11 September 2012

The Hunger Games And a Dystopian View of America's Future from Chris Hedges

"One may safely say that it would be no sin if statesmen learned enough of history to realise that no system, which implies control of society by privilege seekers, has ever ended in any other way than collapse."

William E. Dodd, US Ambassador, Address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin, 1933

"America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own and they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits, the tax cuts, policies and rewards, flow in one direction: up."

Bill Moyers

Spokesmodel for the 1 Percent Interviews Our Heroine
If you wish to see a vision of the future of America you may want to read the book that many of your brighter 'young adults' are reading, The Hunger Games, in which an almost frivolous, certainly decadent, and highly predatory elite located in the Rocky Mountains (Aspen?) rules the 13 districts of North America through its heavily armed squads of Peacekeepers.

Poverty and privation is the rule in most of the districts as the economy is largely extractive rather than productive. For whatever reasons, most districts seem rather lightly populated and underdeveloped. I suspect it is a nod to neo-feudalism where efficiency and productivity take a back seat to control.

I started reading the first book because I like to keep a finger on the pulse of what the kids are reading.  It gives us something to talk about, in addition to hearing the names and habits of these fellows in One Direction.

I ended up reading all three books. They are easily read and quite entertaining as a story, with decent character and plot development for a young adult book. They have a huge following judging by the backlogs for them at the public libraries.   I am sure that many teens have not read them, or read them with understanding, in the same way that most adults are similarly unaware of what is happening around them.

But there are certain pivotal books that capture the thinking minds of the young, and give us a cultural indication of what they are thinking and where they may be heading.  In my own generation, The Catcher in the Rye was one such book.

On one level beneath the drama and entertainment, The Hunger Games is a disingenuously brilliant political satire about today. 

Is this the future? No one can say. But for the moment at least, that is the direction in which we are heading. All that may be lacking is a war or natural catastrophe.

But certainly something is in the wind, if one only looks at the recent proliferation of dystopian essays and novels, which seem to spring up during periods pregnant with change. And this is certainly a recurrent theme even in important scholarly works as cited in Inequality Matters: Why Nations Fail.

Here is a recent video discussion with Alex Jones and Chris Hedges that piqued my interest, even though I am not a regular listener to Mr. Jones. But it reminded me that I wanted to write a brief piece about the substory in The Hunger Games.

And below that is one of the better maps of Panem which I have found, showing the Capitol and the Thirteen Districts, with a brief description of what they supply to their parasitic elites.  Spoiler Alert.  A rebellion occurs, triggered by a seemingly trivial act of defiance and individualism by the heroine. Much of it is powered by those hardy souls in District 13.

I have seen the first movie based on book one, and it does not quite capture the depth and detail of the book, given the limitations of the time and the medium.  But it is well done for what it is, but it is a supplement, not a substitute.

Watch the entire interview here.

"And may the odds be ever in your favor."