Monday, November 17, 2014


I just read the first line of an English assignment, and hurried to a blank page before reading nay further. "THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal." (HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. ). My immediate thought was Equal? Like equal equal? As in there are no differences? Or as in everyone has equal worth?

I immediately picture a world of Storm Troopers.

In the next couple sentences I learn to what degree the author was speaking.
They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.
I have not read any further because I don't want to influence my train of thought.

The human race has two major obsessions: differences and equality.

Ever since the beginning of time there has existed prejudice, hatred, and mistreatment between people of different cultures, race, religion, gender, appearance...or whatever other category that sets people a part.

It's either focused on as a source for war, or the prejudice is used as political leverage.

Obviously people will claim to be against the prejudice, but really they just use it as another way to be prejudice and show hatred towards more people. These people are constantly talking about the need for "equality" and how we all need to be "equal." I disagree.

Before you get your undies in a bundle (where the heck did that phrase even come from?? I don't think I want to know) let me clarify what I mean. All people deserve equal respect, and all people are of equal worth. But no two people are equal. In math terms, two shapes may be exactly like each other, however, they are still not equal but congruent. (The closest analogy this would apply to in human terms would maybe be identical twins, but even then, they are still two very different people.)

These same people who obsess over differences and repeatedly recite the mantra of "everyone is equal!" make themselves feel better by acting like they are blind to differences. It's almost considered "politically incorrect" to describe someone by certain characteristics.

You just can't win in this world. They tell you to "stand out" and "be yourself" and "be different" but then they shoot you down or talk behind your back when you don't act they way they act or wear the clothes they wear. They pick on your differences. And I bet you they are the same people who like to announce how they feel everyone is equal.

So let's talk about this "perfect world" where everyone is "equal" (if such a place could even exist); a place where nobody is "smarter than anybody else," where nobody is "better looking than anybody else," or where nobody is  "stronger or quicker than anybody else."

What a boring world.

It would be a pointless and lifeless world. There would be no ingenuity. There would be no advancements. There would be no communication. Everyone would have the brain power and strength of a person on life support. And since "looks" are subjective, and because nobody is "better looking" than anyone else, everyone would look the same. We'd all be lifeless clones.

--Now I have read the story--

The author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., addresses this in an interesting way. Since everyone is not naturally born with equal skills, each person is required to wear handicaps to limit their abilities.

For example, George who is exceedingly intelligent, is forced to wear a small government-controlled radio in his ear which transmits noise every 20 seconds to interrupt his thoughts. This keeps him from being able to think critically and reason. He is also mandated to wear a 47 lb. bad of birdshot padlocked around his neck to keep him physically equal with others. When his wife, Hazel, suggests that he take some of the pellets out to give himself a rest, he reminds her, "Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out," said George. "I don't call that a bargain."

His seven-foot-tall son, Harrison, is required to wear headphones which let out a constant sound to disrupt his thoughts, glasses which distort his perfect vision, and so much hardware and metal "car parts" in order to restrict his physical abilities.

George and Hazel watch ballerinas on their tv screen, noting how they really were not all that graceful or talented. They were "burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot" and they wore ugly masks "so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty
face, would feel like something the cat drug in."

The somewhat ironic thing about all of this is that everyone's handicaps were very far from equal. When a news reporter is unable to report due to his serious speech impediment (which all reporters had), the ballerina takes over.

She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men. And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. "Excuse me-" she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive. 
These handicaps meant to compensate for superior characteristics and make people "equal" simply put everyone back on the scale. If a person is given an extraordinary amount of handicaps, you can know that they must be naturally extraordinary.

The worrisome matter is that today, 53 years after Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote his extreme projection of what life would be like 120 years into the future (67 years from now), we are not far off the track from this future.

We are the most distracted society. Our thoughts are constantly interrupted by tweets, notifications, iphone games, the latest technology, commercials, the news, television, fictional tragedy, shocking music...from one instant to the next we have some alert going off, something lit up in our face, or some noise, opinion, or thoughts being interjected through our ears.

Those who work hard and earn a higher income for themselves are taxed more.

Children's soccer games and other sports are becoming "non-competitive" where "everyone is a winner" and no one child or team is allowed to be considered "better" than another.

While teaching a catechism class of fourth graders last year, instead of giving the students a paper and pencil review sheet, I split them into two teams and held a "game-show" in my classroom. When I told the kids how they could win, more than one said to me, "But that's not fair. Some of us may lose."

This push of a false "equality" grooms children into adults who are unprepared for the competitive real world. These adults are left on their own, still believing that they are entitled to a participation trophy. They think they are entitled to a decent sum of money, comfortable house, iphone, and whatever other items their hearts believe will make them "happy."

You don't get a trophy for participation. You have to play the game of life. (...and I don't mean the Hasbro game.)

From retrieved on 11/17/14
"Harrison Bergeron" is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

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