Thursday, November 18, 2010

No, that’s Tom Bergeron

Remember Harrison Bergeron? It’s a story written by Kurt Vonnegut Junior, he of Slaughterhouse Five fame, about a world where everyone is equal. In every single way. Anyone who is born “better” than anyone else is given a handicap to make them “normal,” i.e the strong are weighted down, the beautiful are made to wear masks, and the smart are forced to wear radios that give frequent bursts of noise to prevent overthinking.

The point of the story, as I read it, is that total equality is not total sameness, which washes away everything special in the world. We can hope our world will never be like that, that we have the brains to know what injustice and what is placating hurt feelings.

For an example, look at any Little League that hands out a trophy to every kid for doing their best. Besides taking away the fun and specialness of the kid who really did play best, it’s pretty insulting to everyone else. It’s like, you get the award, why bother trying? (See also: why Communism doesn’t work). Granted, Billy Jones might be a better player than you, but why is it so terrible to acknowledge that?

And why is it so terrible to struggle to improve? I look at writers who have done so much better than I have and it makes me try harder. I know I may never beat them or even achieve their level of skill, but at least there’s something for me if I do: accomplishment. I did it.

If all writers were forced to be of equal level, there would be no Faulkner, no Shakespeare (because his skill at rhyming and word placement might offend someone), no Hesse, Joyce or Rand. No Poe. No Hawthorne. No Du Maurier. No Jackson. No [insert your favorite author here].

How dull.

It’s okay if you’re better than me. It’s okay if you’re worse than me.

Total sameness is not total equality. It’s total suppression.


  1. Sounds like a good read. I should look into that. Great blog, you got a new follower!

  2. Welcome! Thrilled to have you (and follow back, by the way:) It is a great read, very fast and furious.

  3. I really have to agree with you. A few years back, my nephew was a in a soccer league (he was like, 8 or 9 years old). All he did was stand out on the field looking at his Pokemon cards. He didn't run, didn't try to kick the ball, nothing. Just stood in the middle of field, looking at his Pokemons, while everybody else ran around him. When the game was over, I asked him why he didn't play. And he looked at me and said, "I get a ribbon no matter what."


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