Sunlost: Underworld War is finished! A.J. Powers’ amazing talent is being funneled into a cover for it. Anyone who hasn’t read Sunlost yet, jump over to Amazon.com and pick it up ($3.99 on Kindle, and $12.99 in paperback [currently on sale for 10% off that price too!]) I noticed there’s even a used copy for sale.
Anyhow, my articles on the Hunger Games and communism are still getting a lot of attention. (Occupy Panem? and Capitalism, Communism, and The Hunger Games) Catching Fire is in production or post production, to be released later this year.
Fans like to speculate how we might go from where we are now to the setting in the books. In order to do this with The Hunger Games, maybe we should step back and see what has come of other books that made sociological predictions (or simply cast warnings).
We can look at Ray Bradbury’s well-known Fahrenheit 451. The book shows a society which has lost the right to read any literature, whatever. People have turned to television and drug-induced sensory-saturation to pass the days. This is a specific horror to those of us who are readers, and makes honorable rebels of we writers. In the end, Bradbury offers a faint glimmer of hope. Books are preserved in perhaps the most inefficient manor conceivable; memory.
What has come of this prediction? I think Winston Churchill said it best. Television is seductive. The government does not need to ban literature for it to vanish from the lives of a huge portion of the American people. Bradbury worried that the governments of Western nations (like those of the east) would ban certain ideas and the literature that conveyed them. He was mistaken. The success of Western Civilization is so great that the children of these liberties have no notion of a non-free society, no concept of what liberty tastes like to the man starved of it. Too many people have discarded their minds and become smiling prisoners of the video-graphic realm.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a ridiculous BluRay collection! But all things in moderation. Different forms of entertainment will net different responses in the mind. Many people today say that they don’t read because they find it boring and just can’t get used to it. My concern is that they have so saturated their minds with alternatives to literature, they are no longer capable of utilizing the best form of transferring information. And the truth is, nothing gets the mind really churning through ideas the way written words do. I say this with the full knowledge that none of those people will ever read this. Carte blanche is marvelous!
Why would a government, in a book or in real life, be interested in having a populace addicted to television and disallowed from literary pursuits? Because it makes them very easy to control. Simple lesson, but a powerful truth.
On to the next book, another favorite; George Orwell’s 1984, which was titled by reversing the last digits of its publication year, 1948. Suzanne Collins has listed this as one of her favorite books, and it is definitely worth reading. Without giving away too much of the plot, it takes place in a Western nation (probably England) during a standing war. All information is controlled by the state, and truth is whatever the state says it is.
The new fright in Orwell’s sobering text is it’s similarity to what has been revealed in the United States over recent weeks. In 1984 numerous monitoring stations persist everywhere. Orwell was right; London is the second most-surveilled city on the planet (and if I recall correctly, rank number one is a communist city). But in the United States, apparently, every bit of data you send anywhere, be it downloading a sample of the latest chart-topper, or texting your best friend about what to bring to his barbeque, or calling your doctor to find out your test results; everything is being monitored and analyzed by intelligence agencies. Looking at the Drudge Report over the past month has been… surreal.
I suppose it’s not enough that the government is hashing through every bit of data you send or receive or even consider sending (no joke); the IRS has demanded that people detail the content of their prayers. Apparently, even spiritual communication isn’t beyond the government’s wiretap efforts…
Perhaps that’s enough on those two books.
What about The Hunger Games then? Well, Collins really had these set at least several hundred years in the future. She mentions that there are many disasters and wars, caused both by man and nature; vague and fair. Then there’s the uprising after Panem is formed, which brings about the Games; *shrug* okay.
Well, let’s address the idea of how you get Panem, in the first place. How do you get a society as top-down as that? Isn’t that rather bourgeois? Isn’t the rebellion just the proletariat trying to right the wrongs that have been done to them? No, not in those terms. (Bear with the next two paragraphs for some definition.)
Bourgeois is meant to refer to people who own capital such as factories and businesses, but they don’t work, because the profit from those enterprises is large enough that they can live off merely owning those things. Proletariat is meant to refer to the people that work at those businesses who, being oppressed will stand up and form a union and revolt. Some communists thought that would mean killing management and ownership, and then holding ownership of the business in common. Some communists thought that would mean merely repossessing the business and making management and ownership universal and equal among all the workers.
The problems with this view of reality; many workers buy stock in the companies they work at, and they move up into management, or start their own businesses and become wealthy, or many bourgeois owners fail to pay attention to market forces and go out of business, etc. The free market doesn’t allow for people to become tyrannical. Tyranny happens with government, and in recent history, this was done most often by people who saw themselves as an enlightened proletariat. In reality these people were the children of the bourgeoisie and few had ever worked a hard job in their lives.
Okay, so I’m getting pretty alien for a lot of Hunger Games fans who may not have much context on this. What’s the real answer? How do you end up with a world like Panem, when you have a world like ours?
Answer: Red Octorber, 1917. No, not Tom Clancy’s fantastic Hunt for Red October, but the communist revolution in Russia. Rich kids who became communists after being preached Marxism at university suddenly believed themselves the oppressed proletariat (or at least the representatives of the oppressed proletariat) and they fought against the bourgeoisie and bourgeois lifestyle (the lifestyle of their parents). First they tricked the Russian people into voting for them, which gave their communism the democratic backing they needed in order to say they were carrying out the will of the masses.
