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."