Monday, June 23, 2008

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

At a leadership/team building workshop this weekend, we read the text The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. You can read/print it here. Its a powerful allegory which can be interpreted in several ways. I recommend you read it if you haven't come across it already. If it sounds strange for the first page or so, please persevere. I'd welcome your comments after you've read it.


Sandrine 7:07 pm  

Hi Jeremy,

Beautiful story.I have only one thing to say, borrowing the line from Captain Kirk:
"the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many."
There wouldn't be true happiness knowing that one child was suffering.I would be one of the ones walking away.


Kody 6:33 am  

I found it a really hard slog. Sorry Jeremy but my mind just kept wandering whenever I got about half way through the copy...

Richard Trillo 3:18 pm  

Brilliant. Thank you. I've never read (or heard of) this before. My instinct is also to follow the others into the unknown, the "deal" being too cruel. And it would be interesting to explore whether the child should be replaced by another wretch, to become a happy horserider. And that child replaced in turn, ad infinitum.

Mr C 8:29 pm  

A long drag at first but quite a nice story. You suppress the suffering of one for a greater good.
Could mean many things to who ever is reading.

Sydney,  4:12 pm  

This is a beautiful story and as I finished, I thought the same as the others leaving comments on this blog; that I would be one that would walk away. I like to think I would. Unfortunately, I think the point of this story is for the reader to realize that indirectly, many of us have already made that deal. We keep ourselves busy in our everyday lives going to work, taking care of our own children, going to school. We are in constant pursuit of improvement; we need to be prettier and smarter and stronger and richer and there's nothing wrong with that. But we make sacrifices to pursue the ideal of ourselves. Some of that sacrifice is not having the time or the energy to involve ourselves in our communities or schools, or with kids whose parents don't care. We convince ourselves that if we ever need to rescue the child in the basement it will be obvious what we must do, but most of us are not the horrible people that come to the basement to drop off a little food and leave - most of us are the people who learned about the child when we were young but have convinced ourselves that the child doesn't really exist if we don't see it. We should picture the worst neighborhood closest to us and then think about what we can do to improve that neighborhood and improve the quality of life for the "children in the basement" there.

Plato's flashlight 7:25 pm  

I use this story in my AP English class after we read Crime and Punishment, Invitation to a Beheading and Waiting for Godot. Intellectually we can all see ourselves being ones who walk away from Omelas because we see a fictional setting as one that does not mirror our world, but the minute we think about how fiction does indeed mirror our experiences, walking away from Omelas becomes more problematic. Who hasn't witnessed senseless suffering in our world and policies of our own government that give us moral reservations? Do we walk away or do we equivocate?

@DanCast 2:11 am  

We all live in Omelas. Most cocoa is harvested by child slaves in West Africa. We buy diamond engagement rings and hope(!) that they don't fund war, death, and poverty. We use cosmetics, soaps, skin creams, and medicines that are tested on animals in unbelievably cruel ways. We all do this - I do too - it's not a secret, it's just something we don't like to talk or think about. We've been desensitized to our own complicity. We would all like to believe that we would walk away, but we don't. We could pay a little more for organic/fairtrade chocolate. For Canadian diamonds. For non-animal tested cosmetics. (no good ideas on gasoline/oil, but maybe there's a business opportunity in there someplace). The first step is the hardest.

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