Nataliya's Reviews > The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3672777
's review
Jul 04, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012-reads, ursula-k-le-guin, location-is-the-true-protagonist
Recommended to Nataliya by: Traveller
Read on October 11, 2012

Is the happiness of thousands worth the suffering of a single innocent person? Of one innocent child? Think about that. And hold your loud and resounding and outraged NO! for a minute.



A background - this is what the brilliant Ursula K. Le Guin brings up in her very short 1973 story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. It just a few pages she asks us to conceive of a utopia, a place where everyone enjoys happiness, the lovely place. But for reasons unspecified, the happiness of all others depends on the suffering of a small child confined in the dark, unloved, malnourished and dirty with its own feces. And everyone knows, and comes to accept. Except for a few who, against all the reason, think of the child and decide to walk away from Omelas into the unknown; walk away from the happiness of many built on the suffering of one.
"The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."
So what the question boils down to - does the benefit of many outweigh the suffering of few? You think you have your answer ready? Is it a resounding NO! coming from the bottom of your outraged heart? I hope it is. And, at the same time, I hope it is not. Because nothing is as simple as that. Yes, what I'm trying to say is that even if we think there's only one answer to that, we are contradicting ourselves. Because we have not only made choices that contradict our outraged and heartfelt and very human 'NO!' - but we have often flaunted them so very proudly.

Think more about that - isn't the majority's benefit trumping whatever else minority may think the cornerstone of our favorite and concept of such a long time now - that precious and treasured democracy that is so often presented as the ultimate goal of human societal structure. Which, unlike what so many high school students are taught, is not the power of the people. It is the power of majority, their needs and wishes, to trump the wishes and needs of minority by the power of vote. Because we have known and accepted throughout history that we cannot make everyone happy.



In short, someone will always have to suffer. Through enlightenment and struggle for human rights we apparently have come to the conclusion that at least it's better when minority suffers rather than majority. This is the concept that people appear to strive for, have died defending, and have used to justify a whole lot of great and not-so-great things. That's really all we have come to applaud and flaunt. That's our democracy, folks. So how is it any different from a nameless suffering child in Omelas? Is it only the suffering of innocent childhood then that makes us appalled?

We choose the benefit of many over the benefit of the few ALL THE DAMN TIME, like it or leave it. I feel it daily as a member of the medical profession. I will be deliberately simplistic here, okay? Think of every screening program that we do not do because of it not being cost-effective. Think of all the antibiotics we do not give people who come in with what seems to be clearly a viral infection to prevent community antibiotic resistance - will we miss a few who would benefit from antibiotics? Surely. But to benefit them, we'd need to hurt the well-being of the community, and that is not okay, we believe. Are we right? We probably are, from the benefit to the majority standpoint. But are we right from the point of view of the one person who did not feel better? Probably not.
"Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it."
So is there the answer to the question that Ursula Le Guin asks? From the way this story is presented, I'd say the visceral response she is going for is NO! It is not worth it. And that's what the few who choose to dissociate themselves from this happy-for-the-majority place see. That is why they walk away. Because sometimes you cannot live with yourself otherwise. Because our ultimate goal as humans, as above all compassionate species (I sincerely hope we are!) is to not be content with such a situation.

But the importance of Le Guin's story is to also see the other side of this, the side we mostly choose to live on (maybe because we are not that often challenged about it in our daily lives) even if viscerally most of us, when actually presented with the harsh reality, like the inhabitants of Omelas all are, reject it.
"It is because of the child that they are so gentle with children. They know that if the wretched one were not there sniveling in the dark, the other one, the flute-player, could make no joyful music as the young riders line up in their beauty for the race in the sunlight of the first morning of summer."
The question is - faced with reality, knowing how the world works (or at least seems to work) which side would we choose? Or more importantly, no matter which side we end up on for one reason or another, would we continue remembering the pain of the ones that suffer and the happiness of those who do not, and would we make our choices thinking of the both sides? I hope I will. And I hope so will the others. And I also know that, sadly, even in the happiest of times to come, we will still all be living in Omelas.

Won't we?...............

If you think you're not, then you have not yet seen the poor little innocent suffering victim.
"But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."
155 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-50 of 61) (61 new)


message 1: by Andrea (last edited Oct 11, 2012 09:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Andrea Nataliya, you are a treasure, girl. Beautifully expressed. I read this story ages ago, it's haunted me for decades.


