Yes, the devices (I'm pretty sure all of them) are retaliatory in nature but the people enforcing such measures didn't see it that way.
If I recall correctly, (as I read this story quite some time ago), the government decided that people born with exceptional or even above average abilities was deemed "unfair" to everyone else. So, to "even" things up, exceptional people were handicapped with numerous devices.
I think all of the devices are retaliatory because:
- they harm people,
- they deny people of their individuality and abilities
- they deprive people of their right to free will, self-expression and self-determination.
And the damage is even greater when you add in the loss to society. Such as, all the art, science, and engineering feats that won't get created because people aren't allowed to use their gifts.
And yes, Vonnegut was engaging in satire but the really scary thing here is that there really are people in the world who believe in this misguided form of fairness.
Sorry everyone but I think you've missed the point of the story. As I touched on before; Vonnegut was satirizing the failed equity experiment of the 20 century. And sadly the 21st century too.
In the story, to achieve physical and mental equality the government tortures its citizens. And some citizens went along with it because the government will kill or incarcerate anyone who disagrees. And you don't think that's retaliatory? Violating everyone is equality? Really?
For the record: If everyone is free; then we're equal.
Equality of outcomes is not only impossible but also deadly and dangerous to pursue. Social engineering is wrong and a massive human rights violation. Equality has many meanings and some are quite evil.
Everyone being equally miserable is not equality it's actually called collectivism