1 Comment
Dec 2, 2022Liked by Raquel S Benedict

I’ve only read the Omelas story once, because it was referenced in a Lindsay Ellis video title and I didn’t understand why. So my reading of it was very much influenced by general 2020s fatigue. But the main idea that jumped out, and still sticks with me, is what y’all were circling around when you mentioned the Yin-Yang symbol: we’re already living in the opposite of Omelas. Most people suffer for the benefit of the few. People have committed egregious sins for a society that couldn’t rival Omelas on its best day.

And maybe that’s also what’s unsettling to people who read it in good faith. Omelas is, in terms of scale of suffering, a much better place to live than America. At least it’s only the 1 child being tortured instead of a couple million.

Which is an incredibly fucked up thought! But the ones who walked away from Omelas saw the suffering of 1 child as being too much. No one has that moral fiber in real life. We will never be as good as the ones who walked away and in the grand scheme we’re complicit in much worse than the ones who stayed. It’s hard to “solve” Le Guin’s problem because she hasn’t made a cynical argument, but a bleak and honest one.

And I find it bizarre that so many people could misread a story this straightforward. It’s an excellent and well-crafted piece of fiction but the philosophical question isn’t that complicated. It’s just unanswerable. Which I think is why your ESL students could understand it so easily. It’s got the simplicity of one of Aesop’s fables without the didacticism, which is really hard to pull off.

Anyway - thank you for unlocking this episode! I’m off to hunt for that Blood Knife Omelas story now.

Expand full comment