Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Crab Mentality

"Harrison Bergeron" is a short story written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961.  In Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut writes of a future world in which anyone that has better than average intelligence, physical beauty, or athletic ability is handicapped to create an artificial equality.  This satisfies the populace and their Crab Mentality—best described as "If I can't have it then neither should you."

Harrison Bergeron

Kurt Vonnegut begins Harrison Bergeron this way:  The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren't only equal before God and the law.  They were equal in every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else.  Nobody was quicker or stronger 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.

HARRISON BERGERON
HARRISON BERGERON
TALL POPPY SYNDROME
TALL POPPY SYNDROME

Tall Poppy Syndrome

In order to achieve social equality—long the goal of progressive idealists—people who are above average looking must wear masks; the more beautiful they are, the more hideous the mask. People who can run faster, jump higher, have quicker reflexes, or have stronger muscles are encumbered by weights—different weights for different people adjusted to make them all equal in physical capabilities. People who are more intelligent than others must wear headphones that generate distracting noises to prevent them from keeping their thoughts together.

And so Tall Poppy Syndrome is eliminated and society finally has equality. This desire for social equality is explained succinctly by Jante Law, the urge felt by many to punish achievement and success; to want a world in which no individual stands out above others. A world made by man; thought to be superior to that made by God.

CRAB MENTALITY
CRAB MENTALITY

Harrison Bergeron

Harrison Bergeron is the name of the star of this story by Kurt Vonnegut.  Harrison Bergeron is a genius, who is not only incredibly handsome, but enormously strong, and he stands seven foot tall.  Thus, Harrison Bergeron must wear all of the various handicaps—more than anyone else—including 300 pounds of weights strapped to his body. 

This story conveys the truth about social equality: It can only be achieved by bringing down the best and brightest among us; there is no way to make us all beautiful, super-smart, great athletes.  The only way to equalize outcomes in a society is to punish those with remarkable gifts. 

I won't reveal more of the story. It is a very short read.  The Kurt Vonnegut story Harrison Bergeron was made into a television play in 1972 entitled Between Time and Timbuktu.  It was adapted and made into an eponymous TV movie in 1995. The 2009 short film 2081 is based on Harrison Bergeron. 

KURT VONNEGUT
KURT VONNEGUT

Slaughter-house Five

Kurt Vonnegut is best known for his tremendous novel Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969, for which he created the artwork as well.  The title comes from the slaughterhouse meat locker (# 5) in which he survived the fire-bombing of Dresden while a POW in World War Two.  Kurt Vonnegut had been captured in the Battle of the Bulge by the Germans, ironic since he was of German descent. 

After the war, Kurt Vonnegut married his childhood sweetheart.  They divorced in 1979.  Kurt Vonnegut worked as a reporter in Chicago; in Public Relations for General Electric in New York; and then managed the first Saab dealership in America at Cape Cod, before being hired to teach writing at the University of Iowa.  His first short story was published in 1950; his first novel debuted in 1952.  In 1999, an asteroid was named after him. 

KURT VONNEGUT
KURT VONNEGUT

Kurt Vonnegut



Kurt Vonnegut also found time to rear seven children, four of whom were adopted, three of which were orphaned when his sister and her husband tragically died young one week apart in 1958. Kurt Vonnegut died at age 85 in 2007 from brain injuries suffered in a fall. Besides his children, he left behind his widow, the author and photographer Jill Krementz, whom he married in 1979.




Kurt Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis. His father and grandfather were well known architects. When Kurt Vonnegut was but 22, his mother committed suicide. Harrison Bergeron is my favorite short story.

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Comments 88 comments

DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 5 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

I don't think I would want to go there, James!

Would you prefer that they shorten you or lengthen me?


BDazzler profile image

BDazzler 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

James, I had heard that story and references to it, but did not know where it had come from ... I SO appreciate knowing the source. There's an integrity to crediting ideas that seems to be lost these days. Thank you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

DiamondRN— No? I hope they lengthen you, my friend. Thank you very much for being my first visitor!!


pcoach 5 years ago

Thanks for a little more academia. Harrison Bergeron seems frighteningly like the direction America and the world is going right now.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

It's another straw man story though (and I have read it). I know of no society that would advocate slitting every newborn's palette and lip on the grounds that some children are born with cleft palettes. Most civilised societies believe that the relatively simple and inexpensive cleft palette corrective surgery should be available, to equalise upwards, not downwards.

