To Discourage Unfit Kids

I follow a site on Twitter called RealTimeWWII which tweets information from World War II in real-time day by day. We are up to January 1940. Today they tweeted the following
“USA: The 1st public-funded birth control centre in New York state opens today: aims to “subsidize race-building by discouraging unfit kids.”

That was the byline of the clinic, to discourage unfit kids. People forget how widespread eugenics really was. I find it disturbing, how about you? Not that I’m particularly anti-birth control, I just find the concept of subsidizing race building a little “1984”.

When I was researching “The Secret Keeper” I spent months reading Holocaust literature, descriptions of Berlin pre-war and books written about the camps. I visited the display at the Imperial War Museum in London and I found the art particularly affecting. In 1995 I had visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. I based my ‘liberation’ chapter (of Dachau) on a letter written home by an American officer. I researched his unit because they were the first there, he was one of the first into the camp and witnessed the surrender of the highest German officer left in uniform. Many of them changed into civilian clothing and ‘melted away’ to the town. I also saw the relevant episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ several times. It was research that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The most lasting effect it has had on my attitudes is to make me vehemently opposed to generalisations. When we generalise about a race, a gender, a colour, a religion…we diminish all within our generalisation to a stereotype. We cease to see them as individuals and it becomes easy to do anything from offending them to exterminating them.

I remember observing at a film meeting once and a very cultured and wise Japanese man smiled as he was asked his opinion of a pretty English actress. He said, “I thought you knew, all Westerners look alike to us.” It was a joke and it was his way of pointing out that the producers were interchanging the Asian extras between shots. As if the viewing audience wouldn’t notice the difference.

People watching is a fascinating activity. You can let your imagination run wild. I have spent many happy tube journeys on the London underground wondering who were the aliens and who really worked for MI5. Practice your descriptive skills by writing brief characterisations in your mind. Some day you might need a character just like her or him.

The house is full of lovely smells, for this morning five very ripe bananas (who did sterling service in the plum nursery) were turned in banana slice with lemon icing and luscious banana muffins. My darling nephew is coming down to see us tomorrow from Auckland on his new motorbike, so it will be a good chance to cook sweetcorn fritters and marinated chicken and have a picnic. Oh, and Federer is still in the Australian Open, he was stunning against Del Potro. Tomorrow he plays Rafa in the semis!!


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