In the modern era the process of ‘Darwinian Natural Selection’ was used to justify certain social, political and economic dynamics taking place in the human society. Thus we have terms like Social Darwinism, Economic Darwinism and Political Darwinism. These three areas can be further focused onto Eugenics – the theory of improving the human race by getting rid of the “undesirables”. Depending on the aspect of human life emphasized at a given point of time these theories come into practice in complex and combined forms of national cleansing. However for our analysis they may be treated separately for better clarity.
Social Darwinists hold the view that the “survival of the fittest” is a natural law that certain people become more powerful in a society because they are in a better position in life. Thus a man with a better family and social background will have a better chance to survive and thrive. Such social leaders are seen in every culture and civilization from time immemorial. Eventually through the process of evolution these socially well-to-do people will go through a process of changes physically, intellectually and genetically. Social Darwinism has been used to justify tribalism, racism, imperialism, eugenics and other social inequalities prevalent at various times in the human history. Casteism in India is a glaring example of Social Darwinism. Casteism in India is basically occupational distinction which again is linked with the economic remuneration attached to every type of occupation. Even among the low paid occupations and poor living conditions the law of the “Survival of Fittest” is quite operative. Social Darwinism has been used to justify imperialism, racism, eugenics and several other social evils over centuries.
Political Darwinism is an expression of the survival of the fittest in the political arena. Leaders emerge naturally in the political milieu to capture political power and to rule over others. The kings and emperors of the ancient times and the present day political leaders at various levels are examples of political Darwinism. Further it is also seen that political life becomes a family occupation inherited along the family line. Again it is our common experience that when an ordinary average educated and economically poor person becomes a politician he begins to acquire material wealth and economic power along with higher social status. A vast majority of the politicians in India have captured political power first and then become powerful socially and economically. India is a hotbed of political parties and politicians. As of this April, there were 7 national p arties, 36 state-recognized parties, 329 regional p arties and 2044 unrecognized parties in India. Leaders of each party behave like kings and in the independent India we have a few thousand kings instead of the 565 princes before independence. Leaders of the political parties command fear more than respect as they are like gangsters than gentleman politicians. Underlying the Indian political Darwinism lie the dominant combination of “muscle and money power” .
Economic Darwinism occupies the prime position in the modern era. Money can buy anything is the type of confidence everyone seems to have and money power operates in every social and political sphere of human life: from individual to national level and from the local to the international level. The millionaires and billionaires are the kings and emperors of the modern political economies in which the elected politicians have become mere pawns who come and go; but the reign of economic kings and emperors will remain; they are called the multinational companies controlling the politicians at the national and international level.
The economic Darwinism is further evolving into a laissez-faire capitalism. Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from any form of government intervention such as regulation, privileges, imperialism, tariffs and subsidies etc. Proponents of laissez faire argue for a complete separation of government from the economic sector. It was Spencer who applied the idea of “survival of the fittest” to the so-called laissez faire or unrestrained capitalism during the Industrial Revolution, in which businesses are allowed to operate with little regulation from the government.
Eugenics , as already hinted, is another off-shoot idea of S ocio-Politico-Economic Darwinism. It is a theory of improving the human race by getting rid of the “undesirables” like the disabled, poor, low castes, religions other than the dominant or state promoted, persons with economic liability such as old age, incurables diseases, females at foetus stage and other economically liable categories. Thus eugenics is a combination of socio-politico and economic cleansing. The brahminical Hindutva movement is a bold form of Indian eugenics emphasizing the ideology that India is only for high caste Hindus.
We need to refresh our memories on eugenic history in the world. As a social movement it became a key popular socio-political movement in USA during a period between 1920 and 1940. We would be surprised to know that books and films promoted eugenics, while local fairs and exhibitions promoting “fitter family” and “better baby” competitions around the country. The eugenics in USA prevented “unfit” individuals from having children. In 32 out of 50 US States, laws were passed allowing forced sterilization on more than 64,000 Americans including immigrants, people of colour, unmarried mothers and the mentally or physically handicapped.
Adolf Hitler, worst among the eugenicists, believed in the purity and supremacy of the German “Aryan” race and exterminated all Jews, gypsies, Poles, Soviets, homosexual and physically or mentally disabled. Turkish massacre of Armenians, mass killings in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda were other major examples eugenics.
India under the present regime with its Hindutva movement is very much in the line of eugenics. The age-old caste system with supremacy of Brahmanism, denying reservation to poor among the Christians and Muslims, ban on cow slaughter, ban on beef sale and consumption, sporadically raised slogans demanding Muslims and Christians leave the country, dotting the country with Hindu temples and government sponsored mammoth Kumbhmelas and other Hindu festivals, neglect of tribal and lower caste people, decades long apathy to small and marginal farmers are all expressions of Indian/Hindu eugenics.
With favouritism to large scale industries and disfavouring the small and marginal producers, the present government has laid out a neat plan to eliminate the traditional small and medium scale cottage industries on which millions depended on for their sustenance for centuries. Examples of this kind are the lac and toy manufacture in Meerut and Mirzapur, brass works of Muradabad, appliqué and metal works of Odisha, terracotta works of Assam, sandalwood and rosewood works of Mysore, textile and other handicrafts of Gujarat, woollen handicrafts of Kashmir, woodcrafts of Chhattisgarh, leather works of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Carpet weaving in Mirzapur and Benares, Silk weaving in the villages of Murshidabad, Malda and Madura, Metal work in Boidrajpur (Bihar) Santipur, Bishnupur and Kharagpur, the manufacture of conch-shell bangles and mother of pearls buttons in the villages of Bengal, artistic clay modelling in Mirzapur and Nandia and so on. The silent revolution of the “Survival of the Fittest” is winding its way in all walks of the social, political and economic life of the common people in India.
(The writer is a retired Professor from XIM, Bhubaneswar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Published on 21st October 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 43)