Then, they commenced to remake the world anew, murdering anyone who they thought stood in the way of the new communist utopia, starving out millions of others in their effort to remake the national economy in communist perfection, forcing people out of their homes and resettling them elsewhere, and on, and on, and on.
You might say, boy that sounds a lot like Panem, except that the Capital wasn’t forced to deal with any of that! Maybe it really was rich business owners pushing everyone else into slavery!
Keep in mind, no communist revolution has ever happened in the world. No group of poor workers has ever fought against a capitalist class and established a new society. No true proletariat has ever even come close to trying! That is why modern communists can say, ‘Well, true communism has never actually been tried.’ They are right; every communist revolution has always been affluent rich kids, indoctrinated by Marxist propaganda on an intellectual level (not something open to the lower class), going out there and slaughtering millions of poor people they claim to be helping. Those on top were used to lives of luxury and continued to live that way, even as they implemented famines upon the people they ruled over.
In every district of Soviet Russia, the communists in control lived very different lives than the people they oppressed. Sure, they had to worry about being killed by superior officers (think President Snow and Seneca Crane), but they were able to live in the lap of luxury, at least compared to the people they controlled. After Stalin took over from Lenin, he never once wanted for anything, except total and absolute power. He had all the food he wanted, all the shelter he wanted, all the clothes he wanted, all the women he wanted, etc.
This too exposes one major failing of communist interpretations of humanity. Humanity is invariably greedy. If we were all like Mother Teresa, communism may just theoretically be within a distant edge of possibility. But what made Mother Teresa exceptional was that so much of humanity is exactly the opposite! Because you cannot change humanity, the revolution never ends; it kills more and more and more people, until something stops it.
No, pre-rebellion Panem is a picture-perfect communist revolution, as they actually happen; not as Marx and Engels thought they would happen, not as the persistent, yet deluded, modern professor thinks they happen, and not as the nut who posts on facebook saying ‘if we just got rid of private property, everyone would be better off!’ thinks it will happen.
Communism is just a breed of the utopian mentality that we can make society perfect by changing human nature. But long before you change anything in human nature, you crush it. In Russia 20+ million were crushed. In China 65+ million were crushed. The other communist revolutions might be smaller in the number they killed, but when you look at the portion killed relative to the population, some of them stand out, such as Cambodia, where a Paris-educated intellectual slaughtered one fifth of his nation.
Here’s an exercise worth doing: sit down and start writing the names of all your friends and family, beginning with those you care about the most. When you’ve filled up three or four sheets, go back and cross off every fifth name. Imagine that person was killed in the name of remaking society. I don’t want to tell you to hate communism, I don’t believe I need to. Knowing history will do that for you…
Communism never happens from the bottom-up as Marx insisted it naturally would. Throughout their lives, Marx and Engels repeatedly pointed to different events, explaining how they were leading to the inevitable worldwide communist revolution. It never happened and it never will. They didn’t understand human nature, and they didn’t understand economics.
In Panem, we see an all-powerful government arranging a society so that nothing stands in their way. Whatever they want, they get. Now, people can pretend all they want that this is what capitalism is. It simply does not match up with historical comparison. Free markets force us to please our fellow man in order to make money. Those who do a great job of pleasing a lot of people get very rich; think Steve Jobs. Those who do a lousy job and please no one stay poor…
The grand scheme of free markets is that people get what they work for, or what others are willing to give them in voluntary charity. In Panem, people get only what the government allows them to have, like in communism. If they government doesn’t want them to have it, they don’t get it! Simple and plain. Whether that is for altruistic reasons or purely out of malice is inconsequential.
If you want an easy analogy to unite the Panem universe to communism, check out George Orwell’s Animal Farm. You see George Orwell was a progressive leftist, but was horrified by the results of progressive intentions to remake the world. Any totalitarian government will be used to do disgusting things by those in power. In Animal Farm we can see how this corrupting influence takes over the powerful.
“Some of us are more equal than others.” It’s the sort of phrase used to justify exceptions for the people on top; whether it’s Michael Moore championing socialism, while building up a huge pile of cash and refusing to socialize it into the pockets of the poor; or whether its Al Gore and the Hollywood greens trumpeting massive reforms against the lives of the average person, while cruising around in jets and SUVs, because god forbid they be one of us average pee-ons; or whether it’s Hyde Park liberals who insist that no one needs a gun for self-defense, while they live in communities patrolled by security guards and barricaded behind key-card doors and gates.
If there is a political message in The Hunger Games, it is beware a powerful state. (Oh, and an armed populace is hard to control, so free people should be ready to defend themselves.)
What kept Soviet Russia from becoming a permanent Panem? Other states in the world with the economic vibrancy and moral vigor to stand up to the tyranny of communist oppression worldwide. In short, America and the right wing of the British Empire. Economically, communism is always suicidal, but that miserable choking could last indefinitely, if free people do not stand and denounce tyranny and oppression, and argue for liberty.
How do you get Panem? By letting government grow.