Walking away from Omelas

Having a read of a recent book by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay called “What we leave the behind” this section leapt out, about people who believe that ‘walking away’ is an option

And they presumably recognize that civilization’s voracious industrial appetite is eating up the planet at an ever increasing rate. So why do they view walking away as an adequate strategy? If this culture is not going to change, where do they expect to be safe? What do they expect will happen as industrial society exhausts its last remaining resources? If this monstrosity is not stopped, the carefully tended permaculture gardens and groves of lifeboat ecovcillages will be nothing more than after-dinner snacks for civilisation. Page 381

And it reminds me of the wonderful short story by Ursula Le Guin entitled “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.[text][wikipedia article]” There’s this perfect society, except it only survives because … and … well, go have a read yourself. But of course there’s nowhere to walk away to.

[Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture, says as much during his chapter in the “Seeds for Change” book edited by Jeremy Seabrook – that you couldn’t just leave the field open for the enemy to dominate.]


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10 Responses to Walking away from Omelas

  1. mike k says:

    If I could have a chat with Ursula, I would ask her how much the idea of this tale owed to Ivan’s conversations with Alyosha in the Brothers Karamazov? The little child crying alone in the outhouse is very reminiscent of Dostoievsky’s treatment. And was the vexed question of theodicy a subtext in her mind, as it was openly for Dostoievsky?

    Is there anywhere out of this world to repair to in order to escape this momentous question posed by Einstein: Is the Universe friendly? Or as Jung proposed in Answer to Job: is there a Dark Side of God ( or The Force as Star Wars obliquely referred to it)?

    I believe that the failure to resolve this question by “mainstream” religions (or anyone else) is a root cause of the undermining of any kind of belief in transcendent realities by the people of the modern era. Not to discount the hubristic pretensions of Science to have the real answers to every possible question. The Holocaust certainly did little to bolster God’s sagging reputation.

    I have been working on this matter (theodicy) since my childhood, and have come to some interesting understandings, but miles to go before I rest. Any helpful suggestions will be gratefully received.

  2. mike k says:

    Also, for those simply leaving Olmos there is the question of rejecting their “being partkdolg duty” as Gurdjieff unhelpfully put it. He sometimes referred to it as “paying the price for one’s arising”.

    We come into this troubled world eventually to be confronted with three choices: go along to get along, reject it and seek a separate peace, or head into the wind and exert yourself to make it better. I am convinced that deep within our True Self there lies our Real Conscience. That conscience seeks only one thing: the Good for All Beings. What Buddhists frame as the Bodhisattva Vow to save all beings from suffering.

    There is an ancient tradition that says we were sent here with a mission, but we have forgotten the mission. The various Spiritual Paths are all involved with the remembrance of who we really are, and why we are here. Strangely our egos feel threatened by this knowledge, and do their best to avoid it.

    (With apologies to my good friends who are “atheists” or scientific materialists, as was I years ago.)

  3. JayD says:

    Thanks for the reminder, blogger-in-Chief, not that you intended it as such. Therein lies the rub to what i was hinting at yesterday. A tough argument to make–I wasn’t talking about “walking away” of course, as opposed to a true alternative that others could adopt versions of, though that’s still easily dismissed, by rationalizing Civ-addicts, as simply giving up and therefore not a real solution to anything but personal problems.

    I’ve always found it interesting since i read early parts of, well, i forget which Jensen book (didn’t finish that one, he was probably advocating violence against the System, which is what i DO walk away from), in which he actually flat-out says that though he doesn’t want people starting alternative communities and should instead be dealing directly with the problems of Civ, he’d be the first to come-a-knockin’ on the gate when things got too sketchy. No exaggeration, that’s actually an essentially accurate paraphrase of what he said. Interesting to contemplate the implications of that thinking, eh? At least he’s honest.

  4. leavergirl says:

    There too is a way to walk away. Meditate on Hakim Bey’s autonomous zones…

    • dwighttowers says:

      Interested to hear more from you on this Leavergirl. My main problem with them is that they are “temporary” and (in my limited experience) are part of the smugosphere. But I could be wrong!!

  5. mike k says:

    I really find it hard to believe you get something from Bey’s BS. Tell me it ain’t true leavergirl! But, seriously, what does his stuff mean to you? Do you think he has something to contribute to a real altrnative lifeway?
    Would a 24/7/365 Burning Man really do the trick? Has the acid really worn off since the sixties?

  6. leavergirl says:

    Heh. Bey has a vague inkling, and a name. He does not have anything else. Nevertheless, the inkling points in the right direction. (This being a teaser for a future blog post… not too far into the future. 😉

  7. mike k says:

    Looking forward to your next post leavergirl. Forgive me my crude attempt to stir the embers.

  8. Sarah Irving says:

    The first link in this post is dead…

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