The ones who walk away

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Can we be saved by the current leaders?:
[Via Robert Paterson’s Weblog]

I watched poor Henry Paulson last night. He seemed lost. I could tell that he had lost his confidence.

This weekend, world leaders meet to start work on a fix. I think that they will fail too. As will all “fixes” based on putting the old system back together. They seem desperate. They are desperate because they have no confidence that they have a fix. All they know is what they know and their knowledge is now useless.

For it is our old way of thinking that is the problem. We have been captured by a dream.

Let me use a metaphor to explain.

Once upon a time, a great nation, a nation with a great culture, bought a dream. The dream was that they were indeed a special people – so special that they did not have to care about any other and could do whatever they liked.

For a while the dream worked. They gave more power to those that sold them this dream.

But they overreached themselves and the world broke them.


Read the whole post. It discusses how people overreach and the consequences. There are some historical metaphors in there that do demonstrate how dreams can be deadly. It contains this paragraph: 

Our dream has been that stuff triumphs over life. That the social messiness of life has no value.

That if we are ill, we need a pill. That if we are at war, kill people. That if we seek to educate our kids, that this not our job as parents, it’s the school’s job alone. That is when we lend, we don’t need to know the person. That if we hire we can rely on a resume and a lie detector. That if we marry, its all about romance and sex and not a contract to raise a family. That if we do not pay attention to our kids that stuff will replace our inattention. That jobs trump clean water, air, other life. That fun is something we purchase. That we can win the loto. That leadership is about getting your reward rather than in serving your people. That we are helpless and have to accept our fate.

It is astounding to read this today since I had only just gotten through reading a post from Making Light entitled ‘
Three approaches to Utopia‘. Robert describes some of the yearnings for Utopia. Abi hits on some similar yearnings.Abi’s post caused me to re-read one of Ursula K. Lequin’s great stories ”

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Go. It is short. Read it right now and see if it resonates with anything we are going through today. 

A group of people make a choice in order to achieve happiness for all. It’s a simple choice and one easily rationalized. But it is at base a horrifying choice, one that demonstrates the hollowness of the city and the people who chose to stay. The ones who make the right choice are those who walk away.

I remember reading it when it first came out in the early 70s. I remember smugly knowing that I would be one of those that walked away. How wrong I was!
It turns out that I have lived in Omelas for most of the the last 30 years, knowing there was a dark secret underpinning our happiness but conveniently refusing to really care much about it. I couldn’t change anything anyway. In the ‘acceptance of my helplessness,’ I never even thought about walking away.

Like those in the story, we have similarly tried to build a Utopia, one where money makes it possible to remove want, where everyone is a millionaire, where we have every gadget we want to play games of distraction, where the messiness of everyday life is reduced to inconsequentials. We made choices to achieve this, choices that may now eventually destroy our ability to achieve almost any sort of dream.

As much as we have tried to hide it, we are now all aware of the dark secrets that were the source of our Utopia. As in the story, the act of bringing these secrets into the open destroys our paradise.

It is now all different. The world has shifted. The dreamworld is no more. Omelas has been overthrown.

Too many of our leaders wish to ignore this shift, to pretend the dream is still achievable. CEOs still behave as if we were unaware of the changed circumstances. Politicians speak as if just a little reworking of the message will get everything back to right. Both feel that money, the root of what caused our dreams to shatter, will be able to fix the problems.

They are both acting as greedily and are as inconsiderate of the world around them as they did while we were all dreamers. They are attempting to rebuild Omelas from the burnt ashes of the ruins. This is a choice of failure.

Now, those of us who wish to survive are forced to make new choices, to find a new path, to walk away from Omelas. We really have no choice because Omelas no longer exists.

I may not know where we are going to but I do know from where we are marching. I only hope I can live long enough see the new place we chose to inhabit. I wonder what it will look like.

Image: DieselDemon

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