” After we spend time telling one another the story, filling in the pieces we remember and listening to someone else tell the ones we forget, we talk about the way Omelas must work, what must happen, for it to provide its denizens a utopia.
We must, I insist, try to take as much care in reading the fine details as Le Guin put into crafting them.
She refuses any and all requests to spell out her intentions, no matter how the questions are phrased.
What I offer here is what sense I make of this story and how I used it to teach important material in undergraduate moral philosophy classes.
But, considering the anarchist interests in mutual aid and human solidarity, I have found that it can also provoke a liberatory imagination – what would it take to put communities and societies, our cultures and institutions, in the service of ending suffering and restoring the dignity of the brutalized?
What would we organize if we cared about liberation as much as normative ethical treatment and rational political justice, all three as mutually reinforcing?
“What must they imagine if we assume they go somewhere after Omelas, or what do they create wherever they go if they truly walk away?
” To understand the story requires the labor of one’s moral imagination as well as one’s political imagination – how ought we treat one another, and what does a just society provide?
And this question is the point of my classroom use of this story.
I asked the students, what could possibly explain some people walking away from paradise.