Quote of the day—Kurt Vonnegut

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.

Kurt Vonnegut
October 1961
Harrison Bergeron
[I had read this short story sometime long ago but I can’t really say when. A private post on Facebook caused me to go looking for it.

While the story has elements of truth in the trajectory predicted I don’t think this is in our future. I expect before things go much further something more like a USSR dystopia or a forceful reset to something resembling a meritocracy is far more likely. And I expect to see the outcome long before 2081.

But still, it puts into words the unarticulated fears many of us have.—Joe]


11 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Kurt Vonnegut

  1. Yep, a USSR or Reconstruction in 1870s dystopia is now being created, but unlike those earlier periods we now live in a networked world without privacy.

    And the state is expanding. Yesterday, we got a post card from our homeowners insurance company that said that our policy now included wildfire support in cooperation with WDS (Wildfire Defense Systems of WA, OR and CA) and that they have the authority to tell us what we need to do to protect our home from wildfires. They added that we are always expected to follow local authorities guidance.

    • It occurs to me that perhaps we don’t even live in WA anymore although I don’t recall any official announcement. I wonder what they will call it – Green Coast, Pacifica, or something more creative such as WAORCA?

      • My wife predicted this years ago after watching FEMA take over flood insurance.
        They picked the small town she worked in. (Didn’t have money to fight back.) The Rogue river ran through it.
        Then started in with the most draconian rules and regulations about anything and everything. Right down to pruning trees that were in the 100 year flood plane. But a 100 yards from the river.
        So after burning the the place down, the rats want to control the fire danger?
        And just like everything else government. It will have nothing to do with controlling fire. Just you.

    • It’s a cost-sharing move. You live in an area where wildfires are uncommon, so the insurance companies are unlikely to have to pay out a claim on your policy. Requiring you to have it helps off-set the costs of paying out on claims from policyholders in California, where wildfires are much more common.

      It’s great for the people of California, not to great for you. Oddly enough, the one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t care what you think is great for you. (Shocker, I know.)

      My question is, we’re barred by federal law from purchasing out-of-state health care plans, but you’re forced to buy into an interstate wildfire policy? How does that make sense?

      • It turns out that WDS is the ‘largest’ wildfire insurer, so technically is it not a government agency yet it still can act like one because if you do not do what they say then payouts may be limited. It it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and goes by it’s acronym,…

        And you’re right – it is likely a cost sharing move.

  2. How come Clampers gets a ten gauge? I want a ten gauge! Wouldn’t equality say I get to shoot back? Why can’t we all have ten gauges?
    Equality in misery=government?

  3. I remember reading that story in high school. The “hero”, if you will, literally broke his own shackles and that of a woman, both of whom were constrained to make up for their beauty and strength, and danced on live news before being shot by Stormtroopers.

    So the moral I guess is that while the bootheel of tyranny will kill you dead, the strong will overcome the restraints placed upon them.

    • I read it in high school as well, and have looked it up several times since. I remember the hero of the story grew so strong they had to hand scrap metal off him, in addition to the normal “handicap” weights, because they couldn’t weigh him down enough. He also had to keep an ear radio in that would randomly play noises to distract his thoughts because he was too smart otherwise, wear distorting glasses designed to give him headaches, and blacken his teeth because they were too attractive.

      And storm-troopers came in, but it was the Handicapper General herself who pulled the trigger and killed them. With a shotgun “normals” were, without a doubt, forbidden from owning. (Come to think of it, the troopers made their living doing these raids, but IIRC they aren’t described as having to be weighed down; presumably, they get to keep their freedom of movement just like they get to keep their guns.)

      The moral I got out of it was (using today’s terms), equity* is a lie; the government will force you into equitability, but will always exempt itself (and its agents) to have advantages you don’t get.

      Also, when an uncaring, tyrannical government runs the show, the “squeaky wheel” doesn’t get grease; it gets destroyed and/or replaced.

      * – “Equality” is different from “equity”. The former has been mostly achieved, but the latter requires tearing down some “privileged” cultures to provide “reparations” to others.

      • There’s a saying in Australia that tall poppies get cut down.

  4. Combine Harrison Bergeron with The Marching Morons by Cyril Kornbluth
    and you start to get an idea of where we might be heading…..

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