Nataliya Thank you, Andrea. I've heard about this story before, but I only read it today for the first time - and it left me quite unsettled. Add to it the fact that the travesty of the vice-presidential debate in the US was happening in the background, with everyone just knowing for sure what is best for everyone and what is best for the majority - and writing this was the only way I could get it off my chest.


message 3: by Kedar (new)

Kedar This -> Andrea wrote: "Nataliya, you are a treasure, girl. Beautifully expressed."


Nataliya Kedar wrote: "This -> Andrea wrote: "Nataliya, you are a treasure, girl. Beautifully expressed.""

Thanks, Kedar :) Sometimes a story makes you feel so much and question so much that you just have to get it out, you know? Therapeutic review writing, I can say.


Andrea Nataliya wrote: "Thank you, Andrea. I've heard about this story before, but I only read it today for the first time - and it left me quite unsettled. Add to it the fact that the travesty of the vice-presidential de..."

I know honey, you think and feel very deeply, I can see it's your intrinsic nature. Double edged sword and all that.
{hug}


Nataliya Andrea wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "Thank you, Andrea. I've heard about this story before, but I only read it today for the first time - and it left me quite unsettled. Add to it the fact that the travesty of the vic..."

Thanks, Andrea! A big hug right back :)


message 7: by Kris (new)

Kris Beautiful and important review, Nataliya. Your conviction and humanity and justified outrage are essential today, and are just the response this story should elicit. That's one of the things I love about Le Guin -- she wants her writing to have a visceral impact on us and make us question how we live.

Wonderful images too -- those first B&W photos are so haunting.


Nataliya Kris wrote: "Beautiful and important review, Nataliya. Your conviction and humanity and justified outrage are essential today, and are just the response this story should elicit. That's one of the things I love..."

Thanks you, Kris. Le Guin's writing never fails to have this effect on me. She is not afraid to bring up the uncomfortable and make the readers think. I was lucky to read 'Dispossessed' and 'The Left Hand of Darkness' this year, and I felt so challenged by her to really sit down and consider what I believe in and what my views on so many 'touchy' subject really are. It's almost like she can hold a mirror to your brain and soul to make you actually *look* at it.


message 9: by Kris (new)

Kris Nataliya wrote: "Thanks you, Kris. Le Guin's writing never fails to have this effect on me. She is not afraid to bring up the uncomfortable and make the readers think. I was lucky to read 'Dispossessed' and 'The Left Hand of Darkness' this year, and I felt so challenged by her to really sit down and consider what I believe in and what my views on so many 'touchy' subject really are. It's almost like she can hold a mirror to your brain and soul to make you actually *look* at it.."

You've articulated beautifully why I admire her so much. I am also grateful that she has such a huge body of work - I still have so many of her books and stories to discover.


Trudi Lovely Nataliya. I just went and read this for the first time too. Just...wow. This story works on so many levels I think LeGuin broke my brain.


Nataliya Kris wrote: "You've articulated beautifully why I admire her so much. I am also grateful that she has such a huge body of work - I still have so many of her books and stories to discover."

I only just scratched the surface when it comes to her writing. I just can't seem to fly through her books the way I can with my other favorites (Pratchett and Miéville come to mind - I've read most of the works of one and the other in almost a binge). Her works end up being too cerebral for a book binge; they require slow sampling and plenty of time for reflection in between them, it seems.


Nataliya Trudi wrote: "Lovely Nataliya. I just went and read this for the first time too. Just...wow. This story works on so many levels I think LeGuin broke my brain."

I'm so glad you read it! Such a short and yet profound story - it amazes me how much emotional punch she can pack in so few pages.


message 13: by Kris (new)

Kris Nataliya wrote: "I only just scratched the surface when it comes to her writing. I just can't seem to fly through her books the way I can with my other favorites (Pratchett and Miéville come to mind - I've read most of the works of one and the other in almost a binge). Her works end up being too cerebral for a book binge; they require slow sampling and plenty of time for reflection in between them, it seems.
"


I have the same experience with her work -- philosophical science fiction. :)


message 14: by Katy (new)

Katy Amazing! I feel the need to point out that the USA, at least, is NOT supposed to be a democracy, but a Republic - where the majority vote decides, but the minority is supposed to be protected.

