How do we build Omelas, minus the tortured child?

Margaret Atwood on Ursula Le Guin:

A wealthy city sustained by the mistreated — this is what the ones who are walking away from Omelas are walking away from. My question was therefore: Where in the world could we find a society in which the happiness of some does not depend on the misery of others? How do we build Omelas, minus the tortured child?

Neither Ursula K. Le Guin nor I knew, but it was a question that Le Guin spent her lifetime trying to answer, and the worlds she so skillfully created in the attempt are many, varied and entrancing. As an anarchist, she would have wanted a self-governing society, with gender and racial equality. She would have wanted respect for life-forms other than human. She would have wanted a child-friendly society, as opposed to one that imposes childbirth but does not care about the mothers or the actual children. Or so I surmise from her writing.

But now she’s gone, and Atwood feels a strong urge to call her to come back, because we need her.

Especially now, in the land of normalized pussy-grabbing, the rollback of women’s rights on so many fronts but especially in health care and contraception, and the effort to squeeze women out of the workplace by those who, having failed to compete through skill and intellectual superiority, have weaponized their penises.

What would Ursula K. Le Guin have said about #MeToo and #TimesUp?

She had seen a similar explosion of women’s anger in the early 1970s, at the time of the second-wave feminist movement, a time of high creative energy for Le Guin. She knew where outrage came from: suppressed anger. In the ’60s and ’70s, that anger came from many directions, but in general from being treated as lesser — much lesser — even though the work done and the contribution made were as great, or greater.

Some people thought Atwood was rejecting the whole of #MeToo the other day because she wrote an article about evidence and due process in one case. I think the above clears that up.

We can’t call Ursula K. Le Guin back from the land of the unchanging stars, but happily she left us her multifaceted work, her hard-earned wisdom and her fundamental optimism. Her sane, smart, crafty and lyrical voice is more necessary now than ever.

For it, and for her, we should be thankful.

Margaret Atwood is the author of many novels, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Alias Grace.” Her book “In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination” is dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin.

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