The story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guin depicts a Utopian society that thrives at the expense of a single child’s suffering in a cellar. Citizens of Omelas are challenged to find both “beauty and delight” (Le Guin, 1910, pg. 6), and happiness through a child’s misery.
They are faced to make a moral decision to either ignore the issue entirely, be a bystander, or leave Omelas to enter an unknown world, where they can free themselves from the guilt they had felt all along. This story applies to class concepts regarding societal power structures and the Digital Age due to the similarities and realities faced between the city of Omelas and the world of our own. The child sacrificed in Omelas demonstrates how our society has a fixed mentality of having instant gratification, rather than adhering to what’s ethical.
By analyzing the principles of the Digital Age in our media and society, the ones who chose to walk away from Omelas have a direct correlation to the utilitarian mindset that is conceptualized in our world today. For instance, the 80/20 effect is a concept described in the textbook, stating how “80 percent of profit is created for the most affluent 20 percent” (“13.4 Digital Divide in a Global Economy”, 2016, pg. 585). This effect creates a digital divide between the rich and the poor in regards to media consumption, as the use of technology isn’t economically advantageous for those who aren’t rich. In the city of Omelas, happiness is what fuels their economy rather than having a physical currency and being profit-oriented.
The narrator makes clear that the wealthiest citizens of Omelas are those who need the fulfillment of happiness to prosper in life. The state of happiness of the suffering child isn’t even attainable or considered by the people, thus representing how a majority can impair the overall well being of an entire city. The concept socialization agents, refer to the ways that “people learn about the norms, expectations, and values of their society” (“14.2 Ethical Issues in Mass Media”, 2016, pg. 619) through media and entertainment. Within Omelas, the child plays the flute to entertain the citizens; however, the people are allowing the continuation of the child to be held in captivity while suffering, for them to achieve happiness. The supposed child entertainment in Omelas consequently distorts the minds of the citizens into thinking how a civilized society runs, when in reality it’s morally wrong.
In the textbook, it explains how movies can affect one’s opinions, views, and behavior. The concept that entertainment and media shapes “collective perceptions and individual identities” (“14.2 Ethical Issues in Mass Media, 2016, pg. 614), directly impact the citizens of Omelas. The narrator notes that “their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality and to accept it” (Le Guin, 1910, pg. 6).
The children of Omelas are raised by the notion that the price of human suffering is necessary to their societies happiness. Whether it takes months or years, the citizens will eventually come to accept or deny the predicament within their society. Ursula Le Guin’s story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, directly relates to class concepts and contemporary issues in our world today.
At times, we tend to shut out our surroundings completely, rather than acknowledging the problem. In our world, like the city of Omelas, we can decide to either conform to society or walk away like those who left Omelas. Whether we choose to believe that it is justifiable for a city to thrive off human suffering, we have to consider the 80%, and the perceptions and feelings of all citizens, not just the majority.