This is strangely appropriate right now. Recently a couple people spoke up about the overuse of gifs on GR - there are people who would like to see a way provided to stop seeing them, because the flashing lights and movement cause (at the least) migraine and (at the worst) life-threatening seizures. The outrage that stemmed from that simple request - you would not believe it. Yelling and throwing things and making huge, gif-laden posts about "freedom of expression" and "right to do what I damn well please" etc. but what a lot of people chose not to understand is that with rights come responsibilities - just because you CAN do something it doesn't necessarily follow that you SHOULD do that thing, right? For instance, just because I *can* rate a book based upon whether or not I'm interested in it, that doesn't mean I *should* if I haven't at least tried to read it. *shrug*

Anyway, that's what I thought when I read your review...


Nataliya Katy wrote: "Amazing! I feel the need to point out that the USA, at least, is NOT supposed to be a democracy, but a Republic - where the majority vote decides, but the minority is supposed to be protected.

Th..."


Thanks, Katy.

A thought then - it's interesting in this case that we (at least officially, the real reasons are usually plainly obvious) are hell-bent on bringing democracy to other countries whereas, as you point out, we don't actually have it.

"what a lot of people chose not to understand is that with rights come responsibilities - just because you CAN do something it doesn't necessarily follow that you SHOULD do that thing, right?"

Very nicely put. I think so many people tend to focus on "But I CAN!" part instead of the reasonable "But should I?" And that's unfortunate.

I missed the gif drama on GR, I guess. It seems from what you describing like a prime example of making a mountain out of a molehill. Has that drama blown over or is it an ongoing issue?


message 16: by Katy (new)

Katy Nataliya wrote: "A thought then - it's interesting in this case that we (at least officially, the real reasons are usually plainly obvious) are hell-bent on bringing democracy to other countries whereas, as you point out, we don't actually have it."

Well, a Republic is a form of democracy, it's just "protected minority" rather than "mob rule" *shrug*

I missed the gif drama on GR, I guess. It seems from what you describing like a prime example of making a mountain out of a molehill. Has that drama blown over or is it an ongoing issue?

I haven't seen a post on that particular thread for awhile - apparently it started over in the feedback group and got so out of hand they had to shut down the thread. So someone brought it out "to the people" to discuss and things got really ugly, but then calmed back down more or less. I think everyone finally agreed that they would support an option to suppress the gifs on an individual basis, but the ask that people use less gifs was an unreasonable expectation ... *sighs* Like people with potentially life-threatening problems with them are completely unimportant, you know? Unfortunately the person who might have done the best toward expressing that was ... cranky that day (heh) and expressed herself badly initially and everyone (of course) kept harping back on that. I hate when that happens.


message 17: by Paris (new)

Paris Singer Ah yes, the age-old 'utilitarianism vs liberalism' debate. If you haven't already, you may find "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill an interesting read on the matter.


message 18: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich AWESOME review. We had to read this story for a class once, it blew me away. I wish you would have been there for the debate, many people disliked the ideas in it and this review, to me, is basically a big 'stick it!' to those people haha. Also, the shirt at the bottom of the review, that is excellent.


Nataliya s.penkevich wrote: "AWESOME review. We had to read this story for a class once, it blew me away. I wish you would have been there for the debate, many people disliked the ideas in it and this review, to me, is basical..."

I need to find that shirt and buy it. And then wear it under my scrubs as a reminder to myself that things are never simple.

Kat wrote: "I love how your review simultaneously embraces scientific rationality and humanistic morality. Well done, Nataliya!"

Thanks, Kat!


message 20: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Quite Poignant Nataliya! The question being raised being one which has been present in one form or other in the society.

Deviating from the Human Rights question being addressed to in this review, may I add that the question stands even if the majority refers to the small but rich and powerful in the society, who influence the system and decision makers, over the relative minority (in terms of wealth possessed) and thus bring about changes for their benefit.

Can we actually walk away from such system?


Nataliya Rakhi wrote: "Quite Poignant Nataliya! The question being raised being one which has been present in one form or other in the society.

Deviating from the Human Rights question being addressed to in this review..."


Thanks, Rakhi!
And I agree - the majority does not have to be the majority in numbers but the majority that has the most influence/wealth/political pull and therefore gets to decide.
And sadly, no matter how hard we may try, we cannot walk away from it. Because there's nowhere else really to walk to.


message 22: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Well done.

The tyranny of the majority is a problem that will not go away ever. I don't share your optimism about the human species.


Nataliya Richard wrote: "Well done.

The tyranny of the majority is a problem that will not go away ever. I don't share your optimism about the human species."


