Happiness And Morality In The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas By Ursula Leguin
Morality and happiness are among the many issues that have troubled moral philosophers and scholars over the years. Most communities in the world value morality and often relate it happiness explaining the reason why the topics of morality and happiness are a major concern to many not only to philosophy but also the society in general. But why should one or the society be moral? This question and its similar variants make us view happiness and morality in a number of ways, the individual and societal perspective, the I and other perspectives (de Groot). It is the interest of this analysis to look at how the two intertwin and relate in the world of reality.
For an overview, happiness can be defined as that which an individual acquires after a successful achievement of personal values. As (Hirsch) puts it, it is a conscious state that has its rooting in morality. The story by Ursula LeGuin presents a paradoxical dichotomy that challenges the reader’s moral standing. The tells of imaginary exotic mythical city Omelas, a bright city towered by the sea. Unlike other cities or the cities, we currently live or know the people of Omelas are happy individuals. The author Ursula LeGuin describes this city as pure elegant with magnificent, public buildings, ideal governance, a city with zero toleration to slavery and any form of injustices resulting from monarchy system of governance (LeGuin).
The author describes a magnificent city where the fortunate city dwellers live in a joyous life, they enjoy what to many is a utopia kind of life with plentiful of comforts that includes no limits to drugs, sexual encounters and good music. The city has an ideal weather one that favours the city dweller there are no exploitative advertisements, no secret police suggesting the citizen of the city are law abiding and live a free life free of any kind of monitoring. Typically, Omelas is the ideal city anyone could wish to live in.
As the story progresses, we are introduced into the flaws of the city and its dwellers. The author notes despite the people in the city living in exotic life, a life that is far fetched when compared to the real world of happenings. The joyous and happy life in the city of Omelas depended on the miseries and degradation of one child. Impoverished and locked in a dark cellar room this kid is subjected to the most inhumane conditions just for the millions of people living in the city. How moral is it that the happiness of the whole city is pegged on the mistreatment of a single individual? To make matters even more complicated this is just but a child, the author notes that since infancy the kid has spent its whole life in such devastating conditions. We are not told why fate had it that the kid suffers on behave of the whole city but considering the age it clear that the kid is not out of will that the kid chose to suffer for the city but out of subjection form the city dwellers. Ursula LeGuin notes that the kids used to cry for help at night saying “I will be good” but at the moment the kids only whines and speaks less or never at all.
Back to our question are the deeds of the city dweller justifiable? Do you believe it is acceptable to sacrifice some for the benefit of many more? From the author’s description of Omelas it a perfect example of what is ideal but not real and achievable. My take my take on this is that subjecting and individual to inhuman conditions for the benefit of many is not justifiable by any moral standards. If a people’s happiness is going to be defined by the sorrows and suffering of others it good to let go the happiness all together. Human life is sacred it not something fellow humans should decide. As such each and every human being is entitled to a better life. Besides this the author suggests that the fundamental condition of good life in the city depends on the suffering of the kid without reprieve.
This in essence suggests that suffering and happiness are two sides of the same coin, non can exist without the other. This then implies that even if the kid is left free there will be people in the city who will suffer and as well, we will also have those living in happiness. In addition, the fact of life has it that there will always be points suffering and happiness at some time in life. It is not always a smooth line even for those deemed to be leading a happy life. The story also suggests that to maintain a careful balance aimed at preserving the joy in the city the city dweller had to adopt some kind of discrimination system. LeGuin notes that in the city, “happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive and what is destructive. ” The implication of the same is that life and happiness in the city solely never depended on the alienation and imprisonment of the young kid.
Ethical Dilemma of ‘Omelas’
How does he moral/ethical dilemma of ‘Omelas’ applies to real life? It should be noted the story The One Who Walk Away from Omelas is purely a mythical dilemma. One hand we have happiness and prosperity pegged on an imprisoned and malnourished kid, and on the other we have the guilt eating into few Omelians over the suffering of kid at the cost of their happiness and joyous life. Despite this being a mythical tale, it has its implication in the real world that we live in. a perfect example is slavery. When talking of slavery many people often look at it as an outdated concept one of the images that paints bad deed of the 18th and 20th century slave trade. What such people miss to notices is that even in our contemporary world slavery does exist but in different forms. In slavery people are subjected by their master to hard conditions, unpaid labour and many other inhuman conditions that only work best for the masters. The people who gain from the labour of the slaves are the masters.
So, in one way or the other the slaves suffer at the expense of the masters. Slavery never ended at its abolition in the 19th century. It changed it form and still manifests its self in a number of ways. He further gives examples of slavery that benefit masters as forced prostitution (especially women), forced labour and children working in sweatshops and many other. He further defines slavery as any form of live where individuals are controlled by their exploiters.
Any form of human exploitation that goes to benefit others should never be tolerated at all. This is so irrespective of whether it defines the happiness or wellbeing of majority of the people. For the example on modern slavery it can be the trapped people have not alternative but to be exploited, the best should be done through legislations to ensure that citizens are not exploited by a few. With relation to our story of analysis observes that in the world of reality a person’s life is usually surrounded with suffering and few instances of happiness so, there is no point in subjecting others to misery as was the case of the city of Omelas to that young kid. The model city of Omelas is flawed with regard to its perception of happiness and morality. Fortunately, in the city there are few individuals who could see this but instead of confronting the facts they often wondered into the unknown world baring the burdens of guilt alone.
Throughout this analysis we have looked at how happiness and morality relate pegged on our main reading the one who walk away from Omelas. In this concluding part I will like to focus on this the one who walk away from Omelas. You will notice story mainly revolves around the fancies of the imaginary city. In fact, the author dedicates three third of the story describing the magnificent city and the good life the people therein lived. The author only uses roughly a quarter of her spaces to tell us about the one who walk away from Omelas. Irrespective of the space used these individuals are significant in this story because after all the story is about them. The ones who walk away from Omelas are essentially individual who do the odds.
It clear that what the city did to the kid was open injustices, majority of the people in the city could see this but due to their egocentricity, they put forwards their needs (happiness) at the expense of the suffering child. The one who left Omelas after realising the injustice are to some extent commendable for their bold actions which also acts as a lesson to us that we should always pin point and call out injustices by its name irrespective the people suffering. In writing this story LeGuin was inspired by William James’ quote which says that, “one could not accept happiness shared with millions if the condition of that happiness were the suffering of one sole. ”
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