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Letter to Nambucca Guardian - "denial of human rights to us all?"

Letter to Nambucca Guardian - "denial of human rights to us all?"

Dear Editor,

There is a book by the famous author, Ursula Le Guin, titled "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas".  In the village of Omelas everyone is happy and fulfilled. There is no war or strife and everyone prospers.

When young people come of age the price of this happiness is revealed. They learn that underneath one of their stately public buildings, or a fine private mansion, there is a cellar with a locked door and no windows. In this room there sits a neglected, malnourished child who spends its days in abject misery. As long as this one child is suffering the rest of the community can be happy. This is the bargain.

At this point in their life the young person learns this and must make a decision: to stay or to leave. If they choose to stay, and remain in the village with a happy and contented life, they have assented that the life of this child does not matter.

If they choose to leave then they have made the decision that this one miserable, dirty, despairing life matters.

Our own lives are like this in many ways. We are told by the government, Labor, National and Liberal, that our way of life, our safety, our security, depends on keeping people locked up in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island. 

We are told that we must pay billions of dollars, at a time of budget emergency, to keep people who are innocent of any crime in indefinite detention. This includes 88 children in detention in Nauru.

Omelas is not a place but a state of mind. Walking away from Omelas requires us to reject this Faustian bargain. It requires us to reject the idea that our safety and security depends on denying hope to 88 children. It requires us to act.

If we give our consent to the passage of laws that codify the denial of human rights to some is it really unrealistic to think, given the history of the twentieth century, that it may not lead to the denial of human rights to us all?

Peter Sobey

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