But listen - here's the amazing thing - some of us go so far as to believe this privilege should be available even to the poor!! There's no hope for us lefties, is there?


BDazzler profile image

BDazzler 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

Para ... this may come as a shock to you ... most of us righties believe the same thing ... we just don't believe the government is capable of doing it properly and rather than admit failure, they redefine success as pulling others down.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 5 years ago

I met Vonnegut, briefly. He seemed a modest man.


jjmyles profile image

jjmyles 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Excellent literay example of the "If I can't have it then neither should you." mentality.


eovery profile image

eovery 5 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Sounds like a good read. I need to start reading some more.

Keep on hubbing!


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 5 years ago from Moundsville, WV

James,

"Harrison Bergeron" sounds like a good read and reminds me of the "Twilight Zone" episode where the ugly girl is beatiful by Earth standards but ugly by the standards of the planet where she lives.

This would be the result of the fundamental transfomation of America by Progressives.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

BDazzler— You are welcome, my friend. I love this little story. It is hard to believe it was written so long ago and yet rings more true today than it did then. Thank you for the visit and comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

pcoach— You are welcome. I thought it was good timing to release this tiny Hub now—before it is too late. Thank you for coming to read it.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Paraglider— Of course there is always hope for lefties. I agree with your concept expressed here. My father was born into a family so poor he didn't have shoes. He also was born with a harelip that was subsequently fixed. In the United States, conservative people give three times as much money and time to charity than do liberals. Conservatives give their own money you see. Liberals want to give away somebody else's money. That's the difference. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

BDazzler— It could be that liberalism and conservatism are defined—and play out—differently in the UK where Paraglider is from.


"Quill" 5 years ago

Again James enlightening and the research is a blessing to read about. I have heard this before but the source was unknown. Thank you for the interesting Hub as always.

Blessings


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago

This is a great story............. thank you for "sparking" my memory; my kids will love this! Kaie


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

sheila b.— I am impressed! You met Vonnegut, widely recognized as one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century? Thank you for sharing that.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

jjmyles— Yes, it is. Thank you for the affirmation. I appreciate the visitation.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

eovery— It is only about six pages. Thank you for visiting and commenting, my friend.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Tom Whitworth— I agree with your insights, brother. Harrison Bergeron is an excellent read. I remember that episode of the Twilight Zone—one of my favorite shows when I was young. :D


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

James & BDazzler - Statistics can be trotted out to support all possible positions, with varying degrees of relevance. But most people from all political parties recognise the success (and popularity) of UK's National Health System, for all its imperfections.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

I hate to be everything the same. I like everybody being different. It is so much more interesting.


garynew profile image

garynew 5 years ago from Dallas, TX and Sampran, Thailand

Vonnegut considered himself a socialist, yet he also knew that socialism could never work, therefore stories like HB.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

"Quill"— You are welcome, my brother. I hope all is well for you as you prepare for winter in the far north. It is good to hear your voice. Blessings to you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Kaie Arwen— You are welcome Kaie. Your series last year about your elementary school book club is excellent. This story would surely spark some interesting conversations. I hope you use it. Thank you for coming! :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Paraglider— I appreciate your excellent comments, my friend. Thank you for coming by to visit with me and providing your insights.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Another great story, a brilliant read and well researched. Thank you so much for sharing this. Take care James.


partisan patriot 5 years ago

James

Great hub; if only those that still buy into Hussein Obama’s Redistribution Agenda would read and better yet COMPREHEND this book. But of course his agenda is a slightly skewed version of this; in his European Elitist Society the very brightest; athletic and most beautiful are still allowed to flourish in order to entertain his ruling Regime. The fools that have a little now and buy into his CRAP; the middle class, are the ones that will be stripped of what little they have so as to make the have nots feel better!


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Well my first thought is he marries his childhood sweetheart....ah.... and it ends in divorce, that's what interests me... but when I see he remarries the same year I have my answer. The rest I will never remember but for today. I think there is a middle here that could be reached, and it never hurts the rich to give but I have already said that, such as a Paris Hilton dress possibly feeding a whole family for months..years? There are those with a heart and the others want to buy that stairway to heaven and never will. Things will never be truly equal and I can't say I think it should, but I can never see anyone putting down the poor.


mtkomori profile image

mtkomori 5 years ago from Yokohama, Japan

This was a very interesting and informative hub. The synopsis of "Harrison Bergeron" reminded me of an aspect of Japanese society, one that I was painfully aware growing up. Things have changed a lot since I was a child, but anybody who "stood out" among others were put down or worse, bullied. The tall poppy syndrome really reminded me of a saying in Japanese that roughly tranlates as "a nail that sticks out will be hit". Compared to North American society where it is largely acceptable to be "different", the Japanese are less willing to accept differences among individuals. Perhaps the society described in "Harrison Bergeron" is an extreme form of Japanese society, or what Japanese society was like when I was growing up.

