Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 11. June 26, 1952
Birth Control and Asia — The Advantages of Continence over Continuance
Birth Control and Asia
The Advantages of Continence over Continuance
On Friday the thirteenth the motion "that Education in Birth Control is an essential solution to Asia's problems" was debated. The importance of this debate is emphasised by the fact that leading sociologists have stated that unless Asia's problems are immediately solved New Zealand can hope for only 15 to 20 years continued independent existence. The importance of considering the Asian question, then, is imperative and the Debating Society is to be commended for discussing it.
However, the mass of the college has no such awareness of their impending future, and so only about fifty (the fifty that generally attend all debates) were present. The weather and the Little Theatre were cold, of course, but not sufficiently to explain such a small number. Nevertheless the speaking, from both platform and floor was of a good standard, and interjections, although not as sustained as usual, were plentiful.
Needless to say the Foy ploy was flawlessly played by the inimitable Doug Foy. A particularly pleasing feature was the continued number of new speakers, new speakers with considerable talents. Due to the considerateness of the judge Mr. B. M. O'Connor, who was a full half hour early, the evening started on time—something unusual.
* * *
The speakers were:
Affirmative Dennis Garrett leader),
Negative: Michael Lennane (leader), Pauline Hoskins
The motion was lost: Student vote, 10-19; whole house, 17-20,
The chairman Mr. Curtin, announced that Mr. Dennis Garrett, due to pressure of work, had had to resign the post of secretary. Mr. John Cody was appointed to the vacancy.
Dennis Garrett opening the debate for the affirmative found great pleasure in not having to define the first part of the motion. He stated that [unclear: "Asia's] problems" could be summed up in one word—Population. He rightly pointed out this was "probably the most serious debate for a long time." (Mr. Foy—it is certainly the first debate for a long time!) Population was the basic cause of unrest in Asia because of the discrepancy between the amount of food and the between the amount of food and the greater demand for it.
Of the population of the world, about 3,000,000,000, over 50 per cent., about 1,400,000,000, lived in Asia. Eighty per cent of these people lived in China, India and Japan, and the affirmative would deal mainly with them. Their estimated population increase per year was fifteen million people; that is equal in three year to the total population of Great Britain! Although the death rate was extremely high there were over and above the death rate each year ten million more people to feed. During the opposition's two speeches 80 children would be born. As an afterthought he added—"through no fault of theirs." in China, with a population of five hundred million, there were an average of 1000 people to the square mile, Japan had an average of 3000! Furthermore there was no mechanisation to utilise fully land for food production.
Although the terms of the debate made birth-control only one solution it was essential to do something effective. To prevent the use of birth control, which was, on moral grounds, and to let things ripe "would be murder, plain and simple.'"
Michael Lennane asked could he present his side of the negative's case, such as it was, leaving the more conclusive (and more difficult) part to his colleague. If he could prove that education in birth control was not the essential solution to Asia's problems, his side would have won its case. He set about this task a little uncertainly, but was soon citing medical-experts with great confidence. First was Dr. De Castro, President of the United Nations World Food Production Board, who stated that of the world's 16 million acres of arable land, barely two million were being cultivated. Dr. F. J. McCann was cited as saying that contraception lead to lunacy. Since the American occupation of Japan, a comparatively well-educated country, over 200,000 Japanese had died praising it. Referring to the affirmative's views on morals, Mr. Lennane pointed out that there was a positive side to morals, which if it had been followed would prevent an insane policy of colonisation. Dr. Fisher; Archbishop of Canterbury, was quoted as [unclear: deploring] family planning. What Mrs. Sanger in America didn't realise about Asians in Asia was that they had a strong love of family. Dr. Mahatma Ghandi said that it would be impossible to change sacred beliefs of the Hindus within two generations—and that would be too late! The Chinese, even more conservative, would be even harder to change. The begetting of a family was the greatest, and at times the only pleasure of the poor peasants, to deprive them of it was no solution and would only cause friction. Far more positive would be American money and Australian food.
Marjorie Munro pointed out that the increased productivity called for by the negative side would mean increased mechanisation which would mean increased unemployment. And this disastrous productivity which meant also a higher standard of living and a lower birth rate was the only alternative to birth control.
Concerning Mr. Lennane's quotations about the effect of birth control on health, she said it was accepted "in medical circles" that it was not. Anyway, she thought that lunacy would be better than a family of 13 children which would lead to more certain lunacy. As for the negative's statements on morals they were arguing from the point of view of Western philosy about Asiatic thought. Mr. Lennane might enthuse about Chinese grandfathers with happy grandchildren about their knees, but he must realise that "the case rested with youth, not with grandfathers." Why must we live in the past?" With no sound attitude to birth control the negative coupled no solution to Asia's problems. Finally, birth control was not the permanent essential solution-it was "an expediency" to deal with the present.
Miss Munro spoke very well for a new speaker.
Petite Pauline Hoskins, another new speaker, spoke as if speaking was very natural to her. She quoted a Latin-American proverb: "The table of the poor is meagre—but the bed of misery is fertile," to illustrate her thesis that hunger increased population, and so increased problems of population pressure on space. In this case Asia's.
