Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Hunger Games

I saw the movie "Hunger Games" this past weekend. I have not read the books, so I don't know how true the movie is to the first book, but it was certainly an entertaining flick. Without getting too in-depth, the story is about a futuristic society that is "at peace", due to the ruthless governing from the Capitol which includes a yearly ritual in which one male, one female, from each of the 12 districts is chosen at random to compete to the death for all but one participant. As the truly creepy and malevolent President as played by Donald Sutherland says, they control the citizens by fear and hope. Fear of the military forces of the rulers, and hope that through the "games" someone each year can be victorious and gain all the riches and material comforts one can imagine.

Of course, there are parallels to today's world. The fact is, we also send our young into battle, to die, or worse, to return scarred for life. Yes, they volunteer now, but I doubt that when our children are signing those papers that commit them to military service, they are cognizant of the possible death or debilitating injury that may befall them. The young are invincible, and so we take advantage of that by promising "adventure" and skills for future employment. At least in this fictitious world, the one winner is showered with material pleasures although it is clear that the winner portrayed by Woody Harrelson is far from happy with his winnings. Still, so many of our soldiers come home to an unemployment rate double the rest of society, broken families and foreclosed homes, in addition to the mental anguish that war can create.

I was also struck by the name given to the selected individuals - tributes. Isn't that what we do when we want to demonize or make less than human our enemies? We call them japs or nazis, fanatics or zealots, godless or barbarians. Of course, they have names for us as well, very similar names, and so we continue the cycle of hate and war, and continue to educate our children to hate and kill as we were taught. In this case, tribute is used to emphasize the sacrificial side of the games, the fact that each district demonstrates their sorrow for past uprisings against the government by "voluntarily" choosing to send these children, these tributes.

As I watched the movie, it became obvious that the peace described as permeating the society was not peace at all, but a lack of war, the difference being that the people themselves were not at peace, were not happy with their lives, were not thriving as a people would be if they were truly free from the horrors of war. They were just unable to fight against the forces that enslaved them. In this sense, one might say that the movie was also a warning to those among us who think that man can create a world without conflict. That any utopia created by man may not be all that grand.

In any event, regardless of whether you have read the books, go see the Hunger Games for yourself.

Speaking of games, this past week there was an interesting trio of votes taken in the House of Representatives concerning the federal budget.

The first vote approved a GOP sponsored budget, 228-191. As there are currently 242 Republican house members, I assume that some voted against their own party's budget, perhaps some tea party members. I say this because the budget, while reducing the annual deficit from 2012 levels, still projects an $800 billion deficit for 2013, which will require another vote to raise the national debt. I think there are many in the tea party who want a balanced budget so will vote against anything not balanced. Our "local" reps, those from Pennsylvania and New Jersey voted along party lines.

The second vote rejected a Democratic budget, 163-262. This time it appears that some Democrats opposed their own budget. Perhaps because the Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires would be allowed to expire. (Tough to vote to raise taxes, even for those most well-off, in an election year). Again, all local reps voted along party lines.

Finally, there was a thrid vote. This vote failed miserably, 38-382. It was bipartisan in that this budget used a mix of tax increases and spending cuts which would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years. It was patterned after the Simpson-Bowles recommendations. In this case, of the 38 yes votes, 6 came from local reps, 4 Dems, 2 GOP. My hat off to those brave individuals. So interesting, and so sad, that the one plan that required everyone to do their part, was so easily defeated. Are we that selfish that we can't see that only by finding common ground, by working together, can we solve our financial problems?

I don't necessarily blame the reps in this case. Their votes reflect both the national split on the solutions to our financial predicament, and the lack of respect for other's perspectives that one issue special interest groups help exacerbate. My way or the highway is a nice line in a movie but not a way to operate in a democracy.

So, the games surrounding our deficit and debt continued. And will continue as there is no chance that the Democratic controlled Senate will support the House GOP budget. It will probably never even get a vote.


  1. I just saw The Hunger Games last night and was curious to see any partisan opinions on it. A quick search brought me to your blog. Oddly enough, both the left and the right are claiming this movie as their own. It seems to me that both take a beating in this film. My opinion is that it is an anti-authoritarian film (I haven’t read the book). Like other dystopian works, the government has grown evil. The state has the power over the individual, making everyone slaves. I can only hope that it will lead more people to search out other novels and films such as 1984, Brave New World and Atlas Shrugged. We need to challenge every action of our government. They are supposed to work for us.