Media, Information and Technoculture 2500A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Water-Meadow, Central Heating

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MIT 2500B: Meaning of Technology
Week 13 Readings
April 4
LEGUIN, “THE ONES WHO WALK AWAY FROM OMELAS”
Omelas = a city
Festival of Summer
oProcessions moving through the streets, toward the north side of the city
oLeads to the Green Fields, a water-meadow, where boys and girls “exercised their
restive horses before the race”
“we have a bad habit…of considering happiness as something rather stupid”
In Omelas, there is no technology
oNo cars or helicopters
They derive happiness from only owning what is necessary
Things are sorted into three categories:
oWhat is necessary
oWhat is neither necessary nor destructive
Ex. Central heating, subway trains, washing machines, floating light-sources,
fuelless power, a cure for the common cold
oWhat is destructive
Part of the festival includes a horse race
Down below the city, there is a room with a locked door and no windows
In the room there is a child, not sure whether it is a boy or a girl
The door is always locked and it never opens
Sometimes the door rattles and opens, and someone comes and fills the food bowl and water
jug
The people that come in never say anything
The child did not always live in the room
All the people of Omelas know that the child is in there
“They all now that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they
all understand that their happiness…depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery”
“To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small
improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of
one: that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed”
The people know that even if the child was to be released, freedom would not mean much
The child is too broken to know real joy
Sometimes, an adolescent girl or boy goes to see the child yet doesn’t go home to weep or rage
– doesn’t go home at all
They keep walking down the street, straight out of the city
They walk towards the mountains, and do not come back
“The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of
happiness”
They seem to know where they are going
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