Hunger a Stimulus
Overpopulation did not cause starvation; it was the reverse. Then followed biological proofs of this argument, fluently presented. Lack of liver protein in laboratory rats and bulls had lead to an increase in fertility. In pioneering 'Australia the birth increase per annum had been 60 per cent; with higher standard of living it had decreased to 18 per cent. De Castro, mentioned before, had written a book "The Geography of Hunger" for those who wanted more information, stating this theory at greater lengths. There was also the psychological factor: as the nutritional appetite was denied the sex appetite increased.
The essential solution to Asia's problems then was to increase the food supply. Robert Salter in his book "Freedom from Want" had pointed out that the available land could be better utilised as was shown by war. In the United States the increased food production would have fed fifty million more people. England had increased her food production from a third of her wants to 48 per cent, and between 1940-1949 milk production had Increased by 25 per cent. Finally, there was the never-ceasing resources of the sea which had yet to be tapped.
There were the usual good number of speakers from the floor. Tim Beaglehole said it was easy enough for the negative to call for more food, but as nobody wished to produce it in the place of rearmaments, it would be better to limit the population of Asia than to try to feed it. He would like to air his farming knowledge. On his uncle's farm lambing was best when they had plenty to eat. Miss Hoskins was interested only in rams and bulls but we should consider both sexes.
Editor's Note: We presume the following report to be substantially correct us it was handed to us by Mr. Patterson's publicity manager (Mr. Patterson himself).
John Patterson, who spoke for the affirmative, said that as he was unable to refute Miss Hoskins' arguments, he would have to accept them. It seemed to him, however, that she was on the wrong side of the platform. Miss Hoskins' argument boiled down to this: the more you eat, the less fertile you are. What was this but another form of birth control? Mr. Patterson agreed that education in birth control was the solution to Asia's population problems, but it was not education of the Asians that was needed. They knew already that they should eat all the food they could get. No. the people who should be educated were those who lived in the more well-fed countries. They should be taught to put their faith in Miss Hoskins' method rather than in the crude physical and chemical devices that they were accustomed to use themselves. So they might be brought to realise that their only hope lay in pumping protein as fast as they could into the Asians.
Mr. Andrews, although not a biologist, said that he knew that experts knew very little about fertility. It was even suggested that nicotine acid reduced it. (Mr. Garrett, safety married for some time, lit a cigarette here.) He had been in Bombay and had personal experience of the high death-rate. At any rate Muo-Tse-Tsung would soon liquidate the Chinese population problem.
John McLean, attired in kilt and sporran (Voice: What's underneath?) He had been studying figures from England stating that the professional classes had the smallest families. Did this mean that the miners eat less? No. It was that they weren't as well educated.
Referring to "Private Mactavish" Mr Brockey sided with Dr. Kinsey. Professor Russell. Dr. Joad and Aldous Huxley; that birth control meant depletion of intellect.
Nancy Pearce, although not a scientist or biologist, asked for the historical viewpoint to be considered. (She works in the War History Department.) Birth control was as sanitary as using a toothbrush, "Now to get on to my own case," (Miss Hoskins: "Is there a Dr. Kinsey in the house?")
John Gatley, a new speaker with great promise, pointed out that the negative had not shown how to utilise the land for all this food production.
Doug Foy, the best speaker of the evening, spoke too fast for this reporter to get his argument, but his whirlwind fashion left a nice draught behind. He did advocate shiploads of contraceptives be sent to Japan. (Voice: Liberty ships)
Hector MacNeill continued the united front of Catholics and Communists, started in the last debate, by speaking for the negative. In any case American germ warfare would soon wipe out Asia.
Although he had not heard much of the debate Pip Piper wished to follow in Mr. MacNeill's footsteps. (Voice: "Was it a headquarter's decision, Pip?) He was interested in the title. (Voice: "We've got further than that since 8 o'clock.") Was there a population problem?
Jim Milburn pointed out that in the West sex was wrapped in a sugar coating of morality with a religious flavour. Birth control was not practised in Asia largely because it was contrary to their religions. We must free them from religious ideology which keeps the dead hand of the past on the progress of the future.
John Cody committed an act of political suicide first by not speaking on Mr. MacNeill's side, and, secondly, by addressing the audience: "Ladles and gentlemen, Mr. Curtln. Mr. O'Brien and lesser breeds within—the law." He illustrated the saying of Manfucius: "Alt comes to him who waits" by pointing out that Confucius was the tenth son of a tenth son.
The moral side of the issue, which was related to the natural law of man which made him instinctively wish to preserve his species, and so was opposed to birth control, was explained by Ron Barbes.
Margaret: Turbott said that if matter was indestructible we should let things rip. It was just a matter of changing the chemical formula.
Mr. O'Shea asked did the Russians practice birth control?
The Catholic attitude was that natural, not artificial means of birth control should be used, said Meida O'Reilly. She thus approved continence not continuance.
In summing up Mr. Lennane described his side's case as humanitar ian. Mr. Garrett stigmatised it as hopelessly idealistic.
The Judge found that the negative documented their case far better, and that the fundamental question was whether money would go to food to stop a future war or to rearmament to tight it. He placed Mr. Foy first as presenting the best argument. Mr. Milburn and Mr. Garrett, second, equal.