“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

I’ve been meaning to share this for aaaaaaages.

Harrison Bergeron, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut.

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.

I read Harrison Bergeron when I was a mere slip of a lad, about 20 years after it was first published. It’s short and funny and beautiful and terribly sad, and I can’t think about the ending without crying.

It’s stayed with me ever since I first read it. It was the gateway drug that gave me a lifetime love of Vonnegut’s work (and his writing style, which I’ve shamelessly nicked), and like much of Vonnegut it’s eerily prescient: the things happening to the characters (I don’t want to spoil any of it) are like today’s social media distractions.

The story was published in one of those sci-fi anthologies, and it must have been a particular good one: it also featured the utterly terrifying Descending by Thomas M Disch, which I think about every time I descend into the Subway.