I did start reading "Slaughter House Five" years ago, but never finished it. I just found the reading difficult to follow. I learned a lot about Vonnegut's private life reading your hub.

Thanks for a great hub!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Hey James, this is a great hub to return to following my 2500 mile solo trip to and from Minneapolis. I spent the drive listening to two books on tape- one, Reading Lolita in Tehran which describes the build up of intolerance in Iran and the other, a history book on women since 1960 that addresses your question on one of my hubs: how have women been hurt because the ERA Amendment is not ratified in many states.

Both of these books discuss the importance of freedom and of equality for men and women and what happens when one population is suppressed by another. It is easy to demean or misunderstand others when one is in the position of power.

I love Vonnegut. I love the way he goes to the extreme to express a thought. It deepens the point in a fascinating and creative way. But when reading caricature, I have to be a bit cautious to take his point, i.e., I do not think his intention was to suggest castrating men, who tend to be most equal, lol.

Certainly we cannot all be equal in ability or appearance. I mean, you never had the privilege of red hair. I don't hold that against you. However, it would be great if all people were able to become the best they can become without joining the Army.


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 5 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Very interesting! I have never heard of the book or the author.


ama83 profile image

ama83 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

I believe I have heard of this story before, but I have definitely never read it for myself. I am a big fan of short stories and distopias, so this short story of Harrison Bergeron is right up my alley. I will have to put Kurt Vonnegut on my "to-read" list. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mr. Watkins :)


satomko profile image

satomko 5 years ago from Macon, GA

Good choice! This is one of the stories I teach to my students every year.


drpastorcarlotta profile image

drpastorcarlotta 5 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

Great story, Great Hub! Keep on writing James, your GREAT!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Hello, hello,— I surely agree with you. The world would be quite boring if we were all the same. I enjoyed your insights. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

garynew— Yes, you are absolutely right. Vonnegut was a socialist who warned against the dangers of the socialist trap that always springs: authoritarianism. Good call!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Eiddwen— You are welcome. Thank you very much for the affirmation. I am grateful to you for these words.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Partisan Patriot— Always great to hear from you, my patriotic friend. I hear what you are saying about the elite. This story made me wonder: is the Handicapper General also handicapped? If so, by whom? Perhaps the ruling elite has to dictate terms to the little people. Your comments are marvelous. You get it. Thanks for expressing yourself here.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Polly— (For short.) Your comments reflect your huge heart, my dear. Far be it from me to put down the poor. I am poor! HubPages is wonderful but the paychecks aren't approaching minimum wage yet—if you know what I mean. Thank you for reading my little Hub.


maven101 profile image

maven101 5 years ago from Northern Arizona

James...Excellent encapsulation and summary of this insightful novel, one of my favorites also...I think I used this novel in a comment to one of your earlier Hubs...

To my mind, there should only be two necessary forms of equality amongst man: Equality of Opportunity, and Equality under the Law...

Incidently, Vonnegut admitted he wrote most of his novels under the influence of marijuana...Larry


H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 5 years ago from Guwahati, India

James..,

These are all wonderful story of imagination of social equality not known to me before. Amazing.


The Suburban Poet profile image

The Suburban Poet 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

The Trees (written by Rush)

There is unrest in the forest,

There is trouble with the trees,

For the maples want more sunlight

And the oaks ignore their please.

The trouble with the maples,

(And they're quite convinced they're right)

They say the oaks are just too lofty

And they grab up all the light.

But the oaks can't help their feelings

If they like the way they're made.

And they wonder why the maples

Can't be happy in their shade.

There is trouble in the forest,

And the creatures all have fled,

As the maples scream "Oppression!"

And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union

And demanded equal rights.

"The oaks are just too greedy;

We will make them give us light."

Now there's no more oak oppression,

For they passed a noble law,

And the trees are all kept equal

By hatchet, axe, and saw.


Jason R. Manning profile image

Jason R. Manning 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

Sorry James, I have to praise Suburban Poet first because of the great RUSH reference. I have a soft spot for those crazy maple leafs.

Anyway, with my youth, I was not privy to this, I have read and studied 1984 and A Brave New World, but this is new and interesting. Always a teachable moment at “James Place.”

