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The Surprisingly Subversive Hunger Games

“President Snow once admitted to me that the Capitol was fragile. At the time, I didn’t know what he meant. It was hard to see clearly because I was so afraid. Now I’m not. The Capitol’s fragile because it depends on the districts for everything. Food, energy, even the Peacekeepers that police us. If we declare our freedom, the Capitol collapses. President Snow, thanks to you, I’m officially declaring mine today.”

Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3) . Scholastic Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Amazon Unlimited is a cool idea that stumbles in the execution. For a small fee you can borrow up to ten Kindle titles at a time. Sounds great until you look at the selections. Lots of terrible self-published books, lots of sappy fiction written by and for women with a solid selection of books with pictures of men without shirts, with six pack abs wearing cowboy hats. They should provide a box of wine with those books. A weird number of dissident right books including a bunch from Julius Evola. Generally speaking though, not a great selection. Amazon keeps offering me a free trial for three months at a time, so I take the free trial and cancel before the trial expires and then about a month later they offer me another free trial. So I am in the middle of my latest free trial and was looking for some light reading. I just reread The Hobbit for fun but I also reread the Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games books are not what anyone would consider great literature, even by Young Adult standards. They are nice for light reading and are lightyears better than the movie adaptations. Jennifer Lawrence as the central character Katniss Everdeen might be one of the worst casting decisions ever made. Sure she is a popular actress and is nice to look at but Katniss is supposed to be a smallish teen girl who has never had enough to eat. She should be slight and relatively short. She can’t take on the other “tributes” in raw strength but her skill with a bow gives her an edge. People who grow up on the brink of starvation don’t turn into tall, voluptuous women. Lawrence was 22 when the first movie was filmed, she is 5′ 9″ tall and pretty curvy. I am a big fan of appropriately curvy women but not when they are supposed to be barely getting enough food to eat. Anyway.

The basic gist of the story is that around 75 years before the time frame the books take place in, the North American continent was divided into 13 “districts” and a Capitol that controlled them. At some point the districts grew tired of the oppression and rose up against the Capitol and a civil war ensued. The rebellious people lost to the forces of the Capitol and were forced to agree to a peace treaty that required each district to send one teen boy and one teen girl annually to “The Hunger Games” where they are forced to fight one another to the death. Along with the brutal requirement to sacrifice two of their children, the books describe in detail the way the residents of the districts are forced to barely survive, laboring in unsafe conditions and under the often brutal supervision of the “Peacekeepers”, Capitol troops who kept the districts in line. The book describes a terrible mine accident where Katniss Everdeen’s father dies, leaving their family with no means of support. Public whippings and executions were common. One Peacekeeper is described as trading food for sex with young women. There is no direct communication between the districts. The people labor endlessly hoping to have enough food and that their children are not chosen for the Hunger Games.

Meanwhile in the Capitol, the elite citizens of “Panem”, the name given the reformed nation in North America, live in luxury, spending their days finding new ways to amuse themselves, gorging themselves on food raised in the districts only to take a liquid that causes them to puke so they can eat more. The people in the Capitol look forward to the Hunger Games and choose favorites from the children chosen, oblivious to the fact that they are sending these kids to fight to the death until only one remains. They don’t produce or create anything, they live comfortably from the labor of the people of the districts who barely have enough to eat.

Sounding familiar yet?

The message is pretty subversive. A parasitical ruling class in the Capitol that finds the rest of the country revolting and a little scary but at the same time lives off of the labor of the dirty people out in the districts. Substitute “fly-over country” for “the districts” and you start to see the picture.

The power of America’s Imperial City is enormous but in terms of actual value, they add nothing to the nation. Mostly the people who work in our capitol are simply siphoning off value from the work of people out in the rest of the country. They make nothing but rules, they produce nothing but paperwork. They eat the food we raise, they power their offices and expensive homes with the electricity we generate. While they are utterly dependent on us and would die without our labor, we would be far better off if places like D.C. and New York slipped quietly into the sea. In spite of the lopsided relationship, they arrogantly think of themselves as our betters and believe themselves to be the very best America has to offer.

It isn’t simply that our elites don’t understand us, they really hate us and are growing ever more frightened of us. They are baffled that we don’t vote the way they want us to and that we don’t share their values. Most of the time they act like the hinterlands are wastelands full of roving bands of armed militia looking for some liberals, colored folk or gays to lynch. They can’t seem to figure out why we won’t be content to send them our tax dollars and provide them with our children to die and get maimed in the wars they start. In The Hunger Games world, the citizens of the Capitol think it is an honor to compete in the Hunger Games while in most of the districts it is horrifying nightmare to watch your own kid or a child that grew up with your kids being butchered for the entertainment of the Capitol, children being punished for a transgression from 75 years earlier. In our capitol, our elites think we should be grateful when we are forced to come, hat in hand, to ask if we can have some of our own money back to spend on our own schools and highways. People in D.C. seem to love nothing more than having peasants from the sticks to sneer at and look down upon.

It is doubtful that Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, was intending to write such an anti-elite book. Many reviewers seem to think it is speaking of “fascism”, a concept they don’t understand, when the real threat in America is a technocrat elite headed by billionaire oligarchs who operate above and over the “government”. If America ends up in a dystopian future resembling the world of The Hunger Games, it won’t be because of the rise of a Hitlerian despot but rather the result of the Swamp finally having had enough of the uppity peasants and waging war to teach us some manners. They better think twice and remember that while the Capitol won the civil war in The Hunger Games, they call it fiction for a reason.

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