Learning from Omelasians who walked away

Le Guin’s story made me realized that happiness has a suffering counterpart. In excess of everything, when there is too much of something, imbalance comes. The majority sets the norms and not following it will make you an underdog. In reality, it is the powerful, the rich, who controls everything. They have the authority over big deals that affect everybody else. The happy Omelasians whose values inlcude “whatever makes you happy” and “live as if you will die tomorrow,” didn’t mind of the real issues that their place faces. Why would they mind when they are happy and contented? Why would they mind if they consider Omelas in a state of Utopia?

It’s also proven that the world will never be balanced because that’s how it should be lived. There will always be rich and poor people. And the tendency is, the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. The poor might be better or climb to the top, but how many of them will have the same ending? There will always be poverty, problems, crimes and other reasons why the world is far from being perfect.

Some states like Russia and China for instance, tried to create fairness through communism. But it didn’t work as smoothly as it can be. Although it can be said that the main goal of communism is equality for everybody, it still doesn’t apply in the long run. As shown in the savage comedy novel Animal Farm by Orwell, it depicted in the story, Stalinist Russia as represented by Napoleon, the pig who tried to be the leader of the rebellion for freedom. The leader led the fight to freedom, but when they have attained the freedom, the greed for power went into his veins and it brought their world back in slavery. People have the tendency to be blinded by the power that they possess which should be used for good. And so the fight for equality remains a fight, a fight that might never be prevailed.

The mentally challenged child in Omelas represents the weak, voiceless, innocent and the minority. In the society, there should be somebody who should represent the “minority.” Seeing the defects of the child, ‘they’ judged him as the outcast because he is not the same as the majority through his actions and appearance. It was exaggerated however that the mentally challenged who carried the burden of the abnormal is a child (maybe of age less than 10).  It really represented the minority, the easily stepped on the society. And so what’s the significance of the child? He is the reason why people of Omelas are happy. It is the child that somewhat absorbs all the mistakes of the society, becoming the sacrificial lamb, and let most people live happily.

The ones who walked away are represented by Freud’s super ego, who cannot stand seeing the suffering of the child. They can’t do anything about it and so they just leave. They might not also like to have a change in the status quo, a change that will involve the freedom of the child and the change for equality. In that case if it happens, chaos might occur in Omelas.

Here’s the point. In the Philippines, it is obvious that the government is corrupt. The government represents the happy people. The child is represented by those people who are victimized by the government. These are the people who pay taxes and have income exactly suited for their families. The people who walk away might be literally, those people who are leaving the Philippines and cannot stand its hopelessness for development. Of course, it is really debated whether moving out and becoming slaves in other countries is the key answer if problems cannot be solved although a lot of people claim it is the answer.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, if change is desperately needed for good things to come, then invest on it. I’ve experienced becoming a part of a system that I consider “corrupt” (I have learned it was corrupt after some time). I tried first to become a part of the solution to the problem by promoting my own ideologies which I think is good and helpful. However, the rotten system didn’t permit the change that I wanted. But that didn’t stop me from campaigning change. Although in the end, I left and walked away like the Omelasians who can’t stand seeing the suffering of the child, I made it a point that I challenged the remaining people to do something about the problem. They may not solve it directly, but just making them aware of what’s happening and not tolerating the mediocrity of the system is enough to show concern for the better.

So it’s like, do something first and if it can’t be done then that’s the time we say it can’t be fixed. Or maybe if we can’t fix it then we look for somebody who can fix it. And I’m saying that if the “change” that you are promoting is something that will cause the challenge and disturbance of the status quo and might lead to critical changes in the norm, you will be willing to choose that if you really want to make the change you are fighting for. It is hard but it really takes guts to do it.

Simply walking away is no difference with those who make the suffering suffer because the former and the latter both didn’t do anything to lessen or destroy the suffering.

JGP 06-20-09

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