What does this mean for society? It is completely stagnant. No longer is striving for individual success and betterment looked on as a good thing; it is dangerous and evil. Equality in everything is everything. This means that people cannot attain their employment through skill and ability... that would discriminate against those who have neither. This is why the TV announcer is someone with a speech impediment: it would hardly be fair to keep someone from a job simply because they weren't good at it. Promotion must not be based on talent or success. This leads to incompetence and poor performance, as witnessed when the TV station has to make three attempts to broadcast the photo of Harrison right side up.
There is no greatness- of thought, feeling, word, or deed. This is because there is no freedom of thought, feeling, word, or deed. We see the insipid thought and speech which is all that people are now capable of in the characters of George and Hazel. They have also become incapable of strong feeling; while they seem to harbour some affection for each other, nothing goes very deep. Their son- their son - has been taken away by the state, and is eventually killed, and all they have is a vague notion that something isn't quite right.
This brings us to the only other person in the story whom we see act autonomously: the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glamper. Harrison acts violently to throw off the chains- literal and figurative- of oppression, and Glamper reacts even more violently to keep them in place. I think that Vonnegut's choice of names for her was positively inspired: Diana Moon Glamper. The first part sounds like the flaky type who makes fluffy, amorphous speeches about fairness and social justice. The second part- Glamper- sounds rather authoritarian, which she is, determined to retain a grasping, unbreakable hold on the citizenry, willing to stamp out personal liberties in the name of the Greater Good.
Of course 'Harrison Bergeron' is exaggerated, but I do think that western society has taken some unhealthy steps in this general direction: the practice, for example, of employment or acceptance not achieved solely through merit and ability, but dependent upon quotas for special interest groups. Designed to promote "fairness", it is patently unfair to those of superior ability outside of these favoured sets. I don't believe the answer to unequal ability or access is lowered standards and expectations. Besides, when anyone- especially the government- starts implementing policies to make life "fairer" and people more "equal", it usually doesn't turn out very well (see Animal Farm). The fact is, this type of "equality" for everyone means freedom for no one.
fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the
emancipation of creative differences; wrongly
understood, as it has been so tragically in our
time, it leads first to conformity, and then to
- Barry Goldwater