Without differences, there are no unique perspectives. Without unique perspectives, there is no innovation.
So says an ad for Lockheed Martin, which features a photo of a Black woman and an Asian woman beaming over a model F-22 fighter jet. It’s not clear if their evident pride is from the weapon these multicultural Vulcanettes have apparently forged, or from their invention of “innovation” itself. The ad concludes:
One company. One team. Where diversity contributes to mission success.
“Diversity” figures prominently in American business and government. A recent release from General Patrick J. O’Reilly of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, entitled “We’re Diverse and Mission Ready,” cites “diversity” as an agency priority: “Our inclusive workforce consists of a balanced cross-section of individuals working in various disciplines. Together, they enable us to advance all facets of our engineering and acquisition responsibilities.”
That settles it: We’re in the grip of Trofim Lysenko’s legacy.
Like Bill Gates, who showed up with his quirky but functional DOS operating system when mainframe king IBM branched out into personal computers, Trofim Lysenko was a man who emerged at a critical moment with the right background and the right gimmick. In the Soviet Union of the late 1920’s, Stalin was consolidating his power and forcing the peasants onto collective farms, which were touted as superior to private farms. But grain production slumped and the peasants resisted.
Lysenko claimed he had the answer. A peasant without formal training in biology, and a true believer in Leninism, he argued that wheat seeds could be conditioned to withstand the bitter Russian winter, thereby quadrupling their output. Lysenko’s so-called “revolutionary” technique suited the Party’s purposes so well that he was made head of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences. From that position, and backed by Stalin himself, this “peasant scientist” promoted his ideas for expanding grain production through the application of Party doctrine to agriculture, often resorting to arresting and even executing dissident scientists.
Not only was Lysenko a good communist, his humble background made him perfect for leading his fellow peasants into accepting collectivized agriculture. But more significantly, Lysenko insisted the wheat he altered passed on its new characteristics to offspring. The Party leaped onto this idea and proclaimed it as an alternative to the “bourgeois” and “fascist” Western science of genetics. In Stalin’s last years in power, genetics was even officially condemned as “bourgeois pseudoscience.” The Soviet elite fully appreciated and exploited the ideological repercussions of Lysenko’s theories. The Party had to grow more than just wheat; it also had to nurture its budding political power. Its thinking was that by adapting Lysenko’s methods to humans, future generations of Soviet citizens could be made smarter, more productive, stronger – and most important, free of troublesome bourgeois traits, and thus more self-sacrificing and obedient.
Lysenkoism, however, doesn’t just refer to Trofim Lysenko’s method of treating wheat seeds, but to an ideology that trumps science, experience, tradition, and common sense. In fact, despite years of energetic advocacy and fudging of disastrous results, the Soviet agricultural system abandoned Lysenko’s methods and theories by the late 1950s.
Nevertheless, Lysenko’s legacy lives on today in the United States. The American version of Lysenkosim proclaims we’re more productive, smarter, and more moral when we replace our traditional demographics with people from all over the globe. Central is the redefinition of “nation” away from shared history, language, and heritage toward proper thought. In his famous “Alligators in the moat” speech on immigration this May, President Obama assured an El Paso crowd that anyone who stumbles, sneaks, dashes in, waits patiently in line, or is even born here, is an American – provided one thinks the right way, or as he put it, “What matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
Enforcing this new and improved version of citizenship keeps the government very busy. For example, in Dayton, Ohio, the Justice Department has ordered the police department to lower testing standards to allow more minority candidates to pass the written exam. California’s prisons can no longer separate inmates by race, despite the deadly effects of letting White, Black, and Latino gangs duke it out. And states already facing runaway deficits must spend an additional $900 million to comply with the No Child Left Behind Law, which seeks to eliminate that pesky “achievement gap” between whites and minorities in the integrated school system.
The foreign policy implications of American Lysenkoism are profound. Our leaders justified America’s military interventions in Serbia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq in the name of building nations where different groups would prosper in liberal democracies. Forced integration as foreign policy received a hearty endorsement at the 26th observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, blessed the Pentagon’s wars with the words, “Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness — the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”
The parallels between Soviet and American Lysenkoism tend toward the eerie in some instances. While no one’s been executed yet for questioning approved thought on race and society, dissenting opinions have brought careers to abrupt ends, as in the cases of James Watson and Larry Summers.
Meanwhile, the populace receives a steady diet of approved thought from government and its propaganda machinery in the form of documentaries and traveling museum exhibits that challenge common perceptions with the question, “Are we so different?” Why, the very notion of race, we are informed, is nothing but a “social construct.” Indeed, the American Anthropological Association dismisses the study of racial differences as a “pseudoscience.” Lysenko would agree.
And maybe it is. But as with the theories of Trofim Lysenko, we will have to judge it by its fruits. Or lack thereof.