Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hunger Games: Hunting vs. Healing

The Hunger Games is everywhere. (What is it good for?)

The kids are back in school, and my mind turns to the question of how we are preparing the next generation to create a better world.

In particular, I'm fascinated by The Hunger Games trilogy -- with sales of something like 50 million copies of the book and global box office over $500 million for the first film, plus who-knows-how-many-dollars in tie-in merchandise sales -- and I want to know: Is The Hunger Games laying the foundation that we want and need for resistance to war?

I've just finished Book I. It's clear to me why so many people can't stop turning the pages of these books, and it's obvious that there is an enormous amount of material that addresses the real world problems of war in our 21st century world.

I'll just mention two big themes here.

Hunting vs. healing

Healing plants -- including boneset, which "was introduced to
American colonists by Indians who used the plant for breaking
fevers by means of heavy sweating." (Wikipedia)
See "The Eupatorium Story; Joe Pye Weed, Boneset and White
Snakeroot-Part One"
for a fascinating dive into these
and other healing plants.
A major theme of The Hunger Games is the way people dissociate themselves from injury they are causing.

As the protagonist talks about the upcoming "contest," her friend tries to reassure her:

"Katniss, it's just hunting. You're the best hunter I know," says Gale.

"It's not just hunting. They're armed. They think," I say.

"So do you. And you've had more practice. Real practice," he says. "You know how to kill."

"Not people," I say.

"How different can it be, really?" says Gale grimly.

The awful thing is that if I can forget they're people, it will be no different at all.

" . . . if I can forget they're people . . . . "

(This is a constant concern to those of us who are alarmed about the way modern warfare, particularly using drones, is accomplished by placing a veil of separation between the person doing the injury and the victim.)

There is a striking contrast between the call to hunt and harm, and the urgency of acts of healing. Katniss' mother is a healer, who cares for the people in the community who have suffered the most grievous injurious. In Book I we learn that Katniss' first impulse is to flee these situations. But we also see her learning the importance of being a healer, herself.

The contrast between hunting and healing in The Hunger Games is hard to ignore.

Socio-economic underpinnings of war culture 

Philipinos cutting lettuce, Salinas, California, 1935.
(Photographer: Dorothea Lange.)
Sourced from "A Photo Essay on the Great Depression"
You aren't more than a few pages into The Hunger Games before you realize that what this is really about is a system that combines violent repression and economic oppression, all through a complex of social structures and cultural practices.

Among many telling details, there is this conversation between two allied contestants in The Games who have the rare opportunity to learn from each other about their respective homelands:

"I'd have thought, in District Eleven, you'd have a bit more to eat than us. You know, since you grow the food," I say.

Rue's eyes widen. "Oh, no, we're not allowed to eat the crops."

Permanent hunger and permanent war are all wrapped up together.

These two themes -- hunting vs. healing and the socio-economic underpinnings of war culture -- are just two of the ones that have leapt out at me as I've ready Book I of The Hunger Games. What do you think? Please share your comments below.

As for me, I'm off to buy Book II . . .!

(Psst! Check out these 8 Hunger Games lesson plans, resources, and activities, too!)

Related posts

I recently wrote that "the means available to us today for eliminating war vary greatly from those available from those working to eliminate war in decades past." One of those means is popular literature and film!

(See War Resistance: Is "The Hunger Games" Laying the Foundation That We Want? )

What's really interesting is the way Book II depicts people becoming aware of their own oppression, including the forces of state repression, and developing consciousness of the need to resist.

(See Hunger Games II: What does it take for coal to catch fire? )


When will more people begin to ask about the connections between inequality and the military-industrial complex?

(See WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex )

With drones, people become just dots. "Bugs." People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars. The number one prime beneficiary is the President, as well as presidential aspirants. But it doesn't end there . . . .

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar )