Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Capitalism & Economics
Stephen R. Shalom
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Eleanor J. Bader
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
A s 2003 began, the mainstream press was grappling with a cloning hoax. This January, it launched extended coverage of the 50th anniversary of the identification of DNA’s structure. Both events provided golden opportunities to deepen public understanding of the social and political implications of new human genetic and reproductive technologies.
Unfortunately, the media have mostly flubbed these opportunities. The coverage of the Raelians’ cloning claims obscured rather than illuminated the critical issues. Early signs on the second media opportunity—a series of carefully planned celebrations throughout the spring—are none too promising. Fortunately, a civil society response to dangerous new human genetic and reproductive technologies is emerging in a number of countries, as witnessed at January’s World Social Forum in Brazil.
The year’s first human biotechnology media frenzy actually began at the end of December 2002, when a previously obscure alien-chasing sect announced that its scientists had produced the world’s first human clone. The initial news reaction appropriately focused on whether the claim could be true. But by the time the Raelians’ excuses as to why they were unable to show the cloned baby became obviously outlandish, the media had moved on to its next news cycle. The result is that many readers falsely believe that a human clone has been produced. Many more are left with the impression that dangerous human genetic technologies are the province of bizarre cultists. Numerous media-oriented events are scheduled to laud the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA. To a certain extent, praise is justified: the discovery was a milestone in biology, and has led to advances in medical genetics in the form of techniques to treat and even prevent diseases. Missing from the celebrations, however, is a meaningful dialogue about the past relations of genetic science (the study of the expression and mechanisms of genetic traits) to the eugenics movement (20th century efforts to “improve the human gene pool” through reproductive policies). Also absent is critical reportage of current advocacy by a number of influential figures of a new high-tech, market-driven eugenics.
Many Americans are unaware that a eugenics movement existed before and outside Nazi Germany. In fact, eugenic beliefs once enjoyed wide support among liberals and conservatives alike, underwriting a social movement and government practices that encouraged the “fit” to have more children and discouraged childbearing for the poor, the criminal, and the “feeble-minded.” In the United States, eugenics helped shape a racist immigration policy in the first decades of the 1900s and justified forced sterilizations of tens of thousands that lasted into the 1970s.
Of those who know about this history, most believe that advocacy of eugenics died when the Nazis carried the ideas to an unimaginable extreme. This is not the case. Support for eugenics persisted quietly among some scientists and intellectuals in the United States, particularly those associated with the development of modern human genetic science. Historian of science Diane Paul states, “From the start, human genetics was intertwined with—and sometimes indistinguishable from—eugenics.” Paul notes that five of the first six presidents of the American Society of Human Genetics, founded in 1948, served simultaneously on the board of the American Eugenics Society.
Post-World War II eugenicists made efforts to remove overt racial and class biases from their policies. As social standards evolved, they updated their preferred terminology and techniques. In 1968, AES president Frederick Osborn commented, “[e]ugenic goals are most likely to be attained under a name other than eugenics.”
The historical connections between genetic researchers and eugenics do not mean that human genetic science is automatically suspect. But ignorance about this history is surely worrisome. The paucity of critical reporting about advocacy of a new eugenics is very disturbing. When reporters broach the topic of eugenics at all, they are likely to contrast the misguided scientists of the past, who supported state interventions in reproduction, with the enlightened scientists of today—including those who support a high-tech, market-driven eugenics.
Lost among relegation of abuses to the past, dismissal of religious misfits posing as scientists, and blind praise of scientific pioneers, is serious analysis of dangers that are looming close. Today, a number of respected writers, academics, and researchers are either explicitly advocating or refusing to challenge the development of technologies that would set us on our way towards a new eugenics. The road to human clones and designer babies is being built not by easily dismissed sects, but by some leading bioethicists and biotechnologists. Although nearly all scientists oppose reproductive human cloning, many do so on narrowly defined grounds of safety. Some go out of their way to say that if the creation of cloned or genetically redesigned children is shown to be safe, it should be supported. Others assert that the development of these technologies is inevitable.
