Is morality a handicap? Is equality actually an evil?
I ask these questions in reference to Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. After reading the first two essays and taking part in our class discussions, these ideas are what I have come to garner from Nietzsche’s work. He seems to be arguing that our system of morals is seeking equality—and he’s right—and that forcing unequal things to be equal is actually what is wrong with humanity. Our laws (at least in the United States) seem to seek equality for most, if not all people. Even simple laws such as a speed limit on the highway seek to equalize humanity, especially interstates with both minimum and maximum speed limits. Those with faster cars are expected to drive slower and those with slower cars are expected to drive above a certain speed or stay off the interstate. These laws are seeking equality in the way we drive. Nietzsche might argue that before the development of our system of morals, before we all became slaves, those with faster cars drove as fast as they could to demonstrate their speed, just like the strong display acts of strength to demonstrate that strength. However, because of our system of morality, those who are faster are told to move slower so they do not outdo the slower ones.
Is asking us to abide by laws that attempt to equalize us really just handicapping our natural abilities? This question came about when I started to see some similarities in Nietzsche and a short story by Kurt Vonnegut called “Harrison Bergeron.” The story is set in the future, in the year 2081, so Vonnegut seems to be suggesting that this is a kind of world our society is headed towards. Vonnegut writes, “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.” If you’ve ever read this story, you know that most of the characters have been given handicaps to make them equal to everyone else. A man with a high intelligence is given an ear radio that he is required by law to wear at all times that sounds loud, obtrusive noises every 20 seconds or so in his ear to keep him from “taking unfair advantage” of his own mind. Basically, he is prevented from being able to think for too long so that he can’t actually use his intelligence to work anything out in his mind.
While obviously, our world has not yet come to these extremes, but what I feel like Vonnegut and Nietzsche are both saying is that what is really wrong is not that some people have more advanced abilities than others, but that they are not allowed to use them because of our morality that seeks equality of all people. So is morality really an evil?