Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ and Donald Trump: A Comparison of Two Old White Guys

As I was reading the ‘Civilised Nations’ section of Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man‘ I was struck first by the audacity of his content, but also by his featherlight way of expressing it. Darwin has a definite point he is making by quoting Galton and Greg yet, he refuses to make this conclusion in his own words; it almost seems that Darwin won’t explicitly state his opinion on the example so that he can argue that “he never said that.” Contextually, this would make sense as  his earlier work ‘The Origin of Species‘ was met with outrage, despite the fact that Darwin never directly relates any of his findings to humans. To quote SparkNotes, “Despite the care taken by Darwin in that earlier work to avoid any mention of the human species, it was obvious to many of the Origin’s readers that all of the arguments applied to pigeons could as well be applied to humans.” Darwin does mention that ” There are, however, some checks to this downward tendency. We have seen that the intemperate suffer from a high rate of mortality, and the extremely profligate leave few offspring,” which goes against his argument, but again it can easily be determined that he was using this counterargument as a get-out-of-jail-free card, of sorts. Historically speaking, the outrage Darwin expected over ‘The Descent of Man’ never happened, – it was an old and worn out argument by the time it was released – but his hypocrisy reminded me of another old white guy: Donald Trump.

Anyone who watched the 2016 presidential debates knows that Trump made some rather flagrant remarks regarding immigrants, Mexicans in particular. One of the more provocative quotes stated that Mexico is “not sending their best [people]…They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Like Darwin, Trump mentions that there are those who “are good people,” that don’t fit his previously stated description, and again one can attribute this to him being able to argue, if he needed to, that he didn’t say all Mexicans fit into the undesirable characteristics he refers to. Both Darwin – even if he was quoting Galton and Greg – and Trump also use language that generalizes all members of the groups they describe, before going on to state that there are exceptions to their rules. That act alone directly contradicts their original use of all-encompassing language, but Donald Trump likes to take this a step further.

Not only does Trump insult immigrants in this country, he also claims in his inauguration speech that “[w]e’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon,” and “[o]ne by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.” But for someone who promises that they “will fight for you with every breath in [their] body, and [they] will never, ever let you down… [they] will bring back our jobs. [They] will bring back our borders,” Donald Trump sure offers and employs a lot of immigrant workers. The Independent Journal Review estimates that “Trump sought 500 visas, which last between 10 months and 3 years, for vacancies at Mar-a-Lago and his other Florida properties since 2010, mostly for workers from Europe out of hospitality colleges.” Despite the fact that Trump has not directly accused European immigrants of the offensive acts he has accused Mexican and Middle Eastern immigrants of, he still contradicts his promises (made in his inauguration speech) to the American people. The New York Times revealed that “nearly 300 United States residents have applied or been referred for jobs as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers [at Trump’s Florida properties]. But according to federal records, only 17 have been hired. In all but a handful of cases, Mar-a-Lago sought to fill the jobs with hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries.”

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it and perhaps that’s the problem with Trump. However, unless President Trump wants to end up recanting his words on his deathbed, he should probably crack open a history book.







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