Harrison Bergeron Takes Off His Water Wings

15 Jul

Harrison Bergeron was a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, about a futuristic society in which equality had gone completely mad. You weren’t allowed to be pretty or smart or strong, because it wasn’t fair to people who were not.

So they decided on what weight you should be, and if you were skinnier than that, you had to carry around a sandbag. And if you were too smart, it was considered unfair, so you had a chip installed in your head to interrupt your train of thought – that way you wouldn’t blast ahead of your less intelligent peers.

Even sexual attraction was deemed as a concept which gave really attractive people an unfair advantage, so everyone took a drug or something which completely numbed their nether regions, such that they never felt the urge to have sex at all.

Harrison Bergeron is the protagonist, part of an underground movement to let people be individuals instead of slaves to the norm. He even kidnaps a woman, holds her captive until the drug wears off, and then rapes her to wake her up from her government-induced trance. Then she thanks him.

Don’t yell at me – that’s Kurt Vonnegut, and he’d been dead for a year or two. So it goes.

And I’m not going to sit here and act like we’re anywhere near that ridiculous world – it wouldn’t work if you think about it for even a minute. Like for instance, we’d all have to be as heavy as the heaviest dude, not the average. What would they do, chop parts off of you if you were too heavy?

But we’ve got elements of it going right now. For instance, we have a real habit of making things illegal just because one person or some group of people can’t do it without making a mess.

I’m not going to sit here and complain about the texting ban very much, but just think about it for a minute here. It’s not like being drunk or something – not all texts are equal.

Me personally, I could probably type this entire blog by text while I’m driving to Cleveland. I wouldn’t do such a thing, so don’t start squawking, but I could.

What I would do is type a single letter, and then look around, make sure I’m cool, check all my mirrors, and then type another. Like pushing a car down the road by hand, once you’ve pushed it an inch, you just demonstrated that you can push it pretty much anywhere.

A mile is nothing but a bunch of inches, you know.

Settle down, seriously. I’m not saying it’s great and groovy to text while you are driving. I’m just saying, it’s easier for some folks than others.

Me driving to Cleveland on an open road, with a solid half million miles of accident-free driving under my belt in the last ten years – that’s different from your grandma or your twenty year-old cousin.

It’s up to me to control my vehicle, and that’s what I’ll do. I don’t text and drive as a general rule, but riddle me this, why can I enter a ten-digit phone number into my phone and then hit send, but I can’t text the word “OK” to my daughter, and hit send, on the same keypad?

I was listening to the Ohio House of Representatives debate the topic, and when the question of enforcement came up, they actually acknowledged that the ban was unenforceable, but that studies indicated a solid one third of the population would comply with the ban simply because it is law.

Okay, good enough for me. But you can stop the heartfelt pleas for the madness to stop. It’s still legal to eat fried chicken and tacos and reach into the back seat for a bag of chips you left there, and it’s fine to go through your glove compartment at eighty miles per hour, looking for packets of hot sauce.

It’s illegal for all of us to send a text shorter than a phone number because so many people are incapable of sending a text while they are standing perfectly still. That’s all there is to it.

Like walkers for babies – did you know they used to be able to walk in those?

Then someone’s baby went down a flight of stairs in one, and suddenly it’s near impossible to find a walker that walks. Now they are discs which the baby sort of stands in and turns around and around.

Do the math. Millions of babies walking around in their walkers, one of them goes down the stairs. Very tragic, no doubt about it. But still, pretty good odds.

When my daughter was young I had to go to a garage sale and buy an old one, because society didn’t think I could keep her safe from those one-in-hundred-million odds.

Our society’s hand-wringing stationary-walker laws and texting bans have led me to suspect that society has very little idea what I’m capable of. How about I drive my car, and if I crash it you can begin your critique?

I think maybe it started with the silica gel packets they put in with electronics in the eighties, to soak up the moisture, which had the words “DO NOT EAT” printed on them in the biggest letters that would fit.

I’m sure some guy actually ate that stuff one time, and that’s why they have to tell me – but was that guy really a solid representative of our cognitive skills?

You guys knock yourselves out with your babysitting laws and have a nice time solemnly assuring yourselves that they are necessary. For a solid third of the population, I’m sure they are. Right now there’s probably a man whose life is being saved by a sign on his trash bag which says, “Don’t pass out with this over your head.”

Personally, there are so many tiny, localized laws and codes that I’m losing interest in them. It’s almost like I’m a grown man who can take care of himself, and doesn’t need water wings in the Big Boy Pool.

Speaking of water wings, I heard about a guy who crashed his car in a river and drowned. Maybe we should all be required to wear them while we drive, just in case.

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Posted by on July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized


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