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Life Resembles Art : DEI, "Equality", and Harrison Bergeron

Whenever I hear people talking about "Equity", or "Equality" or other such nonsense, I'm reminded of the brilliant short story by Kurt Vonnegut. For anyone who hasn't read it, it's very short and I highly recommend reading it here (Harrison Bergeron) before reading the rest of this post. But for those who don't mind spoilers, read on:


Harrison Bergeron: A Summary


Kurt Vonnegut’s "Harrison Bergeron" is a dystopian short story that presents a future America—year 2081—where equality is enforced to the extent that anyone possessing any above-average natural advantage is artificially handicapped by the government. The title character, Harrison Bergeron, is a seven-foot-tall teenager with extraordinary intelligence and physical abilities. In accordance with the laws of the land, he is burdened with heavy weights, distracting noises, and thick glasses that distort his vision and give him headaches to negate his advantages and make him equal to everyone else.


In a rebellious act, Harrison frees himself of his handicaps, declaring himself emperor on live television, and asks for a lady to be his empress. A ballet dancer, also encumbered by handicaps, rises to the occasion. For a brief moment, they dance, free and extraordinarily gifted, until they are killed by Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General.


The Moral of the Story


Vonnegut's tale is a satirical take on the idea of enforced equality, carrying the moral that absolute equality squashes individuality, freedom, and progress. The idea of equality in "Harrison Bergeron" is depicted as destructive and counterproductive, as it eliminates individuality and suppresses exceptional talent and intellect.


The story serves as a caution against the potential dangers of extreme egalitarianism, in which equality is prioritized over individual freedom and ability. The notion of "sameness" is exaggerated to the point where it becomes tyrannical oppression, showing that striving for absolute equality is utterly evil.


Vonnegut prompts us to value diversity and individuality. He argues the value of personal freedom and individual excellence. The story suggests that the strength of society lies in the unique abilities and attributes of its individuals, and it warns against the homogenization of society.


At its core, "Harrison Bergeron" reminds us that striving for equality is an absurd immoral goal, and that instead we should champion talent, ambition, and individuality.


The other lesson of the story is this: no matter how hard they try to hold you down, suppress you, slow you, weaken you, make you stupid, at some point, a SUPERMAN will rise. Someone will rise up against tyranny. I think it's unfortunate the way Vonnegut ends the story. Because I believe that in the end good will triumph over evil.


Stay strong.


William




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