Althouse | category: history



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Actually, if you google the word senicide you’ll see that many parts of the world have a push/pull relationship with their older members..."

"... the push of veneration, the pull of elimination. The United States with its chrome-plated dreams of spit-shine modernity was never much for the admiration of its senior citizens. Way before taunts of 'Okay, boomer' and the calling of people with experience the pejorative term 'olds' this country has had a tendency to isolate the grizzled dotard, if not on an ice floe then in retirement camps where they could gum pudding and play bingo away from the delicate eyes of youth. It would be easy to blame the sixties, with silly slogans like 'Don’t trust anyone over thirty' or even sillier movies like Wild in the Streets, where anyone over thirty-five is herded in camps and given mandatory doses of LSD."

So writes Bob Dylan, in "The Philosophy of Modern Song."

So, of course, I google "senicide," and I'm reading this Wikipedia article "Senicide," while picturing 81-year-old Bob Dylan reading it too. Highlights:

The Heruli were a Germanic tribe during the Migration Period (about 400 to 800 CE) [who]  placed the sick and elderly on a tall stack of wood and stabbed them to death before setting the pyre alight....

Herodotus says of the Padeans of India: "... It is said to be their custom that when anyone of their fellows, whether man or woman, is sick, a man's closest friends kill him, saying that if wasted by disease he will be lost to them as meat; though he denies that he is sick, they will not believe him, but kill and eat him...."

In Nordic folklore, the ättestupa is a cliff where elderly people were said to leap, or be thrown, to death. While the practice has no historical evidence, the trope has survived as an urban legend, and a metaphor for deficient welfare for the elderly....

Herodotus tells us about the Massagetae that: "Though they fix no certain term to life, yet when a man is very old all his family meet together and kill him, with beasts of the flock besides, then boil the flesh and feast on it. This is held to be the happiest death; when a man dies of an illness, they do not eat him, but bury him in the earth, and lament that he did not live to be killed.

Contemporary Culture — In modern day western-culture, senicide often takes the form of placing senior citizens in overcrowded conditions where preventable diseases can easily spread. More often than not, these spaces are separate from other generations of people so problems such as quality of life, hygiene and isolation are less detectable to the wider population.

There are 3 citations for that last proposition, and all 3 are about Canada. 

I'm giving this post my tag "gerontocracy," thought the topic is only implied. We currently have a gerontocracy in the United States, but when these old people were young, there was "Wild in the Streets":

"[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women."

"Part of the program’s attraction was that unwed pregnant girls could give birth in secret. In 1939, about 58 percent of the mothers-to-be who applied to the program were unwed... by 1940, that number had swelled to 70 percent. Often, the homes were converted estates decorated by Himmler himself, using the highest quality loot confiscated from Jewish homes after their owners had been killed or sent to camps. Girls who were already pregnant or willing to be impregnated by SS officers had to prove their Aryan lineage going back three generations and pass inspections that included measuring the size of their heads and the length of their teeth. Once accepted, they were pampered by nurses and staff who served them delicacies at mealtimes and provided a recreational diet rich in Nazi propaganda...."

From "A new novel tells the story of Nazi birthing farms" by Kathleen Parker (WaP).

The new novel is "Cradles of the Reich" by Jennifer Coburn.

Here's the article in the Holocaust Encyclopedia about the Lebensborn program.

I found that as I was looking for photographs showing how a place "decorated by Himmler" would look. Here's a propaganda photograph with a caption that translated into "Everything for the healthy child":

From the Holocaust Encyclopedia article:
Himmler had hoped that the program would become the wellspring of future generations of Nazi Germany’s racial elite. However, Lebensborn disappointed these expectations. Although the program’s homes claimed to uphold the highest standards of modern medicine, serious complaints about the quality of medical care emerged....
Himmler had estimated that 100,000 “biologically valuable” German women obtained abortions illegally each year, despite increased penalties. However, only around 7,000 children were born into the Lebensborn homes during the program’s nine-year-long existence. 
Lebensborn ultimately fostered many more kidnapped foreign children, although the precise numbers are difficult to establish. The legacy of the Lebensborn program includes broken homes and devastated parents. It also left a generation of children forced to contend with identity crises as well as the social disapproval that often accompanied their association with a Nazi eugenics program.

I'm not going to read the new novel. I'd rather read nonfiction on this topic, but I would like to read a novel set in the near future that envisions a similar program in America, addressing the problem of declining birth and acknowledging that outlawing abortion won't work.

Of course, the racial aspect of the story would need to be changed, but how much? We'd have some sort of ideology of "diversity" or racial balancing, and it would be interesting to depict various American leaders attempting to work that out and needing to worry that what they are doing is like Lebensborn. Like Lebensborn. 