I must have witnessed some of Dave’s dry humor, what medical bearing does being poor place upon natural beauty and splendid physic? The “Rail Splitter” Abe Lincoln possessed uncanny physical strength among his laundry list of attributes. Knowledge can be attained by any ambitious soul, but wisdom can only be administered from the just.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

mtkomori— You wrote:

'anybody who "stood out" among others were put down or worse, bullied. The tall poppy syndrome really reminded me of a saying in Japanese that roughly translates as "a nail that sticks out will be hit". Compared to North American society where it is largely acceptable to be "different", the Japanese are less willing to accept differences among individuals.'

I have heard of this being particularly prominent in the society of Japan. And I have read about the "a nail that sticks out will be hit" proverb. Thank you for providing this invaluable perspective. I appreciate you for reading my Hub and you are most welcome. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Storytellersrus— I am well pleased that I could provide some educational entertainment during your long drive. You wrote:

"It is easy to demean or misunderstand others when one is in the position of power."

I suppose this is true. How do you suppose those in power got there?

I agree with you that this cautionary tale is meant to guard against extremes. I never had red hair. I dyed my hair jet black for a while once it turned gray. I stopped doing that after I attended a Cubs-Marlins game during which I jumped up to cheer a three-run-double by the Cubs (in Miami) and some guy behind me yelled "Sit down Lady Clairol!"


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

bayoulady— Thank you! Thank you very much. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

ama83— You are welcome but you can call me James. :)

I am also a big fan of dystopias. Thank you very much for your continued support and encouragement.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

satomko— Thank you for reading my Hub and leaving your comments. You are a good man.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

drpastorcarlotta— Thank you! Thank you very much. :)


BDazzler profile image

BDazzler 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

James, Paraglider: Generally speaking any system is better for a smaller population. A family who lost their home lived with me for about a year and a half until they got back on their feet. We shared work and money as we had it out of love and respect. It was communal but not communistic because it was personal choice. That's not the same as forced sharing of goods by threat of fine or jail. The system we had in our household just cannot scale to a nation.

The population of the UK is under 70 Million, more or less the same as Texas and California combined. That's FAR easier to administer than a system that would have to more than quadruple to serve the US.

The health care cost issues we have in the US are caused primarily by regulation and defensive medicine. Lack of affordability is a side effect of over-beurocratization. More government will not fix bad government.

If our politicians really wanted to fix health care, they'd focus on tort reform, as this would damage their personal economy, they will not.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

maven101— Great to see you, Larry. I didn't know about the marijuana bit. What is that, some kind of weed? I certainly agree with your ideas about equality. You may have mentioned this story in one of your posts. I am glad you liked my encapsulation. Thanks for coming by to visit brother!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

H P Roychoudhury— It s always good to hear from you, my gentleman friend. Thank you for letting me know you liked the story.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

The Suburban Poet— I had to become your follower after seeing this post. I have seen Rush about seven times in concert. Great band; awesome lyrics you posted here. "By hatchet, axe, and saw" indeed. Thank you for this.


The Suburban Poet profile image

The Suburban Poet 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

James - when I saw the crab comment I immediately thought of the song. It's as if we are not allowed to be our best. We can only be as good as the worst.... or the most limited. I'm not putting anyone down but we should let people fly.... as long as they do it honestly....


The Suburban Poet profile image

The Suburban Poet 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

@James - forgot to mention that I saw Rush twice in the 70's and once in the early 80's. The first time I ever heard 2112 was in concert. I was sitting there listening to this epic piece thinking "Damn! This is incredible. Who are these guys?" I had been invited by a college friend down the hall in the dorm and went because I had nothing else to do that night.

The opening act for the second show was UFO with Michael Schenker... my ears are still ringing....

The third show opened with 2112 and went straight into Hemispheres.... WOW!


fred allen profile image

fred allen 5 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

I'm with you James, I gotta check out the suburban poet. That was a great post. I was hearing the song in my head as I read the lyrics. That brought me way back to my high school years. Neil Pert Rules! Alex Lifeson and Ghetty Lee ROCK!

Your hub makes me want to read the story or watch the film. It kinda seems to go with your last hub. Wonder how far the progressive movement will take us down that road.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Jason R. Manning— No worries—I love those lyrics and I am a fan of Rush. You wrote:

"Knowledge can be attained by any ambitious soul, but wisdom can only be administered from the just."

mmm . . . I like that.

