“The Hunger Games” – closer than we think?

13. Dezember 2013 at 01:18 (Blog, Posts in English) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As my German-speaking audience knows, I hardly ever post anything personal on this blog. I have my reasons for doing so, but today, I want to share my thoughts with you and potentially with a crowd of English-speaking folks too.

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I’ve just come home from the movies. My friend and I watched “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – the second part of a fictional book written by Suzanne Collins, which has been turned into a film. Basically (for those of you who don’t know the plot), “The Hunger Games” is about some courageous young people who fight against being oppressed by the system. And with fight, I mean really fight. Twenty-four of them are set in a deadly environment, every year – an environment, where it is not only hard to survive, but also necessary to kill the other “players” in order to ever get out of this nightmare. The game is broadcasted to the inhabitants of the country, who are being threatened and oppressed and hurt and killed, if they don’t conform to the system (or just because the guards feel like it).

When I left the cinema hall, I was a little bit overwhelmed by all the images that had etched their way into my brain. And not just because the film was dramatic and fascinating – but also because of one other fact.
“You know, this could also happen to us. It’s not that unrealistic – and perhaps not that far away”, I said to my friend as we were walking to the metro station.
“Just think of all the surveillance we’re under…”, she said.
“And somehow it reminds me of the big reality shows, where there is scripted reality, intrigues and made-up drama”, I replied.

On my way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that society is really, really fucked-up (if you’ll excuse my saying so). And it wasn’t all that surprising that, when I came home and googled the background of “The Hunger Games”, I read that the author was inspired by a reality show and footage of the invasion of Iraq. Maybe my thoughts aren’t all that new, as I realise now, but all the same, I think it’s important to be aware of how close we are to all being a part of a big global game – without even realising it.

Think of how our system works. We are not only being monitored, as my friend pointed out – decisions are made for us, we are being put into positions in which we didn’t choose to be put. Think of the War on Terror – how little people had a say in deciding if it should take place or not? If millions of soldiers, civilians and so-called terrorists should die? It’s clear that this has nothing to do with a game, yes – but it is, like “The Hunger Games”, a means to appease the public, to prevent them from starting a riot, perhaps also to prevent them from starting to think for themselves.

Think of Edward Snowden. I don’t know if he is a hero of modern society. I only know that he is persecuted for revealing information that wasn’t ever intended to be made public (at this point, also think of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks). What does this tell us about the society we live in? Yes, there might be the freedom of speech. But apparently not for all of us. And once again, there are very few people who decide that Snowden and Assange are to be treated as traitors, not heros.

And then of course, there are reality shows. One such show in particular is on my mind, since I haven’t watched too many of them: “Germany’s Next Topmodel”. A bunch of girls is competing against each other, to win the ultimate prize: The opportunity to become a super model. Throughout the challenges, the girls are being humiliated. They are shown in their worst moments: Crying, in fear of giant spiders or snakes with which they have to pose for a photo, shivering with cold, being in pain because of the extreme work-outs or shoes that just don’t fit, or being told that they absolutely suck at being a model. And then, there are the dramatic moments, which aren’t real but made up. The reality in these shows is said to be scripted, they are saying one thing to one girl, another thing to the other one – and voilà, there’s some drama for the audience. I used to enjoy this drama too, I’m not better than anyone else when it comes to the power of light entertainment. But it wasn’t long before I realised that these shows left behind a very bitter taste in my mouth. A cruel game is played with the girls, a game where they are being constantly thrown out of their comfort zone – and which isn’t about helping someone to become a super model but about showing the audience how fun public degradation can be. (Please correct me, if I didn’t grasp the concept of these shows.)

I don’t really feel capable of writing about what happens in the poor countries on our planet. The kind of exploitation that must take place there, to keep up the lifestyle of the people living in the rich West (myself included). I don’t know how this could ever be changed, how we could get to be part of decisions instead of being overruled, and somehow I don’t really believe that political activism and going to demonstrations could solve that (really big) problem alone. I wouldn’t suggest a riot either, at least not one of those where once again there is violence instead of the possibility to peacefully tell your fellow human beings what is important for you.

I wouldn’t ever allow myself to say that I have a solution for making the world a better place. But I allow myself to give you this advice: Be aware of what is going on around you. Question decisions that are being made for you – and teach your children to do so. Stand up for your rights and for the rights of others, if you have the opportunity to do so. If you are in a position where you hold power over others – be it as a member of the police, a politician, a doctor or a soldier – act humbly and remember that those for whom you are making decisions are human beings too.

“The Hunger Games” was a warning for me, a warning that society is weak, when its members are not aware of what is happening around them. People fall all too gladly for the great leaders, as history has tragically shown. It might not be as comfortable to think for yourself and to be responsible for what you are doing. It’s always easier to let others do the hard work. And of course, not everyone has the chance to think for themselves – when you are in extreme poverty and don’t have access to food and education, you have other problems than to think about what is wrong with society. But you people who are lucky enough to sit in front of a computer and read this: Think twice. If we go on with not questioning what is happening around us, „The Hunger Games” are not at all as far away as you may think.

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