Thanks, Richard. I try my best to stay optimistic about humanity - otherwise life is too bleak to tolerate. I want to keep hoping that someday, somehow people will finally realize how pointless it is to be doing what we are doing and finally will learn respect and tolerance and compassion. It probably will not happen, but I will keep hoping.


message 24: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus I want to keep hoping that someday, somehow people will finally realize how pointless it is to be doing what we are doing and finally will learn respect and tolerance and compassion. It probably will not happen, but I will keep hoping.

Brava, Doc. Yours is the attitude that others should strive to emulate. The world truly would be a better place.


Nataliya Richard wrote: "I want to keep hoping that someday, somehow people will finally realize how pointless it is to be doing what we are doing and finally will learn respect and tolerance and compassion. It probably wi..."

Thanks, Richard. We'll see how long the attitude holds - but I hope that it does for a long time :)


message 26: by Ed (new)

Ed [Redacted] Great and thoughtful review of a great story. Well done.


Nataliya Ed wrote: "Great and thoughtful review of a great story. Well done."

Thanks, Ed.


message 28: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Nataliya wrote: Thanks, Richard. I try my best to stay optimistic...but I will keep hoping."

There is this thing about optimism... it is contagious. So, hope your attitude does hold a long time :)


message 29: by B0nnie (last edited Oct 13, 2012 03:50PM) (new) - added it

B0nnie Nataliya, wonderful review. I'm a fan of Le Guin, and this is a great story. I thought of The Brothers Karamazov of course - here's the conversation between Alyosha and Ivan (just before the Grand Inquisitor chapter),

"...I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price".


Nataliya B0nnie wrote: "Nataliya, wonderful review. I'm a fan of Le Guin, and this is a great story. I thought of The Brothers Karamazov of course - here's the conversation between Alyosha and Ivan (just before the Grand..."

Yes, her theme is very much resonant with what Dostoyevsky wrote about, isn't it? Apparently Le Guin said that she did not remember this part and so it was not a direct homage to Dostoyevsky. It seems that the suffering of one for the greater good was a question that was torturing Russian humanists, and for a good reason, too.

Rakhi wrote: "Nataliya wrote: Thanks, Richard. I try my best to stay optimistic...but I will keep hoping."

There is this thing about optimism... it is contagious. So, hope your attitude does hold a long time :)"


It may be one of the few contagious things I'm okay with ;)


message 31: by Nan (new)

Nan I've taught this essay just a few times. At least one of my students questioned why the ones that walked away didn't return with bombs. It was difficult to explain that the bombers would then be bringing about the suffering of many just so that the ones who walked away could be happy.


Nataliya Nan wrote: "I've taught this essay just a few times. At least one of my students questioned why the ones that walked away didn't return with bombs. It was difficult to explain that the bombers would then be ..."

That's so sad - the thought that the way to fix the perceived injustice has to be with violence and threats, ultimately bringing in more suffering than the one you're trying to fix. I cannot believe that people are unable to see it, and I'm so glad there are people like you who can explain it.

The thing that kept going through my mind is how difficult it is in the case like this to draw a line between black and white, the right and wrong - and that in this case it appears almost impossible. Especially since other children in that society, the ones that are too young to know what their happiness is hinged upon, would probably suffer as a result of righting the wrong done to the one suffering child (all the poverty/hunger/child abuse/neglect/beatings and death that quite a few children inevitably end up facing in so many almost-perfect-appearing societies immediately comes to mind).

With all that, the thought of sneaking into the place where the child is held and simply gently patting in on the head would ultimately be much more destructive to this society than any amount of bombs. Funny that people, apparently, do not always see that a simple act of kindness or compassion would be able to do more to shake up the foundations of this world than any other violently destructive act.


message 33: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Well said, Nataliya!


Nataliya B0nnie wrote: "Well said, Nataliya!"

Thanks, Bonnie!


message 35: by Olga (new)

Olga Godim Natalya, what a great question you're raising in this review. No answer though - I don't think there is a 'right' answer to this question (or a 'wrong' one for that matter.) In one of my stories, the hero made a choice to sacrifice a few for the many. He wasn't happy with his choice but he couldn't see any other way. One of those ambiguous situations where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, I guess.


Nataliya Olga wrote: "Natalya, what a great question you're raising in this review. No answer though - I don't think there is a 'right' answer to this question (or a 'wrong' one for that matter.) In one of my stories, t..."

