remain.
Deciding who should be allocated resources and who should not is also founded on Social Darwinist and eugenic thinking.
The Coalition will leave more debt than all Labour governments since 1900. The current government’s now responsible for £517 billion of the trillion-plus-pound UK public debt, compared to £472 billion accrued during the 33 years Labour led the country since the turn of the twentieth century. And the figures look even worse when you adjust for inflation. When you do that, the Coalition’s share jumps to nearly half of the total debt.
But the Coalition don’t meet any public’s needs, they simply serve the wants of the 1%. Labour invested in public services, the Tories have bled them dry. So, what have they done with the money? Because the a proportion of the public have seen only austerity cuts. The same groups have witnessed and experienced a narrowly targeted austerity programme, where multiple cuts to funding for their essential support have selectively hit over and over. These policies are intentional.
Withholding State support for disabled people, unemployed people and the poorest citizens – support paid for via our taxes – is a deliberate act. Whilst our government have been busy denying the eugenics-by-stealth consequences of their diabolical policies in this Country, back in 2012, the Guardian exposed the fact that the British government has spent millions of pounds funding a policy of forced sterilisation of the poor in India as part of an effort to reduce human population to “help combat climate change”. But we also know that many Tories deny climate change exists.
The governments of China and India practice hard eugenics, underwritten by American and British tax money, these are coercive measures undertaken by governments to decrease citizen population. The exposure of support for hard eugenics prompted denial and backtracking. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims to support “voluntary family planning” in China. They assume that women are aware that conceiving a second child will result in a forced abortion are free to make choices – thus the forced abortion is a State arrangement entered into “voluntarily.”
Hard eugenics is the ideology that is hiding behind Hitler. But soft eugenics is based on the same pathological belief – that a government should spend its resources to prevent the propagation of those whom the government believes to be “detrimental” to society and economic production. Here in the UK, our government has been quite explicit in its drive to end “the something for nothing culture”.
Our taxes have been handed out to the wealthy and State support has been steadily withdrawn from the vulnerable. Government policies are an explicit statement of political and socio-economic intentions. Policies based on Social Darwinism and eugenics cannot be justified.
Our morality is liberated from the biological, reductionist constraints of evolutionary thinking. We relate to one another through culture, shared histories, language, morality, and law. Even if it were true that we are biologically determined – fixed by evolution, as intentional beings, we are not culturally fixed. There is a difference between what we are, and who we ought to be.
The theories of Social Darwinism, eugenics, and sociobiology involve biological reductionism. A recognition of the importance of biological conditions and even “human nature” need and ought not involve biological reductionism. And to embrace reductionism is to ultimately deny our capacity for making rational choices. But we exceed the limits of reductionism and determinism every time we make any claim to knowledge (including those claims of reductionism and determinism), make a choice, discuss ethics and morals, explore possibilities, create, discover, invent – we are greater than the sum of our parts.
The humanist ideas of human potential have never interested the Tories. However, humanist principles, particularly those of Maslow are very closely connected to our human rights and the development of our welfare state. Maslow’s psychology about possibility, not restraints. His metaphysics were all about the possibilities of change and progress, within a democratic framework. These ideas run counter to Tory ideology.
It’s therefore of no surprise that the Tory-led Coalition has steadily eroded our welfare, and Cameron has stated plainly that he fully intends to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. A central tenet of human rights law is that all humans have equal worth. We know that Conservatives such as Cameron don’t hold that view. This is a government that chooses to treat some of our most our most vulnerable citizens brutally, with absolutely no regard for their legal and moral obligation to ensure that our taxes are used to meet our most basic needs.
There can be no justification for editing or repealing the Human Rights Act itself, that would make Britain the first European country to regress in the level and degree of our human rights protection. It is through times of recession and times of affluence alike that our rights ought to be the foundation of our society, upon which the Magna Carta, the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act were built – protecting the vulnerable from the powerful and ensuring those who govern are accountable to the rule of law, and as an instrument of equality, social cohesion and public purpose. It is expected of a democratic government to improve the understanding and application of the Act. That is an international expectation, also. Quite rightly so.
Observation of human rights distinguishes democratic leaders from dictators and despots. Human Rights are the bedrock of our democracy, they are universal, and are a reflection of a society’s and a governments’ recognition of the equal worth of every citizens’ life. We need to ask, in light of the issues I’ve raised here, why would any government want to opt out of such protections for its citizens? We know from history that a society which isn’t founded on the basic principles of equality, decency, dignity and mutual respect is untenable and unthinkable. Article 2 of the Convention on Human Rights uses the following definitions of genocide, amongst others:
- Killing members of the group
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
- Prohibits the State from intentionally killing;
- and requires an effective and proper investigation into all deaths caused by the State.
This is a brief summary taken from a longer piece of work: Eugenics is hiding behind Hitler, and informs Tory policies.
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant works of art