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Various stages of suffering

My argument in regards to Omelas is a simple one. There is no way to introduce morality into this story because there is nothing moral within this story. For me, morality has to be directed towards people with whom we have affective ties and because these people are strangers who never become intimately entwined with our conceptions of self, morality is not at all activated. Furthermore, why we should read morality into a work of science fiction is in this case an utter mystery to me. I feel that bringing morality in entirely disrupts morality as it is instituted. For me morality is termed on sacrifice and limitation.

In this story everyone just seems to be in various stages of suffering, whether this suffering is based on a stupor of ignorance or a stupor caused by abused confinement. Which one is worse, I have no idea because there seems to be no system by which to judge anything that occurs in Omelas. One objection would be that our ability to sense suffering is so weak and frail that even when it’s there we do not want to believe it’s there. That by rejecting the notion that suffering exists in this story one is at the same time rejecting a final statement on whether suffering does exist in our real world.

I feel that this is a very good objection and one that I feel unqualified to answer but can only choose to comment. If suffering is only aversion, as seems more or less the case in Omelas, then it would be too subjective and too arbitrary. However, for people as they are private individuals, suffering is very vague and as we privately suffer we are more aware of how others suffer. While we may through speech-acts assert that there is no true suffering we suffer as we have the capacity to suffer through biological uniformities.

As for a final statement on whether suffering exists, one would prefer that there be a final statement as one would prefer that suffering were a general phenomenon that we could distance ourselves from at will. However, unlike the people of Omelas we can’t just walk away, the suffering remains sometimes without regard to the productive choices we make and in the very activity of production, one does in some sense, suffer. A second objection to what I have proposed could address the issue of whether morality is particular or universal.

Another could argue that we are very proud of our apparent morality and do not wish to extend it too far, that we’d rather prefer that a story cannot make a moral statement because a story is inanimate and to give it morality would be to give it something quite beyond its natural limitations; For to give man fire was to add an odd fixture to people who lived so badly, it signaled a path towards greater comfort and sensual satisfaction. Yet, to say that the story does not contain morality is simply to prevent it from being what it will be or already is, a moral illustration of predicaments that address moral concerns.

To answer to that more serious objection I would offer in return that adding morality to the story, which is not an aesthetic beauty, gives it more than it would be otherwise. Reading the story at face value it reads like a poorly planned story that could have gone somewhere but more or less hangs in limbo. The story is not capable of morality because it does not read like a work that has been through aesthetic torture. It reads like a fragile, interesting, scattered, aesthetic decomposition that people try to make sense of by pulling in morality and philosophy.

For me the story is so poorly written that my lack of appreciation for it does not even try to compensate by building on the story with constructed elaborations of morality. The story seems to contain situations without a true lock or a true key. I have no idea why it exists and when I say this I ultimately say that my feelings towards Omelas are nihilistic and thereby escape authentic conversation of good and evil because there is only a weakly played tension that is artificial in construct and unappealing in its simple or native sensibility.

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