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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal

Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron has around 2300 words but it gives an explicit account of an egalitarian society where everyone is fully equal and barred by the constitution from being smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. In this dystopian world all values have been sacrificed in the name of “equality.” The exceptionally gifted have either been eliminated or are being controlled via technology.

Here’s an excerpt from the short story:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. 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. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General. 

Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about. (Read More)

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