Power and Control in Future Societies
I chose to study the short stories “Welcome to the Monkey House”, “Harrison Bergeron”, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect”, “The Euphio Question”, “Unready to Wear”, and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”, all by Kurt Vonnegut. These stories all take a look into the future, examining different ways that society could control the population and attempt to make us happy. I have seen multiple dystopian methods of gaining power and control throughout my research, which I find fascinating. Even though Vonnegut’s ideas seem farfetched, the scary truth is that some of his stories may not be too outlandish for our society’s future, especially due to the rate at which technology is advancing and the population is growing. I am so intrigued by the possibilities that lie ahead for humanity; I even plan to become a genetic engineer in order to be on the forefront of the advances that will shape our future. Vonnegut’s stories allow me to contemplate these possibilities, both good and bad.
During my studies, I came to several conclusions and questions:
· Knowledge equals power. As society as a whole becomes more educated, our discoveries will expand, for better or for worse. If one group of people gain control of certain knowledge and restrict others from accessing it, they can ultimately gain control over the ignorant individuals.
· To gain control of people, you must gain control of the things they enjoy, value, or need. By controlling their levels of happiness, you can control their actions. By suppressing their natural instincts, such as their sex drive, you can make them more obedient. By taking away their competitiveness, you can take away their drive to succeed. These methods of control are often depicted as “helpful” or for the benefit of society, but in reality, anytime your freedoms are restricted, you are being manipulated for the good of someone else.
· Another method of control is war. By eliminating war as a viable problem-solving option, aggressive countries are more likely to get along because they no longer have any way to assert their power. Without weapons, people try harder to keep the peace because they don’t have the means to make rash, destructive decisions.
· As technology advances, there is a huge demand for longer lives and better standards of living. In developed countries, the focus is on making material goods bigger and better, as well as making people look and feel younger. Whoever controls this technology can exert control over existing and potential customers by deciding which products they can have and how much to charge.
· Several stories focused on or at least hinted at population control. The exponential growth of our population will present a massive problem within the near future, because there will simply not be enough resources to support the number of people on Earth. Furthermore, as science and technology advance, we find more ways to increase lifespan, which exacerbates the already out-of-control population growth. Although Vonnegut’s solutions, such as suicide clinics and mandatory birth control, seem outrageous, it will be interesting to see what measures our government and scientific experts suggest to curb the ever-growing problem.
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