Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut Essay
Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut
This paper seeks to defend the proposition that that there is a need for individual differences for humanity despite society’s expressed desire to attain equality. The communist and socialist ideologies may have theorized the what is an ideal society, one that is classless or egalitarian but there are simply unacceptable effects if there is all aspects of individualism is excluded. The need for individual differences could be best seen in the short story of ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Vonneguts, Jr. where the author revealed that a society created to equalize humanity does not always turn out to be the best for the people.
Vonnegut did effectively utilized different means to convey his message in the short story. Most of the power of the means is the use of irony and symbolism. Irony has a distinct was of telling people that things could not just be contradicted because it will bring out the most absurd in human understanding. His use of symbolism also complemented his articulate presentation of the roles played by the different characters which the showed the powers and limitations in failing to address what was obvious.
He was able to deliver the message the equality is the same as freedom since in the story there was indeed a resemblance of equality, which was made very clear at very first part of the story bur really the irony is that they are not free. Since the short story declares and portrays the equality of people, there was the need to control the tendency of some of the people who were borne with natural abilities and this has the effect of making these people as prisoners to the government.
Harrison Bergeron was indeed the main character of the story. Thus as a result of his having an exceptional intelligence and beauty in addition to his good height and strength and beauty he would have to suffer some reduction to bring society to equality. This was therefore done by letting him to carry huge handicaps. The handicaps imposed consisted of having to suffer distracting noises which essentially put him into an individual who will lack focus in what he desired to do.
In addition the was also given excess weight of about three hundred pounds, which was enough to almost make immobile as way of restraining his use of intelligence for the purpose of preventing the declared policy that everybody is equal. Because of his many natural gifts as illustrated earlier, it was still necessary to give him eyeglasses to cause him to headaches. Having headache would deprive of the faculties of thinking which could otherwise for productive use. But equality was a greater value than productivity; hence the rule must be enforced.
To deprive Bergeron of his beauty he was also added cosmetic changes to make him ugly. What was awaited to the end the story was whether equality declared and implemented by those given the power, would now make things easier for everybody by the attainment of peace in the community since no one is above any body else. If viewed in term of socialism and communism, the society in the story could be viewed as classless or egalitarian. The events in the story metamorphosed into a situation where Bergeron was able to invade A TV station that allowed him to make a declaration for himself as emperor.
The event happened despite the many deprivations that every imposed to him by government. Nothing could be more offensive to those guarding him not to shine as physical restraints which should created psychological restrain could have caused Bergeron to remain calm and silent in the name of equality. Perhaps in trying to celebrate his struggle with the deprivations that was imposed on him, story included an event where he had a dance with a ballerina, who had suffered also because of handicaps imposed and who Bergeron helped in discarding said restriction.
This event prompted the person who is bound to enforce the law of equality and this resulted to Bergeron and the ballerina who he was dancing being shot by Handicapper General by the name of Diana Moon Glampers and who did not stop to monitor the actions of those who will violate the law of equality. This incident could indeed demonstrate the application of philosophical requirement of duty above everything else. Such misplace “dedication” to duty could only be the tenable explanation of what society that demands equality would have to attain the goals of society.
But viewed in the context of what is human, the simple act of automatic killing without affording Bergeron the right to be heard after a trial could be only considered an act of brutality. Such was the price of attaining the goal of society. Everybody or at least someone will have to a be guard one’s outgrowing another in terms of skills, wealth and even good characteristics. The value of being equal is more important than the value of competition where the best could come out. There is therefore no best among people but every body is co-equal with everybody else.
The question that must be answered now is whether the law of equality works for every body. What happened was that despite the handicaps, Bergeron wanted to set free. He wanted the government to be free these handicaps. He wanted to excel and to his potential despite all odds. For the enforcement of the rules, it was necessary to protect state secrets. Such policy also then deprived the right of Bergeron’s parents Hazel and George to know what truly happened to their son. Since the state must be at center of this kind of society, implementation of the strictly was paramount.
This therefore gave Diana Moon Glampers to act with her authority to commit the dastardly act of killing Bergeron and the ballerina. Under such society, somebody will have to enforce its rules strictly but human freedom is necessarily sacrificed since the state’s survival was paramount. And to sustain the said principle the Diana Moon Glampers could have only be afraid of not fulfilling her duty for failure to do so could losing her power over the people which the state has bestowed on her.
But again the irony of the story was her husband was also in handicapped by being required to wear a bag although such was also big puzzle for Diana Glampers since she knows that her husband was not competing to anybody. So what happened was a failure of the concept of a society where there is equality for almost every part of human endeavor. The system could hold people from to bring out the best in them. It cannot control what was inside the heart and minds of people despite the strict requirement of the law. Vonneguts’s portrayal of the life of Bergeron must also be viewed with symbolism.
His being to discard the his own handicaps and that of the ballerina could only speak for releasing the human potentialities that could not be limited and controlled even by governments for such were inherent in human beings. Bergeron’s dance with ballerina also speaks of their freedom to go with the music or environment where men would have to live. Freedom has therefore its end of celebration to go with the limitless tunes of music or limitless opportunities that one could be in the absence of government restrictions. Given the nature of work that Kurt Vonnegut’s has done on “Harrison Bergeron”, commentaries could not be avoided.
