The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise of this short story is simple: Omelas, a radiant city of happiness, has built its riches upon the suffering of a single child. Every citizen knows of the child and many visit it to witness its suffering.

There are basically three options according to Le Guin:

– Walk away and live your life, knowing your happiness depends on the misery of an innocent child.

– Walk away from Omelas; leave, never to come back.

– Rescue the child – but that doesn’t happen.

According to Le Guin’s afterword those are the only options because those are the rules:

»You can only play a game — chess, soccer, parable — if you follow the rules.«

And that’s where I say she’s wrong: We abide by the “rules” because we want to. We allow the rules to restrict what we do. We choose to follow the rules – but we don’t have to!

In the face of developing countries being ravaged by COVID-19 like we’d never tolerate it here, we can tell Bill Gates that his stance on not waiving intellectual property rights for vaccines is inhumane.

We can tell BioNTech whose research we’ve supported with 375 million Euros (ca. 445 million US-Dollars) from German taxpayers alone that selling its vaccine at high price tags while also vetoing patent waiving is greedy, irresponsible and, again, inhumane.

We do not have to play by the rules if that means ruining the game for generations to come. We do not have to accept the suffering of some in order to allow others to thrive at the formers’ expense.

Yes, we do tend to walk away from Omelas but there are other options than ignorance or turning a blind eye. We can rescue the child of Omelas and yet live good lives. We just need to change the rules.

Two out of five stars.

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