Oh my God, I'm living in Omelas now.
During this whole family separation at the border debates, something kept tickling the back of my mind. I've heard of this before.
Which is silly. There is no reason why this should seem so familiar. Then when I woke up this morning it hit me.
"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas".
"Omelas" is a short story by the late Ursula K. Le Guin. It is a short story that details an utopian city, full of joy and creativity. However, this comes at a price. I highly recommend finding and reading it.
From the website "Enotes.com" [https://www.enotes.com/topics/ones-who-walk-away-omelas]:
This picture of Omelas is not the whole story. There is something that makes the city special in another way. The city has a guarantee of happiness; it has struck a bargain, although how and with whom it is not clear. The bargain is this: In a room under the city is a stunted, frightened, half-starved child, and everyone over adolescence in Omelas knows that the child is there. The child is locked in a closet and shown off to those who wish to see it. It is fed half a bowl of cornmeal mush a day and is left to sit, naked, in dirt and its own excrement. The child barely talks, except for a bit of whining gibberish and a plea, heard less and less often, to be let out. No one is allowed to speak even a kind word to the child, and no one stays with it long.
If the child were rescued from its cell-like closet, the whole of the city of Omelas would falter. The citys great happiness, its splendors and health, its architecture, music, and science, all are dependent on the misery of this one child. The Omelas people know that if the child were released, then the possible happiness of the degraded childand it is only possible, not probablewould be set against the sure failure of the happiness of the many. Thus, the people have been taught compassion and the terrible reality of justice, and on this they base their lives.
How insightful she was. People have no problem with a suffering child if they think it ensures their own happiness.
I've been crying over this all morning.
I want to walk away from Omelas, but there is no place to go.
[Yes, I know... "stay 'here' and fight", etc... And I will.]
Old-age and vision impairment prevented my remembrance of the name and author
The original series Star Trek episode "The Cloud Minders" had a similar story 4 years before Le Guin's short story (except describing a race of people) who were kept brutally oppressed and forced to work in the mines below a planet's surface, without tools or safety equipment (to protect from the poisonous gas), in order to maintain a utopian city in the clouds.