In the author’s desire to deliver a point, Vonnegut has chosen to use iron the present the simple meaning of the false theory of equality. In this context, Hattenhauer cited that all commentaries on Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” in the latter are attempts to achieve equality as absurd. Hattenhauer, sounding to agree with Kurt Vonnegut, also concluded that believers of Bergeron as a model of freedom would fail to notice the fact that “he is a would–be dictator” with the latter’s declaration that he is the Emperor and wanting to select his Empress.
One could therefore decipher a view that would in a sense endorse monarchy as a form of government. Hattenhauer believed that if such happens, then reversion to medieval monarchy would come out where serfs or the equivalent of slaves would be produced as a result. He therefore saw in addition to previous commentaries a satire not just on mistaken notion of equality but also “the American definition of freedom as the greatest good to the smallest number. ” The fall of communism is a proof that society cannot be class. There is indeed the need to allow individual to rise to reach their full potentials.
Walicki in discussing the fate of communism talked of rise of certain classes in a communist state said when he mentioned about Brezhnev regime having deliberately supported the interests of certain level in society’s structure by giving its representatives formal guarantees such as the right personal security and the right to occupy leading state posts. He saw therefore the “consolidation and emancipation of the nomenklatura as a sign of “the formation of a “new class” and the final betrayal of the proletariat that Trotsky had feared.”
But viewed from the right of individuals to rise to power when opportunity allows, there are positive aspects of these events from in terms of the reduction in ideological pressure. This also has the effect of legitimizing the play of interests where large number of managers is involved. Another remarkable effect is limitation that may be approximately estimated on the “general unpredictability and uncertainty concerning the future.
The separation of interests within the nomenklatura was also seen by Walicki to have caused the improved use of the methods of civil law to resolve conflicts and this has the effect of broadening their sphere of application. He also observed central planning having become a fiction, given the showground for the fight for group interests since individuals were now given special roles to play. Thus, the consequent failure the use the same planning as a rational way to control the fate of society.
Having witnessed the communist experiment in Russia to have attained its complete cycle, Walicki now wanted to define the historical significance of the Lenin period, which he considered that as “the time when the sweep of the communist revolution on a world scale was at its peak”. His was basis was the seriousness of Russia trying to take upon itself the task to have all the solution to the majority of social problems, including the promise of giving answers to the most important questions of humanity. Walicki thus asserted that the “failure of this insanely bold attempt was sufficiently clear by 1921.”
He therefore wants humanity to learn from inner defect of process that had to end in the complete failure of communism. What then is the ideal society? Is democracy then the answer to every problem that communism failed to attain? Soros proposed an open society. But his proposal needed some criticism on alternative systems. He cited Popper to have shown about the commonality of fascism and communism, which is using the state’s power to repress the freedom of the individual despite the fact even though one is extreme right while the other is the extreme left.
Wanting to extend the argument, Soros contended that even his proposal of an open society is not safe because of the possible threat from the opposite direction. What he meant of course is the chance from excessive individualism that could be generating to much competition and too little cooperation. He feared this to possibly cause bring inequities and instability that could difficult to tolerate. Soros thus exposed also some risks with capitalism as an alternative which strongly believe in the capacity of the market place to solve many ills.
He asserted that the doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism which holds that the uncommon good is best served by the unrestrained pursuit of self-interest, poses a great danger if not tempered by the recognition of a common interest. He thus saw an open society that is capable of breaking down if the self-interest is not regulated. In making a comparison of the systems, Soros argued that totalitarianism ideologies which are associated with communism and socialism, is opposed to open society with deliberation while laissez-faire policies under capitalism may just endanger it if there is inadvertence.
He however saw more potent danger in capitalism than in communism and even socialism since the latter have already been thoroughly brought into disrepute . Despite what Soros had seen with capitalism, there is basis to consider it better than totalitarianism as proven in history. By his admission of danger, a remedy is still possible which role is assumed by the US constitution and several laws. By the weight of evidence presented, individualism needs to exist in society and it cannot be denied even by very structures of the communist state.
It is better then to allow the same under an open society as proposed by Soros. In this context the short story of Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut may have assumed a significant despite the commentary in exposing the fallacy of the law of equality. For this reason, Noise may be justified considering Kurt Vonnegut as one of the great humanists of his time . In seeing him as a proponent of humanism and therefore tool for building a better world, Noise took the chance to expose that fact that humanists are skeptical of religious claims, for the most part on claims of prophecy and revelation .
He thus found that Vonnegut, like most humanists, had little use for speculation about supernatural realms and saw organized religions that attempted to do such speculation to be creating needless division in the world. Noise thus saw Vonnegut to have provided some guidance where there are differences among Jews, Christians, and Muslims on such issues eternal salvation . It may this be concluded that the proposition about the need to allow for individual differences for humanity despite society’s expressed desire to attain equality must be sustained based on argument and evidence presented.