"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegurt was first published in 1959 and its major theme was equality. The story begins with a portrayal of equality whereby every person is purported to be equal. The author is trying to warn the society of the kind of equality which people are seeking that may in some cases be fatal to humankind. The author presented a scary view of the future society where everybody was equal. “The year was 2081 and everybody was final equal. They were not only equal before God and the Law but were equal in every way.” (Vonnegut 1961:7). This is a haunting story and the author’s main intention for story was to put a warning to the human race on the possible calamities which might befall the human race when the state of absolute equality is reached. It’s a short story about an egalitarian government’s policies affect citizens in a future American society, creating and ultimately deformity of the population.
The American society has gone a series of transition in the recent past. The period between 1960 and 2000 saw the American society undergo several transformations in its political structure. There were several civil right movements that emerged demanding equality. The civil movements groups felt that their rights had been oppressed for a very long period of time and therefore demanded that their rights be looked into by the American government. There were civil rights movements advocating for gender equality whereas some other groups sought to root out racism in the American society. The American government did not welcome the plea but sought out for ways of thwarting the efforts of the civil rights groups. In the early 1960s the fundamental prize (full legal equality) which was sought by the civil rights movement was something that the Africans Americans had never known. There were several instances of discrimination against the blacks in America. However, the Civil rights movements had made progress and the trend was slowly changing by 1960. (Morris, 1984) The African Americans sought for equality so that they could enjoy the full benefits of being American Citizens. The civil rights movements of 1960 helped in bringing equality in America and the blacks were granted their rights after several years of protesting. John F. Kennedy took over the office of the president in January 1961 and many African Americans thought that the president could give them some favor. However, this was not meant to be as the president was very cautious due to a small working margin in Congress. The president was reluctant to lose the southern support for legislation on many fronts by pushing too hard on civil rights legislation. The president therefore appointed a big number to high influential government positions and also strengthened the Civil Rights Commission. The president also appointed his deputy to look into issues of equal employment opportunities.
The America has experienced several challenges in recent times. Apart from the problems of racism and discrimination of the less fortunate in the society, the country has had several security challenges. The country has experienced several security threats which have forced the government to declare war on terrorist groups. Since most of the terrorist groups are from Muslim friendly country and this has made most Muslims in America get the feeling that they are a targeted lot. Hillary Clinton won a senate seat in New York and made her the first former first lady to win a public office. This showed that the Americans were advocating for equality and people were no longer discriminated against based on their gender or past positions in the country. Islamic fundamentalism started rising in the US as they felt that they were being targeted. Their movement reached a peak when they managed to hijack four US airliners and crash them in different places on September 11, 2001. This furthered the war on terrorism with George Bush’s government declaring total war on any form of Al-Qaeda organization. On January 4, 2007 the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives is sworn into office. This was also a very important move by the American to shun gender inequality. The American showed the whole world that any person could occupy such an office regardless of the gender. On January 20, 2009 – Barrack Obama is sworn in office and becomes the first African American to occupy such an office in the history of America. This was a remarkable move as the dreams of the founding fathers of equality were achieved and the blacks realized that what the whites can do, they too can do it.
The Americans are still fighting the problem of inequality. Much has been achieved so far but still not to perfection. The future of the American society is bright especially to the blacks who still feel discriminated against. The period of perfection that is being sought will see every person in the American society equal. This will be the time when the blacks will be allowed to join the military. The period of absolute equality as shown in Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegurt will be a time when the controversial law of allowing homosexuals to participate in the military. In future there will be absolute equality and no member of the American society will be discriminated against. This period is however scary as presented by Kurt Vonnegut. “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” (Vonnegut 1988:7)
Equality means a state when every person in the society is the same as the other. It refers to a state when no one in the society is superior to the other. “Nobody is smarter than anybody else. Nobody is better looking than anybody else. Equality is good in some cases however, it is also disastrous if it used for achieving something that a person cannot really get. It is a fact that most people tend to dispute but in real sense people are not the same. There are people who are more intelligent than others like George. Such people should be given a chance to uplift the less intelligent ones in the society. Laws should not be put which puts his health at risk like the frightening alarm which can destroy his ears. “A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar.””(Vonnegut 1961:6) If the government thwarts their efforts of exploring more, then the whole society will always remain to stagnate. The government’s view of equality is not realistic as it prevents a person’s further development.
Deformity is the process of malformation that can occur in the society or to a given person. There are several cases of deformity. Some cases of deformity are permanent whereas others are temporal. Equality creates deformity both directly and indirectly. A person is likely to get deformed in terms of behavior, character or even physically when subjected to the equality process. George for instance had his behavior deformed due to the attempt by the government to reduce his intelligence so that he could be equal with other characters in the story. Deformity in most cases is not a good idea as some useful values of individuals are lost in the process. Political contests usually create deformity both directly and indirectly. In a political contest, the players usually have their behaviors deformed so that they can appear to be the best. This kind of deformation is however not long lasting and does not give the real picture of the players thereby misleading. The government’s move to enhance deformity so as to achieve equality is not realistic as it does more harm than good and instead leaves the society to stagnate in terms of development. Deformity can bring about several instance of misrepresentation and taint a given character. An example of a character of this sort is Diana Moon Glampers. She is described as “sixty-year-old virgin who, by almost anybody’s standards, was too dumb to live.” (Vonnegut, 1978:56)
Equality is good in some cases but also disastrous in others. The players/ implementers need to carry out thorough research and establish both the pros and cons that come with it. Absolute equality cannot be easily achieved as there is no any single person who can be perfectly equal to the other. Gender equality and racial equality has helped several societies achieve good governance. Therefore it is important for thorough research to be carried out so as to establish whether a given kind of equality being sought is beneficial or disastrous.
Work Cited list
Kurt Vonnegurt, Harrison Bergeron New York: Dell Publishing, 1961
Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change. New York: The Free Press, 1984
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. New York: Dell Publishing, 1978.
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Welcome to the Monkey House. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, 1988