Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Exquisite Corpse

I have always admired Man Ray. He never took himself too seriously. This post is something of a Dadaist experiment. Strung around exerpts from a very short story by Vonnegut are random bits of prose from activists for leftist revision and social change, and economic criticisms of the goals of our society.

Links for the items in whole: * * * * * *

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)
I'd like you to read this famous story and think about whether Nietzsche wasn't on to something when he criticized the naive idea of human equality.

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.

The truth is that France cannot sustain competition. The fact that the World Bank considers France the "world's top reformer" for start-up businesses, with 224,000 created in 2004 - a 12.5 percent increase over 2003, is a mirage. In France, welfare is a core principle, not entrepreneurship. In 2001, about 6 million people - that's 10 percent of the French population - were receiving some kind of social welfare benefit.

Capitalist society is one in which a minority of wealthy people own the majority of the country's wealth and the means of production. It exists on the basis of exploitation and has no other driving force but that of making ever-increasing levels of private profits for the ruling capitalist class.

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.

There will only be more beneficiaries of the RMI since unemployment is above 10 percent now. It clearly shows the inability of the French economy to create work. It's only logical since the ideology applied by both the Right and the Left is the Marxist principle that work cannot be created but must be shared. Thus the 35 hour-week law.

[In sympathy, George’s wife Hazel said:] “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

Such a society is inherently divided, unjust and harsh. There is no tenderness or love in such a system. That tenderness exists at all is a tribute to the worldng class which has to struggle against the brutality of capitalism to uphold humanity and decency in such a cold social climate.

Trade union hostility to 'excessive' pay for directors reflects growing pay inequality within organisations and comes as many firms are closing final salary pension schemes to new employees (UK0301109F). In March 2002, a Trade Union Congress (TUC) report,Executive excess - time to act, noted that between 1994 and 2001 basic pay rises for directors were treble those for average employees. Similarly, an annual survey of boardroom pay conducted by the Guardian newspaper and pay consultants Inbucon, published in October 2002, reported an average annual increase in directors’ pay of 17% in 2002, following a 28% increase the year before.

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.”
“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.”

The objective of the project was ‘to promote equal pay between men and women for equal work and work of equal value and to identify an efficient mix of tools and instruments for promoting equal pay in the context of each partner country in three target occupations: unskilled workers in the food processing industry; engineers; and secondary education teachers.’

Recalling the country's darker years of the not too distant past, a planning group of the SPD's parliamentary group created a list of those whose behavior is deemed unacceptable. Titled "Market radicalism instead of social market economy", it alleges that private equity has been subverting companies on the back of the common worker and lists almost a dozen companies that have already been compromised by private equity associations. The objective is clear: demonizing privatization and creating conditions for a policy of extending the reach of government even further into the economic realm.

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.
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.

Morality doesn't even come into it. The needs of people are only met to the extent that the organised working class fights for those needs, to protect the ruling class from facing civil unrest and to ensure: the worldng [sic] class can continue to fulfil [sic] its other function as consumers of the products it has created.

Forgotten is the empirically proven fact that no other form of economic order in the history of mankind has lifted so many people out of poverty. Forgotten also is the fact that capitalism enabled Germans to lead the lifestyle they so enjoy.

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.

THE YEAR WAS 2081...

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