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Harrison Bergeron (Forced Equality, Power of the Media)

 
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Post Posted: Wed 2004-04-14 22:59 Reply with quote
Politics: Libertarian-Syndicalist Country: American Empire

Harrison Bergeron (Forced Equality, Power of the Media)  
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I know I already mentioned it before, but in order to help get this started...





Harrison Bergeron - (TV movie based loosely on Vonnegut's short story, with a slight Orwellian twist)

In the future... all men are finally equal. (Because the government makes them so). Nobody is allowed to be better than anyone else. People that are too strong or agile must wear sandbags to slow them down. People who are too intelligent must wear cranial devices which dumb them down. Anybody with perfect vision must wear prescription glasses. All the great works by the "freaks" of the past are prohibited. All "art" is created by people of average skill. (You wouldn't want anybody to get jealous of anybody else, would you?). And of course, all television programming is mundane and idiotic.

Enter Harrison Bergeron, a super-genius.

The government attempts to lower his intelligence by way of a device attached to his head which emits loud noises (to assure that no train of thought lasts more than 2 seconds). But Harrison learns to cope with the devices... and continues to threaten the (un)natural balance.

The politics of the future are "fair". The president (and every other politician) are selected at random. But, unbeknownst to the citizens of the new America, the government is secretly aided by a cabal of geniuses. Harrison is eventually added to their ranks.

Harrison works in the broadcasting division. And to make a long story short, he eventually seizes control and locks himself inside the vaulted control room.

He commands the population to remove their "equalizing" devices. He begins broadcasting the past...

(and to say any more would spoil the fun)

This movie was released on VHS, so check out you local video store.
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Post Posted: Thu 2004-04-15 00:55 Reply with quote
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DOWN WITH THE MEDIA!!!  
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DOWN WITH THE MEDIA!!!
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Post Posted: Sun 2004-12-19 01:25 Reply with quote
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Harrison Bergeron
by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)




THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker 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.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh?” said George.

“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”

“Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday – just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well – maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.

“You been so tired lately – kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean – you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?”

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen – “

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right –” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and gentlemen” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me – “ she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under–handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen – upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever worn heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H–G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H–G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle–tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God –” said George, “that must be Harrison!”

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here –” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap–iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber–ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all, he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first – cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while – listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it. It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling.

They kissed it.

And then, neutralizing gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George.

But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying?” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said,

“What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee –” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

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Post Posted: Sun 2004-12-19 17:43 Reply with quote
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That's horrible, doing that!

Let's just say that not only would I have a mental handicapping device, but also a hell of a lot of handicap weight(I'm actually quite strong for my size. I'm actually used to quite a lot of weight).

But how the hell would they improve my sub-par perception or charisma? I'm not exactly average in either of these.
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Post Posted: Sun 2004-12-19 19:11 Reply with quote
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That has to be perhaps one of my favourite dystopias, mainly because it is something that really terrifies me. I hate to think how they would inhibit my frame, let alone my intelligence (well, it wouldn't take too much to reduce that to average).

Another very good book about the nightmarish world of equality and absolute government power is Life In The 21rst Century. It's based on interviews with Soviet scientists, and how they visualised what the Soviet Union would be like in the 21rst century. They imagined a world of unceasing daylight, mass entertainment and infinte scientific advancement. In fact, most scientists visualise a world free of the limitations of nature- including entropy, night, resource peaks and even death.

Science versus art- one will leave you without a soul, the other will leave you without a chair.
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Post Posted: Sun 2004-12-19 19:20 Reply with quote
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It reminds me of Anthem but made with a more real world feel. Even Rand admitted Anthem was more fantasy than realism with regard to the total structure of her story. But still I love the fact that people are taking notice to the crimes being done in the name of 'equality.'

