Eat the Rich! (Political comment attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
The Hunger Games book trilogy and movie series paints a dystopian view of the future as the rich and powerful rule from a fantastically wealthy capital city while the populations suffers deprivation and starvation while working in serf-like conditions. Currently, the books are seen as popular literature, but it seems probable that they may rise to the level of classics comparable to 1984 and Brave New World.
At the same time, the Davos Foundation is also warning of a dystopian future in which attempts to build a better world go wrong and social unrest emerges in both the wealthy and developing nations. What makes this shocking is that the Davos Foundation are the advisors to the super-elite and politically powerful. Their 2012 Risk Report (see below) warns the rich that the advanced economies of Europe, North America and Japan are facing the breakdown of the social contract and a slide into a dystopian future with social unrest. Their views on the developing countries are even starker. At the root of the potential societal breakdown lies high youth unemployment, wealth and income disparity and the fear of disappearing pension and health entitlements. Perhaps even more telling, the Davos advisors refer to a loss of hope and the possibility that the necessary leadership for these issues is not emerging.
In the Hunger Games, the capital city is Panem. This is a not-so subtle reference to the Latin expression panem et circenses, which translates into ‘bread and circuses.’ The Roman philosopher Juvenal (AD 100) noted that the political leaders of Rome where providing trivial distractions to the masses such as free wheat and the gladiator games rather than facing the real issues of decline and over spending. The parallels to today’s political classes are unmistakable in both the books and in reality.
It is worth noting the comments of the author of the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. She speaks of her father and how her upbringing taught her to actually examine the word around her.
“He was career Air Force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Viet Nam. It was very important to him that we understood about certain aspects of life. So, it wasn’t enough to visit a battlefield, we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the consequences. Fortunately, he had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.”
“I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’ story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.”
Here is a thought: When the advisors to the rich and powerful suggest to their masters that they should fear a dystopian future, maybe the rest of us should be concerned as well.
See the Davos Report at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalRisks_Report_2012.pdf (Case Study One, page 16 of PDF version)