I agree, Olga - there is no answer to this one. Someone always suffers. The question ends up being whether it's justified for you to make a choice who it is. It's basically choosing to play god - but we do it on a daily basis. The plain arithmetic seems simple - fewer people suffer for the good of many more = winning situation. Too bad life is not like that and this is never a simple choice.


Ramiro Modini Nataliya, thank you for your review! It helped me a lot to finish understanding the story.
It all reminded me of that Thomas Jefferson phrase "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%"


Nataliya Ramiro wrote: "Nataliya, thank you for your review! It helped me a lot to finish understanding the story.
It all reminded me of that Thomas Jefferson phrase "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of ..."


Thanks, Ramiro!


message 39: by Kevin (last edited Aug 19, 2013 09:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kevin Thank you. You clearly stated the moral dilemmas within this story I've been wrestling with for decades. I still wrestle with them--now I can explain them more clearly. What I really fear is that I might not be fully worthy to wear that T-shirt in your last image (but how many of us really are?).


message 40: by Oni (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oni Nataliya, have you read this book:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/64...
I find it very interesting in helping my struggle in the idea of what is just and what is not.


Nataliya Oni wrote: "Nataliya, have you read this book:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/64...
I find it very interesting in helping my struggle in the idea of what is just an..."


It does seem interesting. Adding it to my to-read list.


message 42: by Bruce (last edited Jan 22, 2014 08:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bruce Delaplain This is one of the best stories I've read. And I'm so glad I didn't read this review first. I'm new to Goodreads. Is it common to give spoilers like this? I mean obviously this is a case of spoilers to the extreme, but any clue to the end of this story ruins the story.

It's not that this isn't an interesting and worthwhile discussion, but shouldn't it be somewhere other than in a review?

Or is it that you shouldn't read book reviews before reading the book?


message 43: by Bruce (last edited Jan 22, 2014 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bruce Delaplain This is obviously a very hypothetical situation. Could never happen. But given the hypothesis, it's not clear at all to me that the society should change. The total amount of suffering and unhappiness here is far, far less than in our society, and probably less than any existing society.

And even discounting the "total suffering", it's highly probably that there are even individuals who suffer more than this.

Notice that the ones who walked away, did NOT choose to destroy the set up even though any one of them COULD HAVE.


Kevin From a conversation I had with a friend about "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas:"

Q: Now let me ask - is walking away sufficient? That doesn't relieve the child's suffering.

A: Yes, you are right to ask, is it sufficient to reject the wrong, or should you try to solve it? In an abstract sense, yes, solve the problem. In the real world, that's a much harder question, as every attempt at a solution carries the risk of making things worse. However the old hippie ideal of pitching a tipi in the wilderness and rejecting society totally doesn't work for me. It is better to live in the world and act to improve it. Are incremental small improvements sufficient? That's a question for a whole other discussion.

In this story, LeGuin is using the imagined flawed utopia of Omelas as a rhetorical device. She does not set the problem up as being capable of solution. She posits the rules as fairly absolute to drive the one ethical question: Would you be willing to accept that bit of inequality and cruelty if the good of so many depended on it? Lots and lots of directions you can take that, from poverty to slavery. However, those questions, like the question of whether or not to right the wrong in the story, require expanding her initial framework to allow a solution.

Ultimately, I do not think there are insoluble problems. As a rhetorical exercise, "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" asks us to look at an artificially narrow question, and to question our own values as a result. It does not offer or ask for solutions. Apply that to the real world, and you can see where you are accepting things-as-they-are, and choose which wrongs to reject. The next step in the real world is not to walk away, but to change the structures that lead to the wrongs and create the even more unimaginable place.


Nataliya Bruce wrote: "This is one of the best stories I've read. And I'm so glad I didn't read this review first. I'm new to Goodreads. Is it common to give spoilers like this? I mean obviously this is a case of spoiler..."

Bruce, we all treat review spaces in our own way. Some use it promote, some to critique, and some to share the thoughts the story inspired, and some do all of the above. Frequently I find it nearly impossible to talk about the book without actually talking about the book, and to those very sensitive about anything they perceive as 'spoilers' it may be better to avoid my reviews until they have read a book in question.

But spoilers ruining this story? I cannot speak for your reading experience, but to me this is not a story relying on a plot for its impact; it is an essay on an uncomfortable and often not-so-hypothetical topic. To me, it cannot be spoiled; I apologize if my perception of it being so spoiled it for you.