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Post Posted: Mon 2005-01-17 19:08 Reply with quote
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Looks like the kid from the “Goonies”.
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Post Posted: Mon 2005-01-17 22:03 Reply with quote
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Indeed, it is Mikey from the Goonies. I guess he's moved up in the world.
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Post Posted: Fri 2006-03-03 03:32 Reply with quote
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I loved that story. I remember I had to write an essay on it fo my college english class. Lets see i i can't find it.

Here it is:

Harrison Bergeron is an interesting, if negative, look at what it would be like if everyone in a society became one and the same. Though it is only one of the many stories that has looked at what would happen in a society if everyone was “not born equal but made equal” as one character in a similar novel put it (Bradbury 154). It makes an interesting point in that it is impossible to make everyone equal in every way, because some will see this sameness as dull and decide to beat their own path, so to speak. The rigid equality created in this society came from “handicaps” such as bags of birdshot to make everyone equal in strength, earphones that made annoying sounds every twenty seconds to make everyone equal in intelligence, and masks to make everyone equal in beauty. The Handicapper General used these to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

The story starts in the home of George and Hazel Bergeron who, because of their (forced) stupidity, have forgotten about the arrest of their son, Harrison who outgrew handicaps as fast as the people in charge of making them could think them up. They are watching TV when suddenly Harrison burst into the studio on the channel that they were watching and declared himself the emperor, and for his inaugural speech he bellowed “Even as I stand here … crippled, hobbled, sickened-I am a greater ruler than any man who has ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!” At this point, he “… tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.” Afterwards he picked a wife and they danced. When they were seemingly floating in the air, Diana Moon Glampers, the handicapper general came in and shot the both of them, ensuring that they “… were dead before they hit the ground.” After this George and Hazel forgot what had happened, thanks to their forced stupidity.

People often write these stories to show that the government is trying too hard to make it up to those whom society has oppressed for too long (maybe it’s time for another one, in response to no child left behind), and judging by the date of its first publication, right in the middle of the civil rights movement, it is no different. One must wonder if it would have been better to do it right the first time instead of endlessly trying to make it up to the oppressed minorities. Of course some people say that having everyone equal would be a wonderful way to run a nation or a necessary evil (to what extent can an evil be considered necessary?) but a glaring downside that they seem to ignore is that advancement stops, because advancement involves someone trying something new and different and if everyone was identical than no one would try anything new or different. Of course, the major downside is with a society of identical people is that if someone commits a crime, it’s impossible to determine who did it and for what reason, even with a Big Brother-esque approach, because everyone is identical and therefore equal under the law.

Another problem is the fact that everyone has different experiences throughout their lives, which ultimately determines their personality, thus even if everyone is genetically a “carbon copy” of one another they would still have distinctive personalities based on the experiences they have throughout their lives. This is commonly seen in these and other stories, some of which were written by authors who never explored the negative realm of the worst case scenario stemming from something like a nation with it’s eye on US territory (1984), or the US becoming a police state in and of itself (a work in progress), such as Isaac Asimov, who wrote a story about identical twins with different upbringings, one was raised in a city and the other on a farm. In the story, when the twins finally met, they discovered that they were total opposites of each other, not good when you have to run a plant and you and your partner have unconditional veto powers over the decisions of the other.

Total equality seems unattainable in any well-established government, because the leaders seem to start believing that since the people put them in office (or not) the people will believe that they, the leaders, can do no wrong. There seem to be examples of this sprinkled throughout the history of America with such famous examples of presidents who do something without regards to how the people will react as Johnson, Nixon, and, most recently, Bush for Vietnam, Watergate, and Iraq respectively. One should doubt the ability to point to any nation that has existed for at least thirteen years that will punish its leaders on an equal level with its common citizens.

