Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Martin Henry Dawson : The Agape Naturalist

In WWI , Philip Bent VC and Henry Dawson MC displayed great physical courage under enemy fire when they put themselves in lethal danger to rally their men to close a dangerous break in the Allied lines.

This was 'agape' valour in that they did not risk their lives simply for the men in their battalion whom they knew well (kith and kin) but rather they selflessly risked their lives for the entire overall Allied cause.

In WWII , Dawson displayed agape physical courage and moral courage .

Agape physical courage in the sense of selflessly sacrificing his health (and hence his life) to help total strangers.

Agape moral courage in the sense that his opponents were no longer the Hun but rather his own subculture of Allied doctors and scientists who were strongly opposed to his 'wasting' his (agape) penicillin on young people judged to be useless militarily.

But what did Dawson do in the 1920s and 1930s, between these two wars ?

I argue he was an agape naturalist in those years .

Perhaps because he was educated during the years of Alexander MacKay's regime as Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia , Dawson displayed a wide catholicism of interest in the microbe world compared to other medical scientists and doctors of his era.

They tended to see microbes only as as bad germs to be ruthlessly eliminated or harmless avirilulent germs to be totally ignored.

Superintendent MacKay had gotten all Nova Scotia's rural and small town school children to regularly catalogue the start and end of seasons as marked by the first bloomings or first arrivals etc  of the various flora and fauna.

MacKay wanted to show how the life cycle of all life was affected by variations in the non-living world - the timing of the various seasons affecting directly when the first mayflower of the season appeared for example.

Perhaps this unique 'phenological' effort mentally rubbed off on the young Dawson - leading him to see life on Earth as sharing in a basic global commensality together.

Because during the 1920s and 1930s , Dr Dawson didn't just selflessly help those chronically ill humans dismissed as basically useless and worthless by most other people. He also regarded them as worthy in and of themselves , as they were.

He showed the same evenhanded regard for all when it came to all the 'odd' , 'useless' , 'unworthy of study', 'avirulent' microbes he chose to study at great cost to his career.

For just as he valued the great plenitude of human types, so he felt the same about the great variety and plenitude of non -human life not matter how useless they appeared to be to the rest of humanity.

Simply put,  I am saying that plenticide and selfishness and narrow group-love are much the same, just as support of plenitude  and commensality and agape love are basically the same.

With the sixth mass extinction - happening now - we are practising plenticide on a huge scale - and once again only the agape love of the agape naturalist will halt this madness .....

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