walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_Fatal Misconception_, Matthew Connelly

Subtitle: The Struggle to Control World Population

I picked this up at Toadstool. If I'd seen the online reviews, it's hard to say for sure I would have bought it. I had sort of been wondering why population control rhetoric had not returned with the massive climate change push by environmentalists. The last book I had on the topic was _Critical Masses_, which I enjoyed, but found somewhat flawed when I first read it about a decade ago, and find even more deeply flawed now (and that was _before_ reading this one!). I should take that back; there was another, highly technical book about demography that I found very difficult to wade through, but it had much less an emphasis on population control methods, IIRC.

Connelly's book is really about the population control _movement_, starting with eugenics near the beginning of the 20th century, really hitting its stride in the 3rd quarter of the century with massive panic about resources (food, commodities, fuel, etc. -- sound familiiar? This is kind of why I was expecting the return of this rhetoric), and getting hammered during Reagan's second term by the pro-life crowd latching onto China's One Child Policy as like the best anti-PR ever. Which it was.

The man dug. He went through archives. This is Really and Truly History: someone talking to the players, reading their letters and papers, wading through conference proceedings, you name it. It would be pretty easy for a doctrinaire pro-choice/person-worried-about-population-effects-on-the-environment to read Connelly through a lens that says, dude, you are attacking My People and I am Blind to Their Faults and You Must Be Crypto-Pro-Life, like intelligent design is code for creationism. It would be less easy, but still possible, for a doctrinaire pro-lifer to say, aha! Finally, someone willing to tell The Truth! All this pro-choice stuff is just rhetoric to cover an agenda to commit genocide against poor/brown/southern/whatever people. It is, as a result, a difficult book to read. It's not easy to trust the guy. Is he twisting the evidence, or really presenting fairly What Really Happened?

If you don't read the conclusion, in fact, his _actual_ agenda would remain pretty murky. But in the conclusion, it is quite clear that he welcomed the sea change that happened to the population control movement. Getting the US money that was sloshing around gone. Getting the patriarchal bureaucrats who were sexually harassing women (in the US and overseas) gone. Ending coercive programs, whether "incentives" or literally forcing sterilization/abortion/etc. on those who did not want. He _particularly_ welcomes the dramatic increase in representation and control by women of the new movement for reproductive rights.

He is also a passionate historian: if you don't know what happened, you're going to be fighting a lot of pointless, wasteful, losing battles, and fail to learn crucial lessons. If you are too focused on what might be to the exclusion of learning from the past, the range of evil you might engage in is breathtaking. And if you try to run other people's lives for them without listening to them and answering to them, you are going to fuck up. Badly.

He's even sympathetic to the compromises made by minority participants in the population control movement -- he recognizes they were doing the best they could with what they had available at the time.

What's not to love? Compassionate. Intelligent. Informed. Pretty much what you want from an author on any topic, but especially one this hot.

AT 384 pages of dense text, think a little while before committing to reading this. It would be sad if you started it and didn't finish it. It really works best as a whole.

And I say that as an inveterate sampler and reader of last chapters before reading the rest of the book -- so this is a tradeoff I'm accustomed to judging.
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