It would also be interesting to show American leaders attempting to draw in young American women through architecture and interior decoration... displayed on TikTok and Facebook. The novel could be very funny if you got just the right sort of obtuseness as the old try to imagine what these young women today want.

Offers of great food and a wonderful health care system would be part of the draw. More things to go wrong in this novel's twists and turns.

I could write this novel, but it will remain forever on my shelf labeled "Unwritten Books."

"Unlike Germany, which was clearly on the wrong side of history and made facing and remembering its Nazi past a national project woven inextricably into the postwar fabric..."

"... of its institutions and society, Italy had one foot on each side, and so had a claim to victimization by Fascism, having switched allegiances during the war. After Rome fell to the Allies, a civil war raged between the resistance and a Nazi puppet state of Mussolini loyalists in the north. When the war ended, Italy adopted an explicitly antifascist Constitution, but the political emphasis was on ensuring national cohesion in a country that had succeeded in unifying only a century earlier. There was a belief, the Italian writer Umberto Eco wrote in his classic 1995 essay 'Ur Fascism,' or 'Eternal Fascism,' that the 'memory of those terrible years should be repressed.' But repression 'causes neurosis,' he argued.... [Now, Giorgia] Meloni is poised to take charge. Her proposals, characterized by protectionism, tough-on-crime measures and protecting the traditional family, have a continuity with the post-Fascist parties, though updated to excoriate L.G.B.T. 'lobbies' and migrants.... [T]he left sees in her crescendoing rhetoric, cult of personality style and hard-right positions many of the hallmarks of an ideology that Eco famously sought to pin down despite Fascism’s 'fuzziness.' She evinces what Eco called an 'obsession with a plot, possibly an international one' against Italians, which she expresses in fears of international bankers using mass migration to replace native Italians and weaken Italian workers....."

For Saturday, take a journey through 12 TikToks, arranged meaningfully... or so some people think.

1. Maybe you'll say "I remember the old pole."

2. London women who don't like American women are not too likable themselves.

3. How you would love it if your candidate were this loved.

7. The meaning of life in eating your toast.

8. The butter board?!

12. A dog carps about the stuck traffic.

"I was dead set on centering my life on the patriotic ideal. I was a son of the American revolution..."

"... and there was blood on the tracks. Recent blood, and it was still drying. The whole record seemed like a real effort toward figuring out what Manifest Destiny was all about. We’d come as far as we could, as far as Horace Greeley told us to go. And so we looked back and tried to make sense of that great odyssey."
Said Van Dyke Parks, about the "Smile" album, quoted in Episode 153: “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys, of "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs."
For Van Dyke Parks it was an attempt to make music about America and American mythology. He was disgusted, as a patriot, with the Anglophilia that had swept the music industry since the arrival of the Beatles in America two and a half years earlier, particularly since that had happened so soon after the deaths both of President Kennedy and of Parks’ own brother who was working for the government at the time he died. So for him, the album was about America, about Plymouth Rock, the Old West, California, and Hawaii. It would be a generally positive version of the country’s myth, though it would of course also acknowledge the bloodshed on which the country had been built....

Brian [Wilson] had some other ideas — he had been studying the I Ching, and Subud, and he wanted to do something about the four classical elements, and something religious — his ideas were generally rather unfocused at the time, and he had far more ideas than he knew what to usefully do with. But he was also happy with the idea of a piece about America, which fit in with his own interest in “Rhapsody in Blue,” a piece that was about America in much the same way....

"I was raised in an Irish family baked in bitterness about British oppression. The monarchy seems like an expensive relic to me...."

"I always thought of Queen Elizabeth as an avatar of nepotism and colonialism. But as time went on, and victimhood became the fashion, I began to have a creeping admiration for her stoicism. Then, in 2011, I covered her fraught trip to Ireland, the first by a British monarch in a century. Suddenly I understood how one small movement of her head could soothe over 800 years of bloodshed and hatred. The Irish were skeptical at first, not wanting to be treated as subjects. Gerry Adams complained the visit was too soon. (Maybe wait another century.)....  How could Queen Elizabeth move past the 1979 murder by the I.R.A. of her cousin Lord Mountbatten and his 14-year-old grandson?.... And how could the Irish move past the 1972 Bloody Sunday horror, when British forces gunned down 14 innocent civilians? The queen spoke a phrase in perfect Gaelic and offered regret about how Britain had made Ireland suffer. She said both sides needed to be 'able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.'"

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "Charles in Charge" (NYT).

"We are now policing traditional gender boundaries, and stripping achievements from women, in the name of gender-blindness. The gender-woke movement is eating its own tail."

