"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut
Who knows where it really began?
No one disputes, however, that there were signs along the way: poorly performing students no longer held back to repeat grades they'd "failed;" trophies handed out to everyone who participated in athletic events; parents going with their college-aged kids to campus, standing in line with them at the Registrar's Office, sitting in classes for them when they were ill, telephoning and haranguing professors who dared give their beloved children grades based merely upon essays and exam scores; parents who attended job interviews with their grown children, who telephoned and harangued their children's bosses for not allowing them access to Facebook, and other Web sites, while at work.
Most experts agree, it was probably the thing with trophies and dismantling the central purpose of athletic competition, that caused the collapse. No winners. No losers. Nothing but self-indulgent yuppie parents patting themselves on the back for their devotion to humanity.
And so it came to pass -- much sooner than the makers of the film Idiocracy ever dreamed possible -- that all strictures based upon ability and achievement were removed from society, particularly from the workplace. It was a victory for overbearing, narcissistic parents everywhere. Strangely, this new system purposefully devoid of winners and losers seemed to inadvertently breed an inordinate number of losers.
Like the passengers of GloboFly flight 107 and those of FlyNow flight 820 over Laguardia Airport in New York, in April 2070, when their respective jets collided mid-air because air traffic controllers were no longer hired based upon ability, but upon desire. Hiring based upon ability had been deemed discriminatory. As one labor crusader -- and former yuppie parent -- Estelle Gardener shouted at a Hire Now! rally, "Just because a person lacks the ability to do the job doesn't mean they shouldn't be hired for the job!"
Pandering politicians everywhere heard that plea and mobilized.
Pampered, over-indulged kids who had once entertained themselves by pulling the wings off of flies and torturing animals found themselves among the ranks of medical professionals when they reached adulthood. All the excuses given by their deluded parents when defending their children's deviant, anti-social behavior rose in a single voice, which pandering politicians obeyed. In 2071, the Surgeon General of the United States was Dr. Braden MacIntosh. His parents had long stood by him, explaining Dr. Braden's years of impromptu animal vivisections on the front lawn as "Braden merely expressing himself!" Dismissing the countless instances of sexual molestation he visited upon neighborhood children as "Braden simply experimenting!" And waving away repeated warnings about Dr. MacIntosh's propensity for self-mutilation as "Braden's just emotional!"
Those explanations were small comfort to the families of the hundreds of patients who underwent (most dying during) painful, unnecessary, rarely anesthetized surgeries performed by Dr. MacIntosh in O.R.s across the country. But in this brave new world where personal desire trumped the public good, Dr. MacIntosh's detractors could, in the words of his father, "Take a chill pill and get a life!"
Courtrooms filled with lawyers whose only qualification was their desire to wear expensive suits and carry expensive briefcases. As the pampered, over-indulged children and grandchildren of judges and lawyers, their fantasies were legislated double-quick-time by pandering politicians.
"When a law is born out of love," said former Justice Radcliff Theophany of the United States Supreme Court, "how can it be wrong? It can't be and it's not."
Pandering politicians everywhere decided that love was enough. Love would light the way.
And so the number of plane crashes increased, the stock market rose and fell as though tethered to a bungee cord, the armed forces accidentally attacked and destroyed twenty major American cities, mortality rates of people entering hospitals skyrocketed, and generally life everywhere became shittier and shittier.
Professional sports devolved into a morass of litigation -- the parents of wannabe pro athletes sued every sport into paralysis, demanding that their child not only be on the team, but be made team captain. Parents often counter-sued other parents, alleging that the other child's desire to be on the team or made team captain violated their child's human rights. The last season professional sports were played was 2059. The pending court cases -- and those piling on to that staggering number -- guaranteed another professional sport would not be played before the year 3219.
Most people just gave up on the idea, altogether, and formed underground leagues of sports teams. But many of these, even, were crippled by litigation when anyone was turned down by a team. The only compromise that could be made was that everyone would make any team they wanted. And so, sports teams came to have rosters as long as the census lists of a medium-sized cities. This became particularly problematic for baseball, for instance, when the rule "everyone must get an 'at bat'" was handed down by the World Court in the Hague in 2066, turning games into months-long events -- from which everyone emerged with a trophy.
Trophy-maker, All Inclusive Trophies, became the Microsoft and ExxonMobil of its time, pulling in tens of billions of dollars in profit each year.
But the Bradens and Neveahs and Alisons and Jeffreys and Langdons and Mistys and Crawfords and Shandys and Olivers and Jenalyns, etc., etc., all got to express themselves, as they moved through the world ensconced within the artificial hedge of protection their brain-damaged, selfish, morally bankrupt parents created, always, always, always shielding them from the poison whose name could never be mentioned -- consequences for one's actions. It was stricken from the language.
"There's nothing more unnatural than cause and effect," said stay-at-home-mom, Lacey Waters (who presided over the education of her eleven home-schooled children) in an interview with Smiling Benevolent Parent Magazine in the spring of 2071. "I mean, who says that when you put your hand in fire that it should get burned? That's just cruel. I'm glad people are more enlightened now than when my parents were raising kids. Gosh, what could be more primitive than sending kids to school and then making them do school work? Duh! It's boring! And boredom is nature's way of telling us that something's wrong."
In 2071, Lacey Waters' son, Levenworth, became Prime Minister of Canada after she successfully sued the government saying that requiring her son to go through a political campaign and then a general election violated his human rights. "What if he lost?" Lacey said, summing up the strategy of her winning case. "His feelings would be hurt."