I'm sheepishly enjoying The Hunger Games. Not the books. The movies. Which Shirley handed to me and said, "You must watch these. You'll get it."
She'd something about the fakery. The posing. The couple that's promoted as a couple that's not a couple. The cocked heads and overstretched smiles.
Yes, I imagined I would get the fakeness. That's part of my problem. I can see fake pointing through most anything and it can drive me to madness when I look around say "Is anyone else buying this?" Seeing people slack-jawed, rapt, and even if they're not buying it -- they are. Just by watching. Participating. Swilling the equivalent of mind-clogging transfat into their brain.
But get it. I didn't know what she meant.
"We're hungry," she said.
And I nodded. Yes. Isn't that the human condition? Hungry? Starving? Famished? How we come out... starving for something till someone gives it to us -- or not, in which case we go through the whole of our lives that way. Desperate for the thing we think, surely, just in wanting it and craving it, must mean we are supposed to get it -- that it can be had somewhere.
Zak and I had a little bit of a debate about The Hunger Games not even two months ago, sitting at their stainless steel table, talking about its merit and what it meant. The irony being that I had not seen it/read it, and he didn't even know what it was about... but he was still on its side when I explained: "Kids hunt each other down -- kill each other. And people watch. How sick is that? That's the sick vision of the future that we have right now..."
Because this fit into the larger discussion of Dystopian art, literature, movies that we were having... and how sickly oversaturated (to me) the world feels, seems to be with Dystopia now.
"Where's the good vision of the future?" I asked.. "The pretty vision? The vision we can have hope in and reach toward and want to strive for to achieve -- like sending the man to the moon -- you can't want to achieve something if you have no picture of it... no vision painted..."
But Zak argued for The Hunger Games and all the rest's merit -- catharsis. For it being a product of the culture and Dystopia being something we can steer ourselves away from when its points are illustrated... the idea that going down this path, this is as bad as it can get. He said that, among other things that made me turn my mind around and say, "Hmm... you may have a point..."
Which, for the record, I love anyone who can flip my mind around and make me say, "You may have a point..." Since so many people do not have this power. I actually do like to be wrong -- I just like to be wrong with an interesting uncontemplated facet that I can pick up and say, "my... there is more beautiful nuance to the world than I thought..." which takes something other than just your typical full brute force proposal of head-on opposition. Not just jumping off the ground, and gravity that brings you down... but something more along the lines of aerodynamics that combines the two -- subverts and champions and negates them both... a third thing that comes in sideways and might just make a better world for all of us, if that power can be tapped, harnessed, discovered in the first place.
ANYWAY -- so Shirley handed me the tapes (discs) to watch and at once, moments in, I understood that this was not Dystopia.
"Ohhhh... " I said to myself, shaking my head at my stubbornness as these terribly-named protagonists scrambled around... "This isn't the future... this is now."
But at night, mulling it over, I was thinking, "What's the significance of the Tributes.. what does that mean. what does it signify?"
And whatever it was had to correlate with that creepy high school lit story we all read called The Lottery... which, interestingly enough, was published at a time when the New Yorker didn't categorize and distinguish its articles fact from fiction, and there were plenty of people who wrote in and said, "Whoa, wait... WHAT community in the US is this???" and holds the record for garnering more letters to the editor than (I think) any piece, but for sure any piece of short story ever published in the New Yorker EVER.
So. Tributes. One person offered up for death, or a fate worse than death, or something just generally grotesque. An experience of sacrifice for the "greater good." -- a NECESSITY.
Why does it resonate. Seem real. And how and why does a society use it?
It forces the entire population to make a statement about what a life is worth, supposedly because it cannot be any other way. And in return, understand what your own life is worth -- to the whole. You agree that a human life is worth only that... and it is totally okay for a human, any human, to be subjected to any number or tortures and horrors, and in agreeing with this baseline, you must simultaneously reckon with the reality that you are in perpetual danger of having those same things done to you because you have acknowledged that the forces are at full liberty to do it to somebody else.
I'm a great fan of Ai Weiwei for no other reason than that he is brave -- and if we were all just as brave, if the whole world were just a brave, then nobody would ever be able to control us through the fear of what-might-happen... a fear we know all-too-intimately because we've let it be done to somebody else. From grotesque treatment, to your-kids-can-starve-while-mine-can-eat, to the belittling work-at-Walmart-for-minimum-wage-and-collect-foodstamps-with-no-gas-money-left-to-drive-up-to-the-canyon-and-see-the-leaves-change-colour-in-the-fall.
Because the thing to reckon with is that we're all Tributes. All standing up and competing against each other as representatives from various states of the human condition.