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Mental defectives do not fully respond to persuasive action, as an element of their deficiency is their inability to inhibit cruder instincts; but we cannot assert that positive action, psychological, might not anyway be exercised on a large scale, in various aspects and in different ways. Now it is a whole fertile fount of life, emerging from the youngest and most vigorous spring, which will in this way be exhausted.
And from this will come disastrous consequences, already seen in France, where, as a consequence of voluntary sterility, the hearths are empty, and there is female alcoholism, general depravation. Notwithstanding this, the eugenic debate that developed in Italy after the war maintained its richness and articulated itself along thematic lines that will be briefly dealt with here: in particular, birth control, premarital certificates, sterilization and mental hygiene.
The war has acted like a revealing photographic wash, abruptly evidencing and multiplying the infinite misery latent in every single individual, constituting the social masses: and so, due to the war, tuberculosis sufferers, psychopaths, cripples, mutilated, blind etc. In this way the State has suddenly seen the social importance, both morally and economically, of the great problems of assistance in times of peace, for which they are totally unprepared, but which they must forcefully shape.
Levi declared:. The times demand that ancient, insufficient, often hypocritical charitable works be substituted with a vast, enlightened and sincere organization of civil assistance, conceived not as a test of generosity, but as a fundamental duty of the most cultured and fortunate classes to those most ignorant and miserable. In the fight against social illnesses, the unity of command is no less essential that in facing the wartime enemy: some European states have sought to realize such unity, with the recent institution of ministries of hygiene and social assistance, which however have not yet had the methods, nor the time, to demonstrate their proactive possibilities.
Will the new government impose the realization of this effort separate from every concept of class or party, for the civil greatness and economic power of our country, in a superior vision of defense and reconstruction of the potential individual and collective physical and intellectual energies? Well informed on the European 49 and American eugenic legislations, 50 Levi was not, however, disposed to underwrite policies of sterilization and marriage bans.
The current knowledge of the laws of heredity is not such as to permit us to stabilize exact rules that indicate who can dedicate themselves to the reproduction of the species and who, causing hereditary defects, should abstain.
Debates - Wednesday, 30 January
On the contrary, Levi claimed, environmental factors also existed, which could not be ignored:. Man comes into this world with a certain number of tendencies that can then be modified through contact with civilization and the environment, which helps to form the mature man. Evidently, to obtain the best results, the best innate qualities are therefore as necessary as the best environment.
Our children need to have the best blood and the best education. Hereditary factors merit great attention; at the same time we must not ignore social reform that concerns the environment. Thinking about those who will be born is a moral duty that must be imposed as a duty on people such as ourselves; it is to these ethical and social ends that the doctrines and suggestions of modern eugenics aims. Who could say when abnormality becomes genius? Therefore preventing the birth of an abnormal does not deprive society of one of its greatest sons?
The only other solution to the problem is the negative side of eugenics; that is, that which highlights the causes of the progressive increase of dead weight, hanging always more threateningly over society, pushing individuals and authority to give a stronger importance to individual and social hygiene […]. Zuccarelli denounced the curious absence in the journal of references to the essential priorities of eugenics—the discipline of marriage and the prevention of reproduction for degenerates.
Women […] accomplish the task […] of carrying the organism and the correlating functions in male and female children on the physiological-median line.
A clear testimony to this was the debate that took place at the conference held by Levi in January , at a meeting of the Roman section of SISQS, on the theme of Birthrate and eugenics. This, Levi argued, would aim at reinforcing, rather than damaging, moral tradition:. The supporters of birth control aim to introduce to the masses, especially the inferior classes, a sense of responsibility, which has until now been lacking, since in such classes, more than in the others, they are free to give vent to blind and at times brutal instinct.
The aim is moreover, or rather, above all, to reinforce the institute of marriage, condemning healthy people who choose voluntary celibacy and advising contrary to Malthus, who preached protraction marriage at a young age. After contesting the connection between prolificacy and national wealth, he declared himself in favor of a eugenic campaign regarding birth control and obligatory premarital certificates. Our knowledge of heredity is still too uncertain to allow exact prognostications on the hereditary transmission of certain defects, and even less to be able to say with precision if such defects will be transmitted in amounts that would cause serious harm to society.
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When nature is left free to exercise selection on a stock, we understand that, finally, the selection of the best will occur through the difference of mortality; but if, on the other hand, we wish to pre-emptively choose the good reproducers, from the eugenic point of view, it is too easy to err, by confusing congenital characteristics with acquired ones, and induced congenital characteristics with those that are truly hereditary.
This second solution appears definitely preferable, at least at first glance, as the ill individuals tend toward extinction; but this would not be the case if it was demonstrated that […] the carriers of certain diseased factors had superior reproductive powers. If this were the case, the system of isolating and coupling ill people among themselves could lead, instead of to a decrease, to a multiplication of the pathological sources.
It is indisputable that, in the majority of cases, a family of whichever social class can not, with only work, obtain the means to maintain, at an appropriate social level, eight children. In the working classes, where the costs of raising a child are much lower, I would say that a married couple could, on average, with appropriate work, and maintaining a proper level of education for their children, raise no more than four, and in the middle classes, no more than two.
To this must be added the negative consequences from a psychological and moral point of view, with the triumph of individualistic egoism and the disintegration of the family unit:. If we commence reasoning on the question of procreation, we will not finish reasoning only at that certain point of rationalization of the birth rate that the partisans would like. We pass quickly to considering why we should identify personal interest with the interests of the family unit, often concluding that it is not reasonable to sacrifice our individuality to it.
enter In fact,. Individuals may subsist, but the nation, the race, is condemned: it will disappear, or at least lose its proper place in the world, to the benefit of those nations that, obeying instinct, still have the necessary vitality to maintain themselves and multiply. Control must be understood not in the restricted sense of limitation to a minimum, but in the broader and more logical sense of a regulation based on rigorous scientific criteria.
Control until now has been applied without any scientific criteria and without eugenic aims, and it must be added that it has been abused, and is abused even now, causing damage, instead of advantage, to the quality and future of the race. Such abuse must cease. To achieve this goal, the scientific sphere, and particularly the medical class, must assume management of control, saving it from empiricism, and above all, profoundly studying the question.
Perhaps you, either personally, or through one of your students or friends, could assure me some articles in the next issues, so that I do not need to end the column? Evidently, the nation needs the best, the strongest, the most valid, and not the first two of a series of a married couple, who are or could be, compared to successive children, the least strong and the most degenerate.
The clash between the egoistic ideal of the individual and the complex ideal of racial improvement could not be more manifest. The cult of art represented the beginning of an aesthetical education process, which manifested its eugenic effectiveness in the choice of spouse. The beauty of art was transmitted from the artwork to the spectator, and from this, to the spouse and children:. These [spectators], in the choice of their spouse and lovers, choose that type of beauty that stays in memory and fantasy, lit by works of art.