"Brave New World" and "1984" are two of my favorite books of all time.

Thank you for coming by to visit. I always enjoy your insightful comments. You are a credit to your generation.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

BDazzler— You wrote:

"We shared work and money as we had it out of love and respect. It was communal but not communistic because it was personal choice. That's not the same as forced sharing of goods by threat of fine or jail."

Exactly. Some folks don't get it that we aren't against socialism because we are greedy. It is because we love freedom and think we have the personal responsibility to give to charity—and that we should have the right to CHOOSE our charities based on our personal beliefs.

Everything you wrote if right on. I agree with you about the health care problems. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

The Suburban Poet— I enjoyed reading your comments, especially this:

"we should let people fly.... as long as they do it honestly...."

Yes. Indeed we should.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

The Suburban Poet— UFO. My band used to play a couple of their tunes . . . "Lights out London!" :D

Rush is a great live act. I last saw them four or five years ago in West Palm Beach, out of doors.

Thank you for your excellent comments. Welcome to HubPages.


The Suburban Poet profile image

The Suburban Poet 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

James - Glad to be here. This is so much better than Facebook... not that my old friends aren't fun but everyone here is a writer and this is where we belong.

I believe I saw them on the Lights Out tour. That's great that your band played their stuff. They are a vastly under-rated band in the annals of rock history... you don't hear them mentioned much but they were a great power chording 4/4 time straight rock band.... I have their live album on CD... Rock Bottom is incredible...

Sorry I've digressed so much from Vonnegut... feel free to yank this thread back to where it started...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

James, This sounds like a great story to read but I wouldn't want to live in that fantasy land. There are certainly some in Congress who might benefit by reading this book.


Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 5 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

Very informative. Although I would not want to live there either. The tragic part of this wonderful hub was the knowledge that Mr. Vonnegut passed away from a fall....Had he lived longer to write more tales would have been a blessing to us all....Thank you for this hub..


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful Hub James ! God gave us our individuality. We all have beauty in different ways. God Bless You.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

fred allen— The documentary "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" is tremendous. Highly recommended. Thank you for your continued support, my brother. I always enjoy your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

The Suburban Poet— You have no reason to lament your participation here. This is an open forum. I, and my friends, love your commentaries. Keep them coming.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Pamela99— I surely agree with your sentiments here. Thank you for taking the time to read my Hub and for your fine comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Wealthmadehealthy— You are welcome. Thank you very much for this visitation and your insightful comments. Vonnegut smoked unfiltered Pall Malls all his life, which most people predicted would kill him. It just goes to show, one never knows.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

stars439— You wrote: "We all have beauty in different ways."

Yes, brother, we surely do. It's great to see you. God Bless!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

I'm not sure I'd want to go there either because that would mean that everyone would play the accordion just like me or be a klutz just like me - where would my individuality go?

Excellent writing as always and love the tall poppy syndrome. I guess on some levels that would be interesting, especially for kids and teens but for the most part, pretty boring!


The Suburban Poet profile image

The Suburban Poet 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

There seems to be a monumental disconnect between the idea of liberty and providing the government the absolute power to enforce it's "idea" of liberty in every facet of our lives. Absolute power corrupts absolutely they say and to give the government original jurisdiction and appellate power would seem to be an invitation to totalitarianism. Yet many liberals/progressives believe wholeheartedly in the idea of a just and benevolent big brother who will always come down on the side of the individual.


Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 5 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

I am glad to be able to visit...Have been in the throes of moving from one state to another and trying to get a permanent place to live for the past month and a half. Since I have a desktop, not laptop, being online until the past four days has been intermittent

Being now happily ensconced in my new home, I will be visiting more often. You are a wonderful writer!!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

akirchner— You wrote: "everyone would play the accordion just like me or be a klutz just like me"

Funny! Yes, they would. In the story ballerinas are weighted down and they wear masks and therefore are not only not better looking than others but can only dance averagely, too. A strange world. Thank you for visiting and commenting.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

The Suburban Poet— I love your comments, including the quote from Lord Acton about power corrupting. I agree with your ideas. The Liberals go for power by appealing to the envy of the Have-nots. Vote for us and we'll give what others have earned. They should be ashamed—but they are not.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Wealthmadehealthy— Thank you for the lovely compliment. Congratulations on being safely ensconced in your new home. I appreciate your correspondence.


