19 March 2012

"Panem et Circenses"

Panem et Circenses: "Bread and Circuses" - the techniques used by the Roman Empire to keep the population docile. We won't rise up if we're not hungry, and we're adequately entertained, especially at the (gladiatorial) expense of others.

THAT is what makes The Hunger Games so frightening to me.  Its proximity to reality, giving me the sneaking suspicion that contemporary America is kept quiet by a certain amount of panem et circenses.  We are unlikely to question authority or even take much civic action.  Not when we have Taco Bell and Burger King and Doritos, and professional sports (in which the fans riot and loot after both major wins & losses) and Survivor and American Idol.

But the converse is also scary - a significant number of Americans carry concealed weapons because they do not trust authority.  That I read last week that in one state (I can't remember where), civilians may kill police officers who "trespass" on their property (for more of this concept, check out Indiana's new law - ugh).  That many in the Far Right believe and fear that the Feds want to control us through social welfare programs. Want to keep standing militias.  Expecting and preparing to repel a major Federal Takeover is no less terrifying. 

I don't want to be part of the Capitol and the Peacekeepers, nor one of the Rebels.

There's so much being written about The Hunger Games trilogy right now, with the first movie debuting this weekend.  It's a relevant time to reflect on what this narrative says about our world today.

Last week my friend asked me if she thought Hunger Games would be too violent for her 10-yr-old daughter to read (my 10-yr-old son has read Book 1, and loved it).  

If a book is too terrifying, you can always put it down.  Sadly, you cannot put "real life" down.  You can turn off the TV, but real life atrocity is still there.

Today, every 10-yr-old child has existed in an era of continuous war.  With an awareness of the Taliban.  People in authority who sexually molest children.   Terrible violence against women in Afghanistan.  Buildings collapsing and burning in lower Manhattan.  North Korean gulags.Haiti and Japan after the earthquake, South Asia after the tsunami.  Joseph Kony, atrocities, and child soldiers of sub-Saharan Africa. 

Is The Hunger Games, a work of fiction, more or less shocking than real life?

Let's play Peeta's sanity game: real or not-real?

Update: Check out this "Letter to the Editor" published by Time on April 2: "Children are already exposed to violence" - my thoughts almost exactly.

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