Giving the Gift of Omelas

I've been pretty good this year about controlling my Xmas Ranting . . . maybe it's because my children have moved beyond The Age of Getting Loads of Plastic Toys to less overt consumption, but I've still had a couple of Grinch-like moments: in Philosophy class, we read the classic Ursula Leguin utilitarian-parable-turned-nightmare "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" . . . if you haven't read it, then you must-- and after sharing some fairly typical Dave-like opinions on the evils of wrapping paper and the vacuous environmental disaster of mindless gift giving, I told my class that I had a brilliant idea: the only gift I would give my children for Christmas would be a gift-wrapped copy of the story (on recycled paper) and they told me I was an awful person, and I told them as much as I wished I could do that, my wife wouldn't allow it, and then I even offered them a different, more hopeful view on the story . . . an inspirational and fascinating TED Talk by Leslie T. Chang about how Chinese factory workers aren't oppressed slaves of the first world, and actually choose working in cities over awful rural conditions, and how these workers-- many of them women-- have far more autonomy and choice and upward mobility than Leguin's boy-thing in the closet . . . I recommend you consume both the story and the TED Talk, and then make your own decision as to how much you should rant about the holiday season.

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