Lee B profile image

Lee B 5 years ago from New Mexico

"Harrison Bergeron" is one of my favorite short stories. I also read it and discussed it with students for many years. Two things to consider--one is that the handicaps placed on Harrison actually made him stronger, and two, is that it is so much easier for a society to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator. My (lefty, bleeding-heart) hope is to bring everyone up to meet their highest potential.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Lee B— This story must be an excellent teaching tool. I can imagine the class discussions. I love your point about the handicaps making Harrison Bergeron stronger. I can think of many life stories in which this is surely true for real people. Thank you for your outstanding comments.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

So glad to see you endorse a humanist, James! Vonnegut is one of my favourite writers because he writes beautifully and meaningfully, and because he is fully in the great tradition of humanism - putting people before ideology.

He is also anti-authoritarian which I appreciate. The point of this story is that the very laudable and worthwhile value of egalitarianism becomes twisted and warped when linked with an authoritarian ideology - like the value of communalism is warped when applied by an authoritarian state or movement.

Vonnegut is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, in my view. He is right up there with George Orwell and Albert Camus.

Thanks again for the interesting write up.

Love and peace

Tony


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

tonymac04— Yes, he was a strong humanist indeed. Kurt Vonnegut is a great writer. I also appreciate that anti-authoritarian streak. Egalitarianism is dangerous because there is no way to bring everybody up; you must bring people down. And when you bring people down the entire society suffers. I absolutely love Orwell. I am familiar with Camus but I've not read any of his books.

Thank you for your excellent insights, Tony. I always enjoy hearing from you. And you are welcome.

Love and Peace back to you!

James


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

A nice, clear Hub, James--I enjoyed it. I wonder about your take on "Cat's Cradle?"

I've always thought the distinction between "equality of achievement" and "equality of opportunity" is a worthwhile one--but the world of "Harrison Bergeron" interprets the latter concept to include the individual's own inherent abilities, in contrast to contemporary thought. Blake's dictum in the "Proverbs from Hell" comes to mind: "One law for the Ox and the Ass is oppression."


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Doc Snow— Thank you! I have not read "Cat's Cradle." I do appreciate your thoughtful response. As far as Blake's dictum, I will quote from my own Hub:

http://hubpages.com/education/How-Socialism-Works

"The Rule of Law is what distinguishes a free country. Every law restricts individual freedom to a certain degree by altering the means people may use in the pursuit of their aims, but within these rules the individual should be free to pursue his personal desires.

In a free country, the Rule of Law does not apply only to particular persons. It is intended only to be instrumental to the pursuit of various individual ends. It is intended for long periods of time, so it is impossible to know if it will assist some people more than others. It helps people predict the behavior of those with whom they must collaborate, but it does not aid the effort of particular persons.

In other words, the Rule of Law is blind. It does not know in advance which individual it will assist; it does not choose between particular persons or particular ends. It serves to create new opportunities for all, but the precise results remain unseen. This is what it means for legislation to be impartial."


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

I have not thought of Vonnegut in years, and I don't think I have read this short story, which reminds me of Orwell and Huxley. I used to be a big fan of Vonnegut. Thanks for sharing!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

mysterylady 89— I am a big fan of "1984" and "Brave New World."

Thank you for coming by to visit. I appreciate your comments and you are welcome. :-)


trecords0 profile image

trecords0 4 years ago from DeLand, Florida

Wow, who would have imagined that because of Vonnegut I now feel the need to write a hub about Rush. It also goes to show how nothing is new, Peart has just been an incredible funnel and boiling pot from his love of literature; coalescing into one of the greatest rock lyricists and percussionists of all time.

I love K.V.s style of writing, always have since being introduced to him through Slaughter House 5 in Jr. High. Richard Brautigan is another of my favorites. What were we talking about? Oh, what the hell made you want to follow me in the first place? Great hub, off to read more. Tim.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

trecords0— I followed you because I somehow ran across your profile page (I probably saw a comment you left on someone's Hub that I liked) and read that you are a "Father, husband, author, composer, percussionist, explorer" who lives in DeLand, Florida. I am also each of those things you listed and until 2 years ago I lived in Orlando.

I love Rush. I have seen them maybe six times. The last time was outdoors near Palm Beach, with my son who is also a drummer (perhaps five years ago?). You can't beat Neil Peart. And I agree with you that he is also a great lyricist.

Well sir, thank you very much for taking the time to read some of my work. I will return the favor. :)


anonymous 3 years ago

when was this uploaded?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 3 years ago from Chicago Author

anonymous— This article was published on the 5th of October, 2010.

Thank you very much for visiting.

James

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