Hey! Randy

Gladiators for Food

Posted by heyrandy on July 17, 2012

The Hunger Games trilogy Susan Collins, 2008

America has collapsed. Civil war erupted among the thirteen regions. The region in the Rockies has subjugated twelve and obliterated the thirteenth. Panem (bread) is the new capital. Every year the twelve surviving regions must supply a male and a female child 12 to 18 years old to take part in the Hunger Games. The rules of the games are simple: only one person of the twenty-four comes out alive. The rules of the larger game are also simple: submit or be destroyed.

The books are about more than a neo-Roman Empire. The books are about the role government plays in ending freedom and how people cope. The books are a libertarian tale of free markets, resistance to tyranny, and the will to survive. The Hunger Games are an annual contest by twenty-four champions, but the real game is every day living. Everyone in the twelve districts plays. This is the real struggle for survival. Unlike the Games staged in the capital, the real games are not coerced. The real games are voluntary exchanges between free parties. In the real games everyone can win. The real is the underground, the staged is the fraud.

It is about power. The capital to maintain its sybaritic way of life must suppress the districts. It does this through transfer of wealth and draconian laws. Almost everything is illegal. No weapons, no free speech, no dealings outside of the government’s approved methods. It is a total state. Poverty is the rule.

But the novels show us that people do manage to survive. There is a black market operating openly. An electric fence encloses the community ostensibly to keep out the wild animals but really to keep the inmate confined, but a few hardy souls sneak under the fence when the power is off. It usually is, a shot at the ineptitude of a government-managed electric company.

My favorite character is the petty bureaucrat Effie (for effete?) Trinket. Vain (she wears a pink wig), self-centered, and ambitious, she would be dangerous if she were smart. All she cares about is a promotion to a better district. There is a distinct theme of regional prejudice. The people in the government do not care about the masses. “The élite are neat; the masses are ….” Trinket is more concerned about the drunken behavior and bad table manners of the district’s only living winner than the barbarity of the games. It is all so good and necessary. She cannot see the evil that she is a part of. She is part of the enforcement tier, useful for the time.

The novels also have allusions to the problem with genetically modified organisms: killer hornets and part-human dogs. Science fiction is a minor element, but evident in the arena.

Like all things competitive, there is betting. This is one of the reasons for the games. Influential, behind-the-scenes gamblers drive some of the action. The games are broadcast in full detail to all the districts. Cameras and microphones hidden in the arena make sure that every word and action is heard and seen by the masses. It is the circus part of the bread and circuses of ancient Rome. When the interest in the games wanes, the game-masters stir things up by introducing fire and changing the weather. Boredom is not allowed!

 

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