“Hope; it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” – President Snow
I know I just wrote an article focusing on the importance of reading non-fiction books to help us grow, but given the recent release of “The Hunger Games,” I just couldn’t resist. Love the books, love the movie, and luckily for me, there’s more to the story than just entertainment, thus giving me a great excuse to write about it.
For those of you who don’t know, the story, set in a post-apocalyptic future under the rule of a tyrannical government, revolves around an annually televised fight to the death (The Hunger Games) between 24 teenagers selected from 12 rebellious districts. The above quote is taken from the dystopian country’s president as he explains why such a horrific spectacle was contrived, and why only one winner is ever allowed. This inevitably brings us to the ancient Roman principle of:
Panem et Circenses
Literally translating to “bread and circuses,” the phrase originates from Satire X by Roman poet and satirist Juvenal. The metaphor was coined to address the only two remaining cares of the Roman populace as they ignore their “historical birthright of political involvement.” The concept is quite simple: the most effective way to rise to power is to distract citizens from their problems by offering cheap bread and entertainment. After that, it’s gravy.
In “The Hunger Games,” it’s quite obvious that the games themselves are the bread and circuses. It simultaneously entertains and intimidates the populace into submission under the all-powerful hand of the Capital. And since we are clearly not in danger of our own government demanding that each state send one boy and one girl to fight to the death in some barbaric tournament, it’s very easy to separate Suzanne Collin’s work of fiction from our reality. But I feel like there is one unavoidable question we must ask ourselves (and thankfully I’m not the only one asking):
What are our “Hunger Games?”
The answers to the question may vary across the board, depending on who you ask. I’m sure people will unanimously cry, “Television!”, but even that is a little open-ended. Is it all TV, or just certain shows? Would it just be reality TV shows, or are scripted one included? Would the news fit in there, too? Sports? How about the internet? That’s plenty distracting. Facebook could be a really big culprit. Video games work, too, I’m sure.
The bottom line is we all allow ourselves to get sucked into one form of entertainment or another to distract us from the messiness of our lives. A little bit of that is actually healthy; we all need rest and relaxation, a temporary reprieve from the craziness. But it’s important that we only leave it as temporary. There is nothing a ruling class loves more than a group of citizens who are contented enough with leisure activities that we fail to pay attention as they find new ways to hinder our freedoms.
Whether we’re distracted by who the next American Idol will be, who won last night’s game, or who friended us on Facebook, we can all lose out if we’re not careful. So, I guess the warning is simple: Be Careful, Pay Attention.