[DISCUSSION] The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas theanarchistlibrary.org

Submitted by RedEmmaSpeaks in books

Reading this short story is always something of a cold shock, always something that gets a person thinking. Of course, everyone wants to cast themselves as one of the people who walk away, but that kind of heroism is easy when the conflict is fictional. If you were one of the villagers, you might have a harder time walking away.

But I find myself thinking about stuff in it. Note that Le Guin talks about people walking away, but even though they do, that kid is still stuffed in a closet, sitting in its own filth. Why do you think the ones who walked away, didn't set the kid free and take the kid with them?

Maybe it's like the infamous Stanley Milgram experiment regarding authority? The vast majority of the participants did go all the way to a fatal shock, but it's worth noting that even those who objected and refused to go any further, they never went into the other room to check on the poor Learner, despite the effects the shock might have had on his health.

Of course, the answer might be as simple as, "If they took the kid, the village would just pick some other kid to replace them," causing them to regard any attempt at heroism as pointless. Since they can't rescue the kid, they make the decision that they will at least no longer be an accessory to the kid's abuse, no longer benefit from the kid's suffering.

But over the years as I've thought about the story, I feel it is somewhat inaccurate. The truth is that it's not one kid or a minority suffering so the majority may live in luxury and comfort. The truth is that it is the vast majority of humanity--men, women, and children--suffering and dying in appalling poverty so the First World can enjoy their iPhones and other cheap goods. Pretty much all of our billionaires are people sacrificing large numbers of people beneath them, so they can make make in one hour what the average person couldn't hope to make in their lifetime, even if they work at minimum wage for 40 hours a week until they die.

And the trouble is, if we were to walk away from our Omelas, where would we go? Capitalism has effectively spread to every corner of the globe. Even if it was possible to escape, find some patch of undiscovered land that hasn't been touched, the constant production demanded by Capitalism means that Capitalism has no choice but to keep expanding. In other words, they will eventually discover your slice of paradise and use whatever means needed to take over. All those horrific tales about atrocities inflicted on indigenous peoples by Capitalist nations? It's a feature, not a bug.

Try to take over a patch of land, even if no one else is using it, will bring out the tanks in full force. Even so, the effects of Capitalism will still spillover onto you. Toxic runoff from a factory doesn't care that you protest against the factory and refuse to by any of its products; it will pollute your groundwater nonetheless.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. I would love to hear from everyone else. Hence why I started this thread.


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