Bread and Circuses—That’s US

I wrote this piece back in December 2010 and published it on another web site. I ran across it again today, and decided it was still accurate enough to be recycled. Our political slogans have changed , but other than that rather minor change, things are about the same today as they were in 2010.

So here’s my review of the Hunger Games Trilogy—about nine years late.


Review of the Hunger Games Trilogy

My daughter gave me the “Hunger Games” trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, for Christmas. And I just finished reading it. I read the first volume on Christmas day, the second book on Sunday, and finished the last one just a few minutes ago. It was good stuff.

I know—“Hunger Games” is young-adult fiction. The heroine is a fairly selfish teenaged girl living in a big-brother, government controlled, post-apocalyptic dystopia. Old farts like me aren’t supposed to like things like that. But I did anyway.

I think the books’ primary appeal to me was the depiction of a government and even a society that seemed all-too-familiar to me. In the world of the books, people live for a horrible version of reality TV. Society is divided into the pampered rich, who live in the Capital, and the masses who support them. And worst of all, nobody can believe any of the “information” they are fed, either from the government or from the government’s opponents. Every “news” story from either side is carefully scripted and choreographed to create the maximum emotional impact. People are at best props, and at worst disposable pawns, whose lives only carry value as they can advance the cause.

In this world, information is completely divorced from truth. Everything is given as much emotional spin as possible to create the maximum effect upon the populace. Everybody lies, and when the people can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction, they retreat into the ancient formula of bread and circuses. “In return for full bellies and entertainment, [the] people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.”

Unfortunately, that’s about where our country is now. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re listening to the Republicans or the Democrats, to the Progressives or the Libertarians, you can’t tell if any of them are telling the truth anymore.

I’m not getting at the old joke about “How do you tell if a politician is lying?” This goes much deeper than that. I believe that there is no longer any relationship whatsoever between what a politician says and anything that the rest of us would recognize as truth. Is this particular politician lying today? Perhaps, if it suits his purposes. Is he telling the truth? Perhaps, if it suits his purposes. Is it real or not real? Who knows? Perhaps even the politicians don’t know whether they’re telling the truth any more.

What that means to America is that what our politicians say has become irrelevant. We can’t tell if they’re telling us the truth, so we base our decisions on how their words make us feel. Does “Hope and Change” make you feel good? Then that’s what you vote for. Does “Stay the Course” make you feel secure? Then that’s what you vote for. We don’t vote based on what they say—we vote based on how well their slogans manipulate our emotions.

We really want to believe that the will of the people is what decides an election, but really, we’re being manipulated. And the best manipulator—with the best script writers, the best choreographers, the best camera crew, the best make-up artists, and the best costume designers—wins. Our country has become an arena, and the gamemaster always wins.

So what can we do?

Well, one thing to do is to decide what you believe is true. Decide for yourself what you believe. Don’t base your decision on what the various sides tell you, because most of what they say is spinning so hard it’ll drill right through you. Do your own homework. Study history. Read what our Founding Fathers wrote. Then think about what you’ve read, ponder it, understanding that even the Founding Fathers had something to sell.

And then when you’ve studied it out to the best of your ability, when you have as much true knowledge as you can get, pray about it. Get down on your knees and beg whatever gods you believe in to give you wisdom. And then base your decision on whatever wisdom you get.

But always remember who your enemy is. If you love Truth, then your enemy is those who make and love a lie. If you become a liar, then your enemy is the truth.

And I’m still naïve enough to believe that is not a strong position to take.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.