CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Englandrnbv Christie DaviesrnOur Shortsighted RulersrnLaser beam surgcrv has now made it possiblernto eorrect man common eve defectsrncaused b irregularities in the shapernof the lens of the eve relative to the sizernof the ccball. For those with scvcrcK’rnimpaired ecsight, this means a welcomernescape from a serious handicap. However,rnfor children who are onlv mildlvrnshortsighted, the operation could causernproblems as well as benefits, for mvopiarnis a source of success and social mobilitv.rnSome hac argued that there is a correlationrnbetween mopia and innate intelligence,rnwhich are simultaneousK causedrnb two related patterns of genes. It hasrneen been suggested that the manifestrnsuccess of spectacle-wearing peoplesrnsuch as the Japanese and the Jews andrnthe relati e failure of members of ethnicrngroups with good eesight mcrclv reflectsrnthis correlation. Whether this hvpothcsisrnis true or not ma neer be determined,rnfor it is far too politieallv incorrectrna theor’ to receive the researchrnfunding ncccssarv to test it.rnRather, it is generalh’ assumed bvrnthose who hold power in the health, education,rnand welfare bureaucracies thatrnthe link is an environmental one. Forrnmost of human historv the mvopic werernfailures and doomed to the earK deathrnthat was the fate of those who could notrnsee a charging manrmoth, an enragedrnhippo or a horde of scimitar-wavingrnMamelukes until it was too late. In thernmodern world, bv contrast, success goesrnto those who concentrate all their attentionrnon objects next to their noses—arncomputer screen, a microscope, a balancernsheet, or a legal loophole. Thatrnthe world bevond is a blurred penumbrarnvisible only through a lens of glass orrnplastic is a very real advantage, for it cutsrnout the distractions of sport, sex, andrnscenery that lead most of us astray, kbrrnthe perfect-sighted, the publicitv givenrnto the rise of the myopic has confirmedrntheir worst secret fear: that old four-eyes,rnthe squit-faced swot, whom thev hatedrnat school, reallv has overtaken them.rnFor the lower classes mvopia and thernwearing of spectacles assist those whornare reasonablv intelligent to rise in thernworld through entrepreneurship or educationrnbecause thev decisivclv block offrnsuch Cjueer routes to moliilitv as football,rncrime, the entertainment industry,rnor marriage to a rich spouse. Men neverrnmake passes at girls who wear glasses,rnnor do pebble-lensed football playersrnmasquerading as stars. Since thernchances of anv particular lower-class individualrnmaking it to the top throughrnmale agilitv or female beautv are vervrnsmall indeed, those who know from anrneariy age that thev^ arc shortsighted andrnunsightly are saved from a dangerousrndelusion and are motivated to seek morernreliable wavs of bettering themselves.rnShortsightedness breeds farsightednessrnwhile those who dreamed of stardomrnend up where thev began, at the bottomrnof the heap.rnThe discover}’ of the link between mvopiarnand success has created deep ideologicalrndivisions among socialists comparablernto those that led to the collapsernof the Labor government in I9SI, whenrnHarold Wilson and Nve Bevan resignedrnover the crucial issue of whether the staternshould provide free eveglasses and falsernteeth as part of the National HealthrnService. The cabinet decided that therernwas no such thing as a free munch, butrnits left wing disagreed, and the governmentrncollapsed and then lost the ensuingrngeneral election. In other countriesrnpolitics is spectacle; in Britain spectaclesrnare politics.rnThe old guard of the British left stillrnproclaim that cvcrvone has the right tornperfect eyesight, if not better, and wantsrneyeglasses, contact lenses, and laserrnsurgery to be provided free bv the state.rnThe revisionists, however, feel that it isrnwrong to deprive nrvopie lower-class childrenrnof a defect that would enable themrnto rise in the wodd. Accordinglv thev arguernthat spectacles in the good old-fashionedrnNational Health Service framesrn(you can have any shape you like providedrnit is round) should be free to all, butrnthat the laser beam correction of mvopiarnshould be left to private medicine,rnwhich the poor can’t afford. The vanityrnof the rich will ensure that their children’srnpoor eyesight, like their crookedrnteeth, will be operated on, regardless ofrncost, but an unintended consequence ofrnthis will be the loss of an important partrnof their good start in life. Somewherernbelow them the bespectacled sons andrndaughters of menials will be steadilyrnclimbing up the ladder while they fallrndown the snake. For those radical socialistsrnwho believe in massive positiverndiscrimination, even this is not enough.rnEquality demands a radical redistributionrnof mvopia in a way that favors thoserndisadvantaged bv social class, race, ethnicity,rnsexual preference, or stupidity:rnthev have a right to shortsightedness thatrnmust be provided by the state for thosernnot so favored bv nature. If laser surgeryrncan cure mvopia, it can also create it. Inrnthis way, thev argue, bourgeois conceptsrnof health can be subordinated to thernhigher goal of social equality, much asrnhas long been true of education, welfare,rnand religion. In the coming socialistrnUtopia, visible only to those with therncorrect radical astigmatism, myopia, likernabortion or the removal of unsightly tattoos,rnwill be not only a medical right butrna social necessity.rnChristie Davies is chairman of thernsociology department at the Universityrnof Reading, England.rnLetter FromrnZanesvillernby Jeffrey Michael KanernStupid but SecurernLast year, the Board of Education forrnthe Zanesville, Ohio, City School Districtrnwas handed a hammer capable ofrnstriking a blow for the forces of good inrnthe battle over the direction of publicrneducation. Unfortunately for this community,rnthe board dropped the sledgernsquarely on its foot, seeking immediaternrelief by planting the appendage squarelyrnin its collective mouth.rnThe issue involved an attempt to increasernthe minimum academic standardsrnthat students must meet before partie-rnFEBRUARY 199.5/39rnrnrn