Worse yet is the loose network of futurists and scientists who advocate a “post-human” future in which cloning and inheritable genetic engineering “enhance” the privileged, leaving most people behind as a genetic pariah caste. None other than the mega-hero of DNA’s anniversary, James Watson, said a few years ago that “[i]f we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we? What’s wrong with it?… Evolution can be just damn cruel, and to say that we’ve got a perfect genome and there’s some sanctity? I’d like to know where that idea comes from, because it’s utter silliness.” John Robertson, an influential legal scholar and bioethicist, has commented that genetic enhancements are “simply another instance in which wealth gives advantages.”
Fortunately, civil society voices are beginning to speak out, as witnessed by January’s World Social Forum. A workshop titled “Genetics and Social Justice: The Global Politics of the New Human Genetic and Reproductive Technologies” was organized by the Center for Genetics and Society (www.genetics-and-society.org) and Ser Mulher, a Brazilian feminist organization (www.sermulher. org.br). Speakers from Brazil, Peru, and the United States called for public debate and political action on decisions about and regulation of human biotechnologies.
Ser Mulher executive coordinator Alejandra Rotania spoke of the particular dangers that the new technologies pose for “women in general and especially for women of the Third World in the context of global hegemonic politics.” “[C]urrent global scientific and technological developments transform life, nature, beings, and bodies—their functions and components, their most intimate nature—into objects of engineering and products for the market,” Rotania said. In a presentation titled, “What’s Mine is Mine and What’s Yours is Mine,” Marsha Darling, director of the Center for African-American and Ethnic Studies Programs at Adelphi University, explored the ways that patent laws and other claims to “intellectual property rights” are fostering biopiracy in the “genetics age.” “[G]enes already belong to living organisms and cannot be claimed as the property of someone else,” Darling argued. “We have been there before, with the ownership of people’s bodies.”
Jurema Werneck, director of the Brazilian women’s group CRIOLA (www. criola.ong. org), put the prospect of cloned and genetically redesigned human beings into the context of the ongoing rampant racial discrimination against Brazilians of African descent. She warned of the prospect of new forms of discrimination and eugenics based on characteristics measured by modern biotechnologies. We are confronting the new technologies, Werneck concluded, “so that other human beings will not be treated as we Blacks have been treated for the past 500 years.”
Rosario Isasi, a Peruvian human rights lawyer and bioethicist working at the University of Toronto’s Joint Center for Bioethics, described and analyzed the current policy situation regarding human cloning and inheritable genetic modification, both nationally and in international bodies. Isasi focused especially on the French-German proposal for a United Nations treaty to ban reproductive human cloning. “This ban would not only be important in itself, but it would also mark the first time the world worked together to control a biotechnology,” Isasi said.
In a separate panel, organized by medical geneticists from the Hospital de Clinicas in Porto Alegre, Alda Sousa, a geneticist at the University of Porto in Portugal, asserted that patents on genes and gene fragments are actually slowing down medical research, and making new medicines too expensive for the world’s poor. Sousa concluded her presentation with a paraphrase of the World Social Forum’s well-known refrain: “A world without patents on life is not just necessary,” she said, “but also possible.”
A third WSF panel addressed the new human genetic and reproductive technologies within a broader focus on “Ecology and Sustainability” as part of Z Magazine’s Life After Capitalism “conference within a conference” (www.zmag.org/lacsite). Marcy Darn- ovsky, of the Center for Genetics and Society, described proposals by distinguished U.S. scientists for a “post-human” future to an audience that included many grassroots activists from rural Latin American communities. Emphasizing that the prospect of human clones and designer babies can no longer be considered science fiction, she urged that it be evaluated using the same tools of critical political analysis that we apply to governmental and corporate policies. “The emerging human genetic technologies are a turning point,” Darnovsky warned. “Unless we harness our moral intelligence and political will to shape them, they will conform to existing social divides and to the inadequacies of our democracy, and they will exacerbate both.”
Progressives of many stripes—environmentalists, women’s advocates, human rights campaigners, disability rights activists, and others—are increasingly realizing that technologies such as human cloning and genetic redesign influence social relationships and power arrangements at least as much as do laws or elected officials, and like them should be subject to meaningful democratic control.
Jesse Reynolds is on the staff of the Center for Genetics and Society. See www.genetics-and-society.org.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.