Dysgenics: Is Nietzsche’s nightmare our reality?

“- Why so hard? Said one day the charcoal to the diamond, are we not near relatives?
  – Why so soft? Oh my brethren, thus do I ask you. Why so quiet?”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

In 2006 a film was released by the name of “Idiocracy,” a science-fiction dystopia that portrayed a world in its final decline due to the drastic fall of its populations’ “Intelligence Quota,” or IQ for short.

The film would eventually develop a cult following, but in the months following its release, 20th Century Fox showed reluctance to promote it, resulting in the film’s ultimate failure at the international box office.

The opening scene follows the life of two couples, one described as having a high while the other a low intelligence score. The members of the first couple have just finished college and are now preparing for a lucrative career as skilled laborers, while those of the second, live on welfare and have little to no plans for the future.

As expected, the first, intelligent couple, have yet to have kids, postponing the creation of a family until their careers take off. The others, of course, have more children they can handle, with some of them coming from illicit affairs, spawning parallel family lines that go on to do the same, again, and again, until intelligence is practically bred out of the human race!

The rest of the film follows an American soldier who was cryogenically preserved as part of a secret experiment, only to wake up five hundred years into the future, when humanity no longer possessed the IQ necessary to keep his chamber running. To his surprise, he soon discovers that his average intelligence makes him nothing short of a genius, a genius that could save the world. 

In the current political climate, it’s understandable how “Idiocracy” could have quickly put its producers at risk of public outcry, while the director himself joked about his film not being released, but having escaped from the studio! Indeed, following the film’s premiere, 20th Century Fox kept a policy of silence, with no publicity campaigns, private screenings for journalists, or interviews with the cast. Because despite the film being a slap-stick Hollywood comedy, it’s visual depictions of how a low-IQ society will look in aspect, present the Western viewer with a reality that is eerily familiar. One that might have already begun to manifest: urban decay, a decline in public morals, hyper-consumption, diets based entirely on fast-foods, and the most vulgar of entertainment: a combination of pornography and spectacles of extreme violence.

How did our culture come to foreshadow this Hollywood dystopia? The film’s intro gives a clue as to the actual mechanism: intelligent and educated couples who wish to raise their children on the same standards they were, can afford fewer and fewer of them, while those who never think as far into the future, simply breed as a natural consequence of having sex.

But is that all? Or can we discern something more sinister at work here?

In the opening scene, we saw how the low-IQ couple lived on welfare allowance. Still, raised in a climate of extreme political correctness, we are never allowed to make the obvious connection: that at least one of the reasons why the intelligent couple never had children, was that much of its income went, indirectly and through the system of welfare, into the bank account of the other, unintelligence one.

And the reason that we are not allowed to make that connection appears to be… morality! This morality, of course, is not Christian morality, which had a perfectly legitimate way for explaining poverty, namely vice, but a new, 21rst century kind, one that moved beyond the traditional categories of good and evil, and into the worship of one value above all: equality and by all means necessary.

One of the first philosophers who understood this strange connection between morality and human evolution was Nietzche. Born a Prussian in 1844, Nietzche was a child prodigy that was given a teaching position at the University of Basel at the age of 24, before ever completing his doctorate. Twenty years later he would suffer a mental breakdown from which he never recovered, and his works of warlike philosophy, philosophy with a hammer as he called it [1], were written between these two events.

Nietzsche was born at the dawn of modernity, where the old faith in God was slowly yet visibly receding, to be followed by its total collapse after WW1. Having already proclaimed that “God is Dead,” Nieztche tried to create, not a new set of morals to replace those lost with Christianity, but a new human type, which he eventually called the “Übermensch,” Superman or Overman depending on the translation [4].

These were the early years of Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” and Nietzche would become one of the first major thinkers to make use of this new evolutionary theory. Accepting Man’s origin, Nietzche followed Darwin’s thought to its logical conclusion, that Man is still evolving. In the context of modernity, this evolution is no longer determined by natural, but cultural pressures, with each culture promoting a different human type. If, therefore, in contrast to other animals, Man had taken charge of his own evolution and could now direct it wherever he wished, why not direct it towards something great? Why not aim for a future where Man will no longer need the fear of God to guide his moral actions but will create morals spontaneously as he moves through life with strong will and determination. 

But next to this wished-for future, where humanity has evolved into something more significant, Nietzche foresaw another possibility, one which he called the “Last Man.” This Last Man would not be altogether stupid, as portrayed in “Idiocracy,” but a moral decadent who is no longer capable of dreaming anything more significant than his immediate pleasure and pastimes, to which he will devote his whole existence. “What is love? What is longing? What is a star? Aks the last Man, and blinks thereby. No one wants to rule. No one wants to obey. No shepherd, and one herd!” [5]

And how would this “Last Man” come about? In his writings, Nietzsche never conjured a story as detailed as the opening scene from “Idiocracy,” nor did he see the welfare state as the possible culprit. More importantly, however, he understood that morality is not just “rules for life,’ but the vector of human evolution.

What a given culture values most will ultimately decide who should breed, and by how much! Human societies, seen through the lens of Nietzsche, and as hateful as the word itself has become as of late, are always engaged in a project of eugenics. Or is that dysgenics?

For the liberal democracies of the modern West, this “controlling value” is no other than equality, an equality that is to be achieved by all means necessary.

By declaring it a moral duty of anyone above the poverty line to help those below it, and through ever-increasing taxation, we rarely question exactly how much of the poor’s misery comes through their own moral actions (or lack thereof). Stated in simple economic terms: what you tax you will get less of, what you subsidize… you get more. 

And it’s exactly by making allowances for personal irresponsibility that the modern welfare state might secretly be subsidizing the worst aspects of our human nature: idleness and self-indulgence.

Take for instance the sudden increase in teenage pregnancies across the UK. Pretense aside, the British state seems almost committed to helping girls as young as 12 have children out of wedlock, often through frivolous sex with men of such questionable character, they would have quickly reconsidered had they known they would have to spend the rest of their lives with them.

But no such requirements are ever made, and thanks to a default protection by the state, those girls are now free to ignore any consequences, and are no longer given the chance to develop their moral judgment, eventually passing their lack of discipline to their offspring, who run the risk of being abused by the army of men who will quite predictably come in and out of their broken households.

These children will very likely end up repeating the same patterns, passing it on to their children. Until, until what?

 

References

The New York Times Magazine [Online]. Walker, Rob. “This Joke’s for You.” Published: May 4, 2008. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/magazine/04wwln-consumed-t.html

 

Citations

[1] “How to philosophize with the hammer” was the subtitle of his later book “Twilight of the Idols,” which he wrote as an introduction to his ideas.

[2] “… with the Jew the slave revolt in morality begins: which has a two-thousand-year history behind it and which has only moved out of sight today because it – has proven victorious.” (Italics in the original) [Friedrich Nietzsche, Maudemarie Clark, Alan J. Swensen. “On the Genealogy of Morality,” p.17. Hackett Publishing, Mar 13, 1998.]

[3] SLATE [Online]. Sam Adams. “The Terrifying Prescience (and Enduring Power) of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy.” Published: OCT 05, 20168:02 AM. Available from: https://slate.com/culture/2016/10/the-terrifying-prescience-and-enduring-power-of-mike-judge-s-idiocracy.html

[4] The book that epitomizes Nietzsche’s quest for the “Overman” is his “Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, written between 1883 and 1891. 

[5] Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spake Zarathustra, p.7. Courier Corporation, Mar 12, 2012

[6] H. James Birx. Nietzsche & Evolution. Philosophy Now. Available from: https://philosophynow.org/issues/29/Nietzsche_and_Evolution