“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” _ Kurt Vonnegut
In 1961 Vonnegut wrote a short story called Harrison Bergeron, taking place in a future where everyone is made perfectly equal. How may you ask? Beautiful people wear masks, strong people wear weights, and smart people have implants in their head that make loud distracting noises whenever their brains begin to formulate deep thoughts. Thus, Vonnegut creates what is commonly referred to as a dystopia. A idealized state of humanity, i.e. equality, but in order to achieve that state personal liberties and rights are taken away.
It is easy to draw lines of symmetry from this concept to what is happing today in American politics. I am not saying that I believe we will be walking around with bags full of buck shot around our necks anytime soon, I am not Glen Beck. What I am saying is that in the narrative Vonnegut presents and in the current narrative of American politics there exists a definitive line in the sand drawn between political parties where they measure attempts to levy the influence of the affluent and powerful and increase opportunities for the underprivileged, leading, one would hope, to a certain level of equality. The two main themes of both ideologies are equality and handicapping.
The reason that guys like Vonnegut, Huxley, Orwell, and Bradbury, wrote about these political dystopias was that they were and still are a prevalent reality. From iron fisted Communist nations to liberal Democracy, governments in general have far reaching social and fiscal influence over any human being under their umbrella of control. From taxation to abortion there exist a myriad of social contracts Americans are destine to uphold regardless of their personal beliefs. From the current hot button subjects like gun control, gay marriage, legalized marijuana, or taxation, to personal issues like sugar consumption, beach access, or cigarette cost, are just a portion of the litany of standards we have to consider and abide by daily. For the good of society.
I am more of a Platonist when it comes to government. In that I don’t think Democracy is a practical way to elect leaders because people that vote don’t really know anything about politics. They know what they see on Fox news or CNN, they know what they read in the New York Times or political blogs, they adhere to the groupthink of one party or another, but they don’t know shit about how the political machine actually functions. I am no different. But I don’t claim to know shit about it. Unless you are elected to congress, as a governor, or some sort of active politician, you don’t really know how “it” works. Plenty of people will endlessly pontificate figures, quote you the constitution, and extrapolate on complex social and fiscal theory, but the moment you ask what they would do about a specific problem the answer is almost always the same. “I don’t know, I am not a politician.” God bless America.
For the good of society. That is oft the reason we are asked to put aside our social liberties, out extra tax dollars, disband 64 oz. double big gulps. Because the government knows what is better for us then ourselves. Like a parent reprimanding a child. From what I gathered of the past Presidential election, which was a Mormon vs. a black guy talk about WTF moments, Republicans are a despondent political menagerie of extremist fundamentalist unable to formulate a coherent battle plan while Democrats are a wily pack of utopia seeking ideologues disinterested in political maneuvering pandering to social liberal coastal metropolitan areas. The blind leading the blinder. It reminds me of the movie See no evil, hear no evil with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. The bumbling government acting as ears for the masses stumbling through the dark. The dystopias that the above authors feared have been subverted by making the public and the government to infantile and ineffective to be totalitarian.
But I digress, back to my point.
My point is that I am an Obama supporter in that I think that the rich should pay more taxes. For two reasons, one being that when you have more, more is expected of you. To quote Voltaire, “With great power … comes great responsibility.” If these multimillion and billion dollar corporations are nearly as business savvy as their net worth would have us believe then they will figure out how to get by. If a CEO making over 100,000 dollars a year has to pay a higher percentage than a teacher that makers 35,000 a year I am not going to feel bad about it. Is this equality, no. Is this handicapping, yes. Do I care, obviously not. The second reason being these institutions, through lobbyist, super-pacs, ect. have to much power and are subverting the Democratic process by buying seats in the senate, house, and possibly even the White House. The only way to check this is by hitting them where it is of tangible effect, in the wallet. The fact that we are just now climbing out of the biggest national recession in recent history and the second biggest since the Great Depression, caused by an inability of money managing institutions to manage money, is proof that there needs to be more regulation of capitalism.
You may ask, “But isn’t this exactly what Vonnegut was warning us against?” Yes, it is. I am all for social liberties and I am all for smaller government budgets and a free market society, but I am also for accountability and personal responsibility. At this point we cannot just shrug off the fact that half of this nation doesn’t have proper health care, we cannot close our eyes to the fat that politicians are bought and sold, that financial institutions are out of control and need to be given a swift kick in the ass. We have set up this nation as a Capitalist Democracy which in one way or another dictates that those elected by the Democracy shall be given power over the Capital. If the dude collecting unemployment and the guy with a private jet could use those luxuries like socially conscious practical human beings then the government wouldn’t have to step in and regulate. But the fact is the dude collecting unemployment could of got a job two weeks ago and just rather sit on his coach and smoke joints, and the guy with his private jet could of sold it and flown business class so he didn’t have a multimillion dollar expense account. But people don’t think that way. And it’s sad. No one want’s to sacrifice for the good of their fellow American much less their fellow human being. And as long as that is the case there will be politicians telling us what we can and cannot do.
The truth is that The Handicapper Generals of the world are always going to be around, be it Republican or Democrat, Communist nation or Democracy, keeping a brotha down or stealing from the rich to give to the poor. It is only when we as a society put greater value on altruism and fiscal responsibility, instead of personal achievement and decadence will we be free of a political vehicles ability to distract by villainizing those outside of our social class. It’s just like high school, if only the jock could have gotten along with the nerds then everyone would have gotten good grades and a date to the prom.