Prof. Jacob E. Mabe
Berlin, May 31, 2000
Biological materialism and racism
Speech at the first public presentation of the bronze statues by Igael Tumarkin
Biological materialism is a world view, according to which the unequal ways of life of human beings and nations have materialistic foundations which are visible and which can be researched and eperimented. Many anthropologists proceed from this view of the human species held predominantly in race biology, in order to reflect the cultural and social differences. Thereby the material in humans is equated with their physical constitution (hair, skin color, sex etc..). From this follows the differentiation of groups of people or peoples in races. This distinction is obviously based on an ethnocentric motive to categorize humans in ethnic groups in order to conclude therefrom their biological as well as moral, intellectual or mental inequality. This is justified with the argument that different types of humans with different biological dispositions can have no similar ways of thinking and action, because they are so different in their essence and nature that their way of life would have to be incompatible. A cultural community would therefore only be applicable for people biologically related (e.g. humans with black or white skin pigmentation). In this way materialism has been lent a biological foundation, which today has a crucial meaning for racist thinking in contemporary science and philosophy. Characteristic for biological materialism is then its fusion of race-biological and ethnocentric insights.
The biological sub-division of the human species into different races and the accompanying categorizing into types of cultures resulted in each group of people regarding itself and its own culture as being unique and unmistakable and regards itself at the same time to be materially and intelectually superior regarding human beings designated as being of a foreign type. In practical politics biological materialism can be compared with the social-darwinistic theory. Because also its political advocates resist the so-called "mixing of the races" and stand for decidedly rejecting any form of exchange with foreigners, who are classified as being culturally subordinate. One believes that one thereby protects ones country against any attack on its cultural, economic and technical wealth by "under-humans".
This struggle, which was originally directed outward, has meanwhile shifted inward. In place of foreign "under-humans", today also religious, unisex or ethnic minority groups are felt to be a new danger to the cultural life in ones own country. In order to make the broad mass attentive to the threatening danger, an effort is made to systematically exclude all "other-thinking" persons from the community by degrading them to sub-humans as well as declaring their way of life as being unworthy. Thereby the biologic-materialistic objective of this social categorization consists of retaining the purity of the "proto race" with all its virtues by using political exclusion to make the existence of "marginal groups" superfluous. Although the policy of so-called "ethnic cleansing" is an offense against humanity and international law, authoritarian rulers again and again fall back on the practice of politics of elimination with the aim of naming the groups of people who are hated (out of envy or greed for power) as the scapegoat for the national misery.
If these people do not submit to the will of the despots, they are hunted down, driven out or eliminated. One thinks thereby of the situation of the Kurds in Iraq and in Turkey, the Euro-African in Zimbabwe, the Bantu tribes in Sudan, the Tamils in Sri Lanka etc. But the policy of exclusion or killing has so far nowhere led to make humans redundant or subordinate creatures on the long term. Apart from this, no ideology can help to breed humans in a certain direction. Since in particular the 19th and 20th century, different categories of perceived enemies have developed (foreigners, dwarfs, handicapped persons and other minority groups).
Here are three examples which show which political measures were used so far against humans who did not seem to correspond to the idea of the "upper race":
1. Colonization, particularly in Africa, for the purpose of economic exploitation as well as the accompanying degrading and reification of the african way of life. In so doing, the Africans themselves were denied any human dignity.
2. The psychiatrization (forced hospitalization in psychiatric institutes), in order to hide humans with so-called deviating behavior who are a shame for the "pure race", because their elimination offends national and international right.
3. The forced sterilization of "sub-humans" ("Untermenschen"), particularly during the period of fascism. At the time one wanted to use medical measures to counter the reproduction of certain marginal groups with the aim of preventing the transmission of their biological dispositions. This eugenic ethic reached its peak with Hitler's ideology. Forced sterilization is based on an ideological motive to work against the propagation or the passing on to following generations of the "shameful" genes which allegedly only create "creatures without dignity".
To sum up: biological materialism as racism is a monistic ideology, which is based on the principle of a "one-race ideology". Hereby a group of people makes the claim to be the only race which not only stands above other types of humans, but also has the right to decide their fate. It is only to be regretted that in many countries immoral actions and racially motivated aggressions promoted against foreigners are still legally protected as well as politically promoted. Such a politicized racism, which refuses individuals their fundamental and citizenship rights due to their different biological nature, is contrary to the principle of humanity and at the same time degrades the human species to the mere fiction of anthropology.