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Social Injustice in Harrison Bergeron and Slumdog Millionaire

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“Two men are accused of murdering a man in an Ogden transient camp after, police say, they went there to “find and harass homeless people.” (Godfrey). “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” (M.L. King). The story Harrison Bergeron, written by Vonnegut Kurt, displays a logical indication of why society should take advantage of people’s natural talents and capabilities. Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup provides the message to not underestimate or generalize people based off of their social or financial status. Instead of suppressing those with remarkable capabilities out of jealousy, or shunning those born in poverty out of ignorance, accept all humans, for we were all born with distinct value, and are equal for it. This is why ableism and classism should be ceased.

Harrison Bergeron is an example of covert affirmative action. “An “ableist” belief system often underlies negative attitudes, stereotypes and stigma toward people with psychosocial disabilities. “Ableism” refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.” (Ontario Human Rights Commision). However, this stigma applies to rather able-bodied people instead of disabled people. In Kurt Vonnegut’s, Harrison Bergeron, the government has made a law to devalue people by providing specific handicaps to suppress specific abilities and traits. The idea is so that everyone feels equal and jealousy or judgement are not present. Despite the fact that this idea is used for the purpose of forming a utopia, the citizens have animosity towards it. George is dissatisfied with a bland ballet session on television that he is watching with his wife, Hazel. The dancers must wear heavy bags to prevent graceful movement, masks to hide their beauty, and are not allowed to speak unless their voices are unappealing. In fact, it is difficult for George to enjoy anything since he wears handicaps on his ears which release a siren-like noise in his head. Hazel acknowledges the ballerinas by saying, “That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did there” (Kurt 2). George insincerely replies saying, “Yup.” (Kurt 2). “George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped” (Kurt 2). Anyone’s intuition can tell them why handicaps are a blockade in the fictional society at this point. Ballet is a form of art and should not be disparaged. The highest attributed ballerina was forced to apologise for her voice. “And she has to apologise at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.” (Kurt 3). The notion of extreme equality is not worth what assets, creations, and self-progression could be lost by subduing able-bodied people, as presented in Harrison Bergeron. George’s son, Harrison, was put into prison for being mentally and physically outstanding, thus being a potential threat to society. This is comparable to the many heretics throughout the middle ages who questioned God and the church’s rules. Heretics were far more logical than commoners and were often killed for it, as seen as a potential threat against the power of the church. This goes to show that it is pitiful to suppress humans with prominent value because brilliant ideas and talents can transpire to benefit society. Another example of social injustice is classism, which corresponds with the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

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People living in poverty as are often underestimated and considered to be less intelligent or worthless. In the film Slumdog Millionaire, Directed by Danny Boyle, a boy named Jamal has successfully earned two million dollars. He knew all the questions on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” from his experiences through life. Jamal feels confident up to the commercial session of the show, where he his brought backstage, dragged into a van, and chained onto a ceiling to be interrogated. “Tell me how you cheated.” (Boyle). The police as well as the host of the show believe that Jamal is cheating, due to the fact that he comes from poverty and question his sources of knowledge. If a child born from a wealthy family were to progress as far as Jamal has, no suspicion would be drawn. This particular scene is a good representation of classism. The slums have schools and use the same textbooks as any other school does. Jamal is undeniably discriminated for being born into poverty and being a Muslim, thus his life expectations are low, and any notion of success is seen as dishonesty. Slumdog Millionaire is similar to the film Hidden Figures Directed by Theodore Melfi. Katherine Johnson, an African American mathematician who works for NASA is a minority. During the beginning of the film, she had to drive 40 minutes to use a restroom, was often ignored, and was treated poorly by her superiors. Despite the hatred she received, Katherine Johnson became one of the leading mathematical engineers in the early days of the aerospace industry. Dorothy deserves respect for her will-power and intelligence, hence it was wrong of everyone to treat her poorly.

Harrison Bergeron is an excellent example of affirmative action and discrimination against abled people. It is set in a dystopia with the involvement of severe equality. Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent example of classism. The movie demonstrates life as a poverty-stricken, Muslim minority striving for a future. Instead of suppressing those with superior capabilities out of jealousy, or shunning those born in poverty out of ignorance, accept all humans, for we were all born with distinct value and are equal for it. If all minorities and those considered to be lesser humans were to live in their own community, would people then realize that their lives are not experiencing any greater significance?

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