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Monday, October 3, 2016

The Flexibility Of Race And Gender–How Human Genetic Engineering Will Put The Issue To Rest

Rogers Brubaker author of Trans, a book about rethinking racial and gender categories said the following:
The sex vs. gender distinction allows us to distinguish the inner-gender identity from the outward sexed bodied. There’s no analogous way of separating out the inner from the outer in the domain of race. The inner-gender identity can be understood as an essence that only the person concerned can know, and can be independent of the sexed body. We just can’t think about race in that way. It is incomprehensible if I tell you that I simply feel black (Interview with Emma Green, The Atlantic 10.2.16)
Forget for a moment the academic-speak of the text.   The author is on to something, although he is unaware of it.   Genetic engineering  will change forever the way we think of race, gender, beauty, or intelligence.  No longer will we be subjected to the luck of the draw, dealt genes from long-dead ancestors, look like Gainsborough portraits in the library - the Stanton chin, the Smythe nose, or the Fairfax ‘infirmity’- and wondered where exactly we came from.

Parents in the not-so-distant future will be able to design their children, selecting specific traits and characteristics from gene catalogues just like they would color schemes and furniture.  For sale will be the DNA of Hollywood actresses, talented and gifted athletes, brilliant musicians, dancers, and mathematicians, and the most innovative and creative artists.  The market demand will be such that bone scrapings of geniuses and beauties of the past will be common-place.  The law will quickly catch up to consumer interest in Marilyn Monroe, Einstein, or Victor Hugo and permit exhumations in the interest of science and commerce.   The science of genetic engineering will become so sophisticated that anyone selecting the intelligence of Nietzsche will not ‘inherit’ his madness; nor Oscar Wilde’s prognathous jaw.


Given this bewildering but exciting array of genetic possibilities, it will be unlikely that any parent will be concerned with race, gender, or ethnicity, concerns which will vanish when considering beauty, brains, and athletic ability.  Few fathers and mothers will fret about sexual orientation, gender configurations, or racial mix when far more elemental choices are open.

Of course if a genetic component to gender is found, and if parents like, they will certainly be encouraged to embed the orientation they prefer in the DNA of their child.  Any number of combinations and permutations will be possible – a male both alpha and nurturing; a female with a strong chin, broad shoulders, and well-defined muscles but with a strong heterosexual desire for male company; a  fey, ironic male, slender and graceful, but with killer instincts.  There will be no end to the possibilities.

Once choice becomes the rule, obsession with difference – differently-abled, alternatively-gendered, or racially distinct – will disappear.  In any case such concerns are only a temporal phenomenon borne out of need for individuality and identity in era of intense competition and unequal distribution of resources.  No one really cares what race a person is, with whom he sleeps, or what is his national origin.  Race, gender, and ethnicity have no inherent value but are only temporary markers – insignificant in and of themselves, but important signifiers in an increasingly confusing world.

In a world of genetic choice, if you want to be black, you can be black.  Be as black as the blackest African, as blended as a quadroon, or noticeably but not significantly black.  If you want to be gay, you can be gay – as swishy as a Castro queen, as subtle as an accountant, or as defiant as an NFL lineman.   If the mix of Asian and Northern European tempts, pick from Vietnamese and Scandinavian genes and have them combined to specification.

The idea of a post-human, genetically modified generation is startling to some, anathema to others.  For many it is devilish and evil, against the will and intentions of God.  To others it signals yet a further descent into amoral commercialism.  Pessimists see no happy outcome.  Since human nature – venal, aggressive, self-interested, and territorial at best – has never changed, human beings will find some way to appropriate everything for geopolitical ends.  Super-human, robotic, artificially-intelligent killing machines - alloys of the best human genes and the most powerful electronic and mechanical devices.


There is no doubt that wars in the post-human era will be fought by armies of powerful amalgams; but back home life will be far less contentious than it is now – at least as far as race, gender, and ethnicity are concerned.  People may be criticized for bad taste.  Just as many Americans have no taste at all when it comes to clothes, makeup, or hairstyles, they will pick and choose badly when it comes to genetic combinations.  A little too much of this, too little of that.  A tint of skin too light for dark hair.  An aquiline nose a bit to long for a rounded chin.  Too gay or not enough. Awkward old-fashioned trannie uncomfortable in his skin, too butch, too dully straight. 

The good news is that people will not be making such class distinctions and generalities – all black people, for example, or all gay men.  The bad news is that we will be as censorious and status-conscious as ever.  We will look down on the bad choices that we would never make.

On the other hand, it will certainly be a given that every parent will choose the Intelligent Quotient of an Einstein for their babies, and this will serve to raise both the level of discourse and the competition between individuals.  In other words, no matter what the racial mix, gender configuration, or ethnic tilt a person might be born with, he will be super-smart.  This will ensure greater achievement, productivity, and innovativeness; but will also guarantee spunk and defensiveness.

It is impossible to predict any outcome of such human genetic modification.  The law of unintended consequences will rule and we will all be surprised by what we have wrought.

Only one thing is certain.  The constant, incessant, interminable drumbeat about race, gender, and ethnicity will end.   The sanctimony, righteousness, and academic arrogance of the Left will disappear.   There will be no more race riots, Black Lives Matter protests, gay pride parades and counter demonstrations.  No more hurt feelings and safe spaces.
Author Brubaker goes on:
There is a distinctly American strand of individualism—the notion of the self-made man, or the self-made person. It’s the idea that we are chronically and continuously remaking who we are and that we must, in fact, do so in order to keep up with the times. This is not just true in the domain of sexuality and gender; more generally, it’s essential to neoliberal understandings of how people need to be entrepreneurial about themselves by retraining, remaking, and reshaping their bodies, their minds, and their capacities. That’s part of what it means to be a good citizen.
He is so far behind the times.  There will be no ‘retraining, remaking, and reshaping’ in the progressive idealistic sense.  All the shaping, configuring, and aligning will happen under a microscope.

Brubaker concludes with at least one correct surmise:
I think this is what makes the subject so fascinating. This is such a foundational social category—gender, sex—that we can’t really imagine what lies in the future. I think certainly major cultural, political, and legal struggles lie in the immediate future. But what lies beyond that is really hard to say.

Little does he know.

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