Says the top-rated comment at "At Shakespeare’s Globe, a Nonbinary Joan of Arc Causes a Stir/Even before the production debuted, it had inflamed a rancorous debate about sex and gender that plays out almost daily in Britain" (NYT). 

From the article:
[The playwright Charlie] Josephine said the decision to make Joan nonbinary came after studying Joan’s life and realizing that Joan of Arc had been willing to die at the stake rather than stop wearing men’s clothing. This was “not a casual fashion statement,” Josephine said. “It was a deep need for them.” Josephine wanted to depict what it would have been like for “a young person in a female body, who is questioning gender in a very different society than what we live in now,” they said. “My younger self really needed a protagonist like this,” they added.... 

A quote from  the Globe’s artistic director: “Everyone’s got an idea of how plays should be done and how historical figures should be treated. All 'I, Joan' was doing, [said], was asking, 'Who is Joan for now?'"

Do the play-makers care about Joan's identity — to herself — or are they appropriating her interest in her own identity for their purposes? I see an inherent contradiction. 

Anyway, this issue has been around for quite a while. There's a long Wikipedia article, "Cross-dressing, gender identity, and sexuality of Joan of Arc." It cites scholarship from the 1990s. Excerpt:

The "holy transvestite" – i.e., transvestite female saint – was a common medieval archetype, and one of the grounds used to defend Joan's attire. Saint Marina followed the classic story: fearing for her virginity on her wedding night, she cut off her hair, donned male attire, and joined a monastery, passing herself off as "Father Marinos"....

The Condemnation trial found Joan's transvestism condemning....
The rehabilitation trial focused strongly on the transvestism charge.... As the trial noted, she wore "long, conjoined hosen, attached to the aforesaid doublet with twenty cords (aiguillettes)" and "tight leggings", with the cords being used to securely tie the parts of the garment together so her clothing couldn't be pulled off by her English guards. Guillaume Manchon testified, "And she was then dressed in male clothing, and was complaining that she could not give it up, fearing lest in the night her guards would inflict some act of [sexual] outrage upon her"....

One of the first modern writers to raise issues of gender identity and sexuality was novelist Vita Sackville-West. In "Saint Joan of Arc", published in 1936, she indirectly suggests that Joan of Arc may have been a lesbian due to sharing a bed with little girls and women.....
[Writing in 1996, Susan] Crane backs up the distinction between Joan and the holy transvestites, in that Joan lays claim to her virginity and her womanhood instead of burying it, identifying herself not with the traditional religious crossdressers – as Bynum notes, "as brides, as pregnant virgins, as housewives, as mothers of God"—but as a fighter. "Her continued engagement in secular affairs and her noninstrumental, secular cross-dressing queer her virginity – that is, they move her virginity beyond its canonical meanings in ways that suggest a revision of heterosexual identity."

In her book, Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman [1996], transgender author Leslie Feinberg popularized the notion of Joan of Arc being transgender. Under the heading They Called Her 'Hommasse', Feinberg cites Evans and Murray on the "enormous importance" of Joan's male costume to her identity, and states, "Joan of Arc suffered the excruciating pain of being burned alive rather than renounce her identity ... What an inspirational role model – a brilliant transgender peasant teenager leading an army of laborers into battle." 

In Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, transgender biologist Joan Roughgarden cites and agrees with Feinberg's assessment, describing Joan as a "male-identified trans person"... 

"Historians advise the president. The problem? The scholars were all white."

Headline at NPR for a piece written by Sandhya Dirks

We're told that a few weeks before his blood-red "soul of America" speech, "the president met with a group of handpicked historians who told him that democracy was teetering, hanging on by a thread." And:
It seemed the Biden administration had only invited white experts to advise the president — four historians and one journalist: Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, University of Virginia historian Allida Black, presidential historians Michael Beschloss and Jon Meacham, who is also an occasional speechwriter for Biden, and journalist and Atlantic staff writer Anne Applebaum.....

[I]f you exclude the voices of scholars and writers who understand an anti-democratic, fascist order as heritage, rather than an aberration, you might miss how democracy has before been pulled back from the brink....

[I]t's important to understand how racism and white supremacy have always been at the center of threats to our democracy. "If you talk to scholars of race, that's the kind of perspective that you get," [said Kenneth Mack, a professor of law and history at Harvard]....

The optics are bad, but white scholars are capable of raising these issues too, and they should. The question is: Did they? Whether they did or not, one thing you can see in the text of the speech: Racial critique is omitted. The sights are set on "MAGA Republicans," and anything that might enlarge the frame to include other malefactors is left unsaid. 

"Actually, if you google the word senicide you’ll see that many parts of the world have a push/pull relationship with their older members...""[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women.""I was raised in an Irish family baked in bitterness about British oppression. The monarchy seems like an expensive relic to me...."

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?