Zamudio and CRT vs Harrison Bergeron


My main beef with other libertarians is that so many of us (them?) seem to place a disproportionate emphasis on individualism in the sense that they see their own success as being the result of either their unique skills and / or talents and the failure of others as being the result of their respective lack of effort and “natural-born” abilities.

Harrison-Bergeron-2081-stillsThere is quite a bit to explain here so I’ll use direct quotes from the originals. According to Wikipedia (wiki-harrison), it’s “a satirical and dystopian science-fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and first published in October 1961. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the story was republished in the author's Welcome to the Monkey House collection in 1968. The satire raises a serious question concerning desirability of social equality and the extent to which society is prepared to go to achieve it.”

This story has been the subject of numerous adaptations for TV and YouTube as well as lively conversation. You can find the text on tumblr and many others, even as PDF. Its ubiquity is due largely to being quite short.

A less accessible but very similar message can be found in Ayn Rand’s work (ls-rand-wmn).

In each book, the male alone, the perfect male (the one I firmly believe Rand would have been attracted to, were he alive), succeeds in fully changing society: rising above all expectations and pre-conceived patterns through his own individuality and self-confidence or by founding a private utopia to restore vitality and innovation to the world. He begins with incorruptible ideals and even she, his counter-part, must learn from him: to abandon society’s opinions and ignorance or it’s slovenly greed nestled behind altruism. He studies hard math or science (Roark – Civil Engineering; Galt – Physics and Philosophy); he is physically fit, tall, sharp-boned and striking. Galt at least, with his blond hair and blue eyes, could be Russian in physiognomy, by description. (Though not so, Howard Roark, whose most outstanding physical characteristic is his redheaded-ness.)

In Atlas Shrugged, in particular, Dagny overpowers men in almost every field. Except for that of sexuality. Here, she is submissive almost to a fault, seeking only to be used for the male protagonist’s pleasure. Even when Hank Rearden believes his desires towards her degrade her, she wishes only to be “degraded”. In Dominique’s case, she even wishes to be “raped” in order to feel more completely owned by Roark. This, perhaps, is Rand’s way of showing that sex is not disgraceful, that a woman may succeed within her career but still have womanly instincts. But must womanly instincts be also submissive instincts?

It’s no surprise that many males, not all born to privilege, identify with the heroes in the stories above and see themselves as inherently superior beings who are “held back” by their inferior peers. To that, I would oppose Zamudio (et colab)’s words:

The major critique of liberalism is that it constructs an image of society as fair and egalitarian where individuals rise and fall based on their own merits. Liberalism presents society as a meritocracy where individual actors compete on a level playing field. Liberalism sees inequality as a natural product of fair competition. Liberalism refuses to examine the structural causes of inequality (such as capitalism, racism, and patriarchy) that CRT [critical race theory] scholars highlight. Liberalism’s emphasis on individual rights precludes any consideration of special protections under the law for minority groups. In fact, liberalism rejects any consideration of the structural rather than natural or individual causes of inequality because it might lead to the transformation of unequal power relations (Daniels 2008), a prospect feared by those in power. Ultimately, the liberal perspective fails to consider the multiple power relationships that give some individuals much greater advantage over others, and that allow some people to be freer than others.
From the very beginning, liberal societies were constructed along the status lines of class, race, gender, and citizenship. In America, Blacks and indigenous people were denied even the most basic human rights. Women were relegated to second class status and denied the rights of citizenship. Birthrights, not human rights, protected only those privileged enough to be born white, landowning males. As a society, we have never practiced justice and liberty for all. Liberal societies use the slogans of equality to benefit an exclusive, privileged group. And while over the years liberal societies have extended legal and political rights to a greater number of people, they have never addressed the fundamental material inequality passed down through generations of modern capitalist development. From the very beginning, then, the ideal of equality in the abstract has been celebrated within a broader context of concrete inequality.

Zamudio et al., Critical Race Theory Matters: Education and Ideology (review)

There’s a bit more to be said about meritocracy and materialism.

Sources / More info: amazon-zamudio-crt, wiki-harrison, hail-equality, 95-stills, bergeron-gattaca, ls-rand-wmn, zamudio-tmblr, diana-reuse-tmblr, bergeron-tmblr,

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