If you haven’t read The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, a story by the late literary great Ursula K Le Guin, you should. This short seven-page story has a simple premise: A beautiful paradise-like city is built upon a single injustice, the suffering of a child behind a locked door. Were this child to know anything but misery, the utopian wonder of Omelas comes to an end.
There is no shortage of existing contemplation of this philosophical premise and how well it represents reality: Every society produces its winners and losers. Every status quo has its victims and its persecuted peoples. And every system we can conceive of is built upon some injustice. Even Omelas, this paradise of people who have learned to live ‘without the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police, and the bomb’, and to live without guilt, or soldiers or pain.
More importantly however, the tale offers the inhabitants of this paradise a choice.
To stay and accept the way of this world; which most denizens of Omelas choose to do.
Or, to leave: Leave behind paradise and resist the shape of the world you know.
In Le Guin’s tale, the ones who walk away from Omelas wander to ‘a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas’.
I believe that when Le Guin speaks of a world less imaginable than paradise, she speaks of a world without injustice and without victims. A world composed of people who do resist the injustices in their lives, who do not lose sight of them in their pursuit of personal paradise. People willing to defy the human law that all things are built on some manner of suffering or injustice.
So we share these stories of resistance, to make this world just a little more imaginable, conceivable and hopefully, within reach.