What if everyone were the same? Stress the two advantages of everyone being completely equal like in "Harrison Bergeron."

One advantage of everyone being equal like in "Harrison Bergeron" would be the opening of the opportunity to excel across the social spectrum. A second advantage would be that people could focus on self actualization rather than fighting for petty advantages over others.

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In the science-fiction short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., equality for all people is imposed by government mandate. Because people are inherently dissimilar, attractive people have to wear masks, strong people have to wear weights, and intelligent people are beset by periodic noises to keep them from thinking too much. Although at the beginning of the story Vonnegut writes that people are "equal every which way," it is obviously not true, because then Harrison's rebellion would not have been necessary, and the government would not have had to quell it by force.

To speculate on complete equality poses numerous questions. How could this be achieved? Would genetic manipulation be used? Would it be necessary to eliminate disparities of physical appearance and expertise such as skin color, strength, abilities, and gender? Regardless of the details, a completely equal society would provide numerous advantages. We'll delineate a few of these, and then you can choose the two you feel would be most relevant.

Complete equality would bring an end to envy and jealousy. These emotions are predicated on inequality. We envy other people because they have more than we do. However, if everyone is equal and everyone has exactly the same advantages and talents, people would have no motivation to feel these negative emotions.

There would be no bullying and violence in a society in which people are completely equal. Bullies are motivated from feelings of inferiority. They think that they will enhance their own self-esteem by dominating, ridiculing, and physically abusing others. People fight each other to prove their superiority, but when everyone is equal, this is no longer necessary. In a larger sense, inequalities provoke wars between nations, when one nation has resources or advantages that another wants. When there is complete equality, there would be no more fighting or wars.

If people are completely equal, everyone would respect one another because they would be exactly the same. There would be no more racism, sexism, or other negative evaluations and treatment of fellow humans.

In a society of equals, there would presumably be a mutual sharing of resources. Nobody would have too much, and everyone would have enough. After all, if everyone is just like you, you would want to see that their needs are taken care of.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 11, 2021
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According to Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," the idea that everyone could actually be made "equal every which way" is roundly condemned by the story as being something impossible to achieve. The story appreciates that there has long been a drive among humans for everyone to be equal not only before God and the law, and to be equal in terms of their level of intelligence, their physical appearance, and their speed and agility. However, the point of the story is that this can only be achieved by artificial means, which ultimately are not to the benefit of society. In order for ballet to be enjoyed, the physical beauty of the dancers needs to be obscured. In order for everyone to be intellectually equal, the intelligence of others needs to be suppressed. So, Kurt Vonnegut's argument is that there are no real advantages to trying to make everyone equal in this way.

However, we might consider why the people in the universe of the story might have thought this would be a worthy goal to strive towards. First of all, an advantage of everyone being equal would be that it would eliminate discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, class, and other things which have long caused division in society. On a social and community front, it would also eradicate personal jealousy if everyone was the same: we would not be able to envy anything in anyone else. This, though, as the story would indicate, could never be achieved without magic. It is not possible to make everyone the same.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 11, 2021
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This is a counter-intuitive question as Vonnegut's story so adamantly condemns a leveling equality as absurd, but it is also good to keep in mind that Vonnegut was a socialist, an ideology we often associate with equality.

The question hinges on how we define "sameness" and "equality." Vonnegut's story offers a very negative view of these terms, in which they are interpreted to mean that everyone functions at the level of the lowest possible common denominator. It uses exaggeration to show that a reductive view of equality is absurd and destructive.

But what if we shifted our view of sameness? One way we could do that would be to truly embrace the idea of "complete" equality of educational opportunity, meaning that no person, no matter how poor, would be barred from education because of lack of resources, This would lead to the positive outcome of more students taking high school seriously because they had a real hope of going to college and more people being put to productive use by society because their skills and intellect were developed.

Also, if people could embrace complete equality as a value, we could achieve the positive of an "I'm okay, you're okay" society. Rather than people, as they do now, using their energy to jockey themselves into a slightly bigger house or more prestigious job, they could be liberated to focus on actualizing themselves without worrying about getting ahead of other people as a measure of self worth. This would relieve social pressure and allow people to pursue what was important.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 11, 2021
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If everyone was of equal strength, looks, and intelligence, etc., there would be less feelings of inadequacy, envy, and jealousy. If everyone was equal in every way, everyone would have the same thoughts, bodies, movements, tastes, preferences and so on. So, with everyone having the same preferences in terms of sexuality, music, culture, movies, etc., each person would have no problems relating to one another. With so many shared interests, it would lead to easy conversations in which everyone was in complete agreement. And with the mental distractions described in this short story, people would be generally unaware that they are being conditioned in these ways. So, they would not wonder about an alternative society in which people are different. Any such thoughts would fade away with the onset of a mental interruption and they would return to the blissful ignorance of living in complete equality. 

But clearly, Vonnegut is making the opposite case. Such complete equality would erase difference. And without difference, meaning itself is lost. Simply put, if everyone is the same then there is nothing unique about any one person. Think of this etymologically. If every noun looked the same and meant the same thing, then there would be only one word. This would fundamentally eliminate meaning. "What is a bear?" A bear is a bear. I am you. You are me. There is no meaning because there is no difference between things. And in terms of the self, individuality is lost. The sense of self is lost. And with a society which embraces total equality, there would be no impulse, motivation, or intent to improve one's self, mentally or physically. 

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