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Welcome to the 2012 Hunger Games

Posted on May 1, 2012
KendraKaptures (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch

(Page 4)

If you want to talk about hunger, talk about the unprecedented flooding that’s turned Pakistan from one of the world’s breadbaskets into a net food-importing nation, with dire consequences for the agricultural poor. Talk about China’s many impending ecological disasters, its degraded soil, contaminated air and water, its many systems ready to collapse. There’s more disruption of food production to come, a lot more, and lots more hunger, too.

Around this point in science fiction books and even history books, a revolution seems necessary. The good news I have for you this May Day is that it’s underway.  

Revolution 2012

2011 was the year of strange weather, but it was also the year of global uprisings, and they’re far from over. They erupted in Russia, Israel, Spain, Greece, Britain, much of the Arab-speaking world, parts of Africa, and Chile, among other spots in Latin America (some of which got their revolutions underway earlier in the millennium). Uprisings have blossomed even in what the rest of the hungry world sees as the elite Capitol, the United States, and much of the English-speaking world, from London to New Zealand.


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Remember that revolution doesn’t look much like revolution used to. That might be the most retrograde aspect of the very violent Hunger Games trilogy, the way in which the author’s imagination travels along conventional or old-fashioned lines. There, violence is truly the arbitrator of power, along with cunning, whether in the ways the teenagers survive in the gladiatorial arena or the Capitol, or how both sides operate in conflicts between the Districts and the Capitol. In our own world, the state is very good at violence, whether in its wars overseas or in pepper-spraying and clubbing young demonstrators. You’ll notice, however, that neither the Iraqis, nor the Afghanis, nor the Occupiers were subjugated by these means.  

Violence is not power, as Jonathan Schell makes strikingly clear in The Unconquerable World, it’s what the state uses when we are not otherwise under control. In addition, when we speak of “nonviolence” as an alternative to violence, we can’t help but underestimate our own power.  That word, unfortunately, sounds like it’s describing an absence, a polite refraining from action, when what’s at stake—as demonstrators around the world proved last year—is a force to be reckoned with; so call it “people power” instead.

When we come together as civil society to exercise this power, regimes tremble and history is made. Not instantly and not exactly according to plan, but who ever expected that?

Still, many regimes have been toppled by this power, and the capacity to do so is ours in the present.  As Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan point out in their recent Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, since 1900 people-power campaigns have been successful in achieving regime change more than twice as often as violent campaigns.

It’s May Day, a worldwide General Strike has been called, and last week tiny Occupy Norman (Oklahoma) announced that it “had won a major battle”: their city is moving all its money out of Bank of America into a local bank. Last fall’s Move Your Money campaign included city money from the outset and quiet victories like this could begin to reshape our economic landscape. Activism in the streets is so intimidating that next month’s G8 Summit scheduled for Chicago will hole up at Camp David instead.

Meanwhile last week, both the Wells Fargo and General Electric shareholders’ meetings were under siege from Occupy activists.  The Wells Fargo meeting and protests took place in San