Was the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre the sign of an apocalyptic future? Or the Aurora Theatre shootings by a cold-blooded killer?
The Hunger Games is a riveting portrayal of how the young see the modern world, where a privileged elite has a “Stalin-like” control over who lives in plenty or poverty in a post-apocalyptic North America. Author Susan Collins has said it "tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others."
And the young just coming of age are not far from the truth. A vision of decline and limited opportunity fills the daily news. Declining resources and global warming could cause future wars, says the Pentagon. America has become a war zone with school children no longer safe and more than 10,000 gun-related deaths per year. Even Social Security and Medicare may not be available for future generations, say its Trustees.
In fact, a record number of Americans are already living below the poverty line, while University of California economist Emmanuel Saez found the top 1 percent of households garnered 65 percent of the nation’s income growth from 2002-07, the beginning of the recession.
And that is the problem. The U.S. doesn’t suffer from a scarcity of needed resources, or the means to finance adequate social services. It has been suffering from a redistribution of the wealth upward over the past 30 years that is no longer available to finance those means.
While overall household incomes (and consequent economic growth) have been steadily declining, the wealth of the top income brackets has been as steadily increasing. And the result is what the young see—a vision of scarcity in the real world that isn’t real. Modern industry has conquered the means of production. Rather, such scarcity results from a conscious policy by a politically powerful minority that demands more benefits for them while cutting benefits for all Americans.
The result is wages, money that flowed to employees of firms, fell to a record low of 43.5 percent of GDP, while corporate profits are the highest on record. It is a level of inequality and redistribution of resources matched by a few of the poorest countries in the world. The U.S. level of inequality has been ranked just above some of Africa and Asia’s poorest countries by the CIA’s World Fact Book.
Ms. Collins has said her stories were inspired in part by TV reality games, with their fight for survival, as well as the Iraq War, a war over the control of resources. But the popularity of The Hunger Games, or Survivor and all the TV reality shows is a testimony to the present reality for millions of Americans. One reason this young adult fiction remained 100 weeks on the New York Times’ best seller list was that it does mirror the modern reality for many, where starvation and the fight for survival still exists.
That is certainly true in the developing world, but shouldn’t be true in the United States of America. The adults have badly made a hash of the modern world, says The Hunger Games. They have created poverty in the land of plenty, and so are not to be trusted.
The adults lied about the Iraq War, when they covered up the knowledge that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Adults also lied about the benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy. It made everyone else poorer. Their policies created 5 successive recessions since 1980. The Great Recession happened because adults ignored or broke existing laws and regulations in order to enrich themselves. The adults have made a hash of governing because they strove to break down the government’s power to govern.
The Hunger Games is a cry that adults can no longer rule their world wisely. So beware, adults. The young are watching you.
Harlan Green © 2012
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