Nataliya Kevin wrote: "She does not set the problem up as being capable of solution. She posits the rules as fairly absolute to drive the one ethical question: Would you be willing to accept that bit of inequality and cruelty if the good of so many depended on it?"

What I find very challenging is the ethics of accepting a bit of inequality and cruelty for the benefit of many when this particular cruelty and inequality applies to someone else and we are the ones benefitting from it. Without suffering ourselves, how can we morally accept the suffering of others on our behalf when the choice of suffering has been made for them? There is not a clear-cut answer here, and that's why I love Le Guin's works.


Bruce Delaplain "Bruce, we all treat review spaces in our own way. Some use it promote, some to critique, and some to share the thoughts the story inspired, and some do all of the above. Frequently I find it nearly impossible to talk about the book without actually talking about the book, and to those very sensitive about anything they perceive as 'spoilers' it may be better to avoid my reviews until they have read a book in question.

But spoilers ruining this story? I cannot speak for your reading experience, but to me this is not a story relying on a plot for its impact; it is an essay on an uncomfortable and often not-so-hypothetical topic. To me, it cannot be spoiled; I apologize if my perception of it being so spoiled it for you."


Hi Natalia, No need to apologize. I first read the story without knowing anything.

And I admit that it's difficult, if not impossible, to actually say much interesting about a story without giving away some specifics. I apologize for even mentioning it.

Regarding your view on spoilers specific to this story, I respectfully disagree. While there is no customary plot, the author presents information in a certain order. If one knows about the girl when starting, everything that "happens" before that takes on a different color.

You can always read something a second time. But you can never read something again for the first time.

Take care.


message 48: by Traveller (last edited Jan 28, 2014 11:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller Brilliant, brilliant review, Nataliya! I can't believe I missed it the first time. For some reason GR decided way back, that even though I've had you marked as a top friend for yonks, that it simply will not update me on you in my feed. So I have to remember to pop in and see how you're doing manually every now and then.

Yeah, well, you know already how I feel about the issue in the Omelas problem, and glad to see that we agree, but you illuminated the problem with such great examples!

Yup, and I've been saying for a long time now that the fact that the US has only two major parties aids and abets not only voter apathy and mob rule, but where, theoretically, 50.5 % of the population can hold sway over the other 49.5%

...but sadly I don't think that's gonna change soon...

I am so sorry to see that there are people who appear unable to distinguish the difference between a problem stated in prose and an actual 'story' with a plotline. It's not as if this is a plot-driven story with a beginning, a middle and an end.


message 49: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel [Speaking as philosophy student, every philosophical thought-experiment (which is what this is) is a story. And studies show that the way in which it is told has a big impact on the 'instinctive' response of the reader. Besides, this is a literary work by an author, not simply a thought experiment - which is why the story remains popular as a story more than a century after the thought experiment itself was devised. That difference does mean something about how one appreciates it: stories may have morals and ask questions, but they are not the same as lectures on morality. More importantly, please, surely we can disagree on metaliterary theory without you speaking down at us, putting us in a disingenuous third person and treating us as idiots (speaking about your penultimate sentence there).

Anyway, given that you can never read a story for the first time twice (and now the contrarian in me want to object that you can never read a story for the first time even once), and that many people read reviews to decide whether or not they should read something... would it really be that painful to put 'spoilers' in large letters before we get to the spoilers?]

Anyway, that's not what I was going to say. My brief comment was actually going to be: you know, actually, in a FPTP system like the US, you don't even need anything close to a majority. If you work out the numbers, you can get a majority in a legislature by having only 25.6% of the votes. And if you have 49% of the votes, you can get 99% of seats in the legislature. Even with equal-size constituencies, the actual results are determined almost entirely by the details of the voting districts.
On the other hand, having only two parties helps an awful lot in this regard. Because with more parties, the ruling party only needs to defeat the largest viable coalition of their enemies, not all their enemies at once in each constituency. Quick envelope calculation, with three parties and without tactical voting, one party can have a majority in the legislature by getting only 17% of the vote, and can be the largest party in the legislature by only gettig 11% of the vote.
(Don't get me wrong, I'm in favour of more parties. But this isn't a good example of why).


message 50: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel [and rather than snipe obnoxiously in other people's review threads, I should really go and finally get around to finishing that big thing on What People Don't Understand About Vote Aggregation that I've been procrastinating on for ever...]


« previous 1
back to top