Cloning is nothing new in U.S. Powerful institutions promote sameness in a sheeplike population

March 23, 1997|By THOMAS H. NAYLOR

There is irony in President Clinton's decision to ban the use of federal funds to clone humans. Long before Dolly, the Scottish sheep, was cloned through genetic engineering, millions of Americans were effectively being cloned by our government, our politicians, our large corporations, our universities and our public schools, without altering a single DNA molecule.

Furthermore, no one seemed to care.

Even though we all have different genetic maps, most of us think the same, vote the same, watch the same television programs and buy the same consumer goods. While subscribing to an ideology that raises individualism to godlike status, most Americans are conformists.

Multiple parties are a fact of life throughout Europe and most of the West. Today, the only countries without multiparty political systems are the United States and a number of Third World military dictatorships.

Former Alabama Gov. George Wallace once said, "There is not a dime's worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican parties." He was right. As the 1996 elections reconfirmed, the United States has a single political party masked as a two-party system.

Both parties are firmly entrenched in the centralist camp - committed to making us all the same.

The Democrats like big cities, big public works projects and big social welfare programs; the Republicans big business, big military and big prisons. Big-name politicians, big political parties, big technology and the Internet all promote sameness. We all march to the beat of the same drummers.

During the Cold War, we accused the Soviets of human rights abuses. Refuseniks were often jailed. We don't imprison political dissidents in this country. It's not necessary.

So powerful is the message from the center that those few who disagree are effectively marginalized and relegated to the political sidelines.

Although drug addiction is illegal in this country, addiction to beer, cigarettes, junk foods, prescription medications, television, video games, automobiles, personal computers, plastic yuck, shopping malls and credit cards is encouraged by every form of advertising. Through high-tech media manipulation, the high priests of corporate America tell us what to buy, how much to pay for it and when to replace it.

This we call free enterprise.

Nowhere is the pressure for conformity greater than in our colleges and universities. Too many students take too many courses, spend too much time grubbing for grades, drink too much, party too much, think too little and learn too little from faculties concerned more with political correctness rather than creativity, originality, morality or truth.

If an undergraduate degree has any meaning anymore, it is to certify that the recipients are no different from thousands of like-minded graduates.

This is known as academic freedom.

The dumbing-down of our over-centralized, overregulated, values-free public schools is nothing new. Above all, what one learns at school is what it means to be "cool." What is cool determines how you dress, how you behave, how you speak, whether you have sex and whether you take drugs and abuse alcohol.

Our public schools are among our nation's most effective cloning agents. Most colleges haven't a clue as how to undo the damage wrought by four years of high school.

The Internet is more of the same. For millions, it has become not only their primary source of information, communication and entertainment, but also a wellspring from which they hope meaning, community and human connectedness will flow.

President Clinton, who loves the Internet, calls it "our new town square." And as if this were not enough, we are bombarded by the silver-tongued messages of countless televangelists offering to clone us right on the spot in front of our televisions.

So why is human cloning such a big deal? We already have been cloned, and we don't even know it.

Thomas H. Naylor is Professor Emeritus of Economices at Duke University.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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