Any sort of total equality, including the kind shown in Harrison Bergeron, seems to be impossible because every difference, every inequality, cannot be smoothed out without endlessly ironing out the wrinkles out of society, and, at the end of the day, it hardly seems worth what few benefits it provides, because for every benefit, multiple problems rear their ugly heads. Total equality almost seems more dystopian, because of the endless problems, than utopian.
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Post Posted: Fri 2006-06-23 12:25 Reply with quote
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I have always loved this story. I read it long ago when people wrote books with quills and many of you were just a sexual harassment complaint in your father's eye.
..
Of course Japan is the Primero Country for Bergeroning. There "the nail that sticks out gets hammered". Kurosawa, the film-maker while accepted internationally has had a life long fight with his own nation for recognition because of his individualism.

..
I'm glad and surprised to see this taught in high schools. However, it is somewhat ironic because the Bergeroning that goes on in high schools is excessive and growing even more. I know in my local area bullying and gang violence has become the norm in the schools. The Bergeroning is is due to the struggle for peer acceptance and peer pressure. Students are ridiculed by their peers for being too bright, too respectable, too nice, too caring , too polite too....just about anything that stands out and anything that encourages individualism and talent. They have to cave in and shrink against this, many of them actually stop their activities caving to group pressure and they become cardboard cutouts to please the crowd. eg We have no idea what really happened at Columbine and other places. The shooters may have been reacting to bullying, Bergeroning and class struggles.
....

But I have noticed a new trend with this New Age technology and Interactive Bergeroning. I am afraid it will go much further to be a means of social control as people become interactively wired the the www and telecommunications and ultimately wired to the corporate-political machine.
For instance on this forum there is Bergeroning when people try to enforce their own conservative style of communication upon the majority. eg people are criticized for being "dyslexic", for not using English "correctly", attacked for their grammatical constructions, their creativity, unusual manners of expression, creative wordplay, posting methods. ...everyone has to be leveled down and conform to an unimaginative boring standard. The flavor and essence of individuality is attacked, and many individuals wither and die away in response.
..
Incredibly on some TV fans forums I 've seen individuals attacked and forced to change by moderators themselves. The moderators go into their posts to edit what they consider to be an incorrect style of expression. I myself was criticized for many of my posts being "prose-poems", references to "prairie-gophers and maple syrup were deleted because Americans didn't understand them, "Canukians" was deleted because it was a made up word, and there was a complaint that some things I wrote were too hard to understand. On a SciFi forum I was criticized (get this!) for having "weird" ideas and being too strange to talk to!!!!On another forum I was told i had ideas that no one else ever said and was castigated for it.
and on and on... it's all Bergeroning, leveling.
...
But what I understood was that in this TV forums it was not the entertainment that was being written, rather it was I, myself as a fan that was being written. The one moderator actually went into my posts to re-write my sentences for his own satisfaction. My sentences ended up like "See Spot run, See Dick play with Jane"

I was being taught what to say and how to say it. In that forum there was also a 10 point demerit system, It really was like Orwellian monitoring, every time I signed on I had a blinking red light telling me how any demerits I had as a warning to be cautious as I was typing.The guidance was not just at the micro level but extended into how to think, feel and respond to the TV dramas as a fan. "Bad" responses being socially punished, "good" responses being encouraged.The other thing about that forum, is that although the moderators had publicly listed addresses (they were the fall guys) the real owners were not revealed anywhere. I did much research until i finally learned that it was a website run buy a website developing company hired by the TV Networks themselves!!!
..
So, reflecting on this experience, first i realize that TV writers are not writing stories for than audience, they are writing the audience to fit what stories they will tell them. I think it is not just the www and net forums. They are beginning to use an extended interactive process to assist this. I think this interactive process is going further in this in every way. It is extending into mobile headphones, RFID technology, bank machines (they are now advertising to me specifically on the bank machine) supermarkets (the shopping carts keep track of my personal purchases) cellphones...all are working to interactively hook us all into the machine, the corporate machine. Bergeroning is one of the many techniques they are using to discourage incorrect individualistic behaviour and encourage correct behaviour. They are creating us, not just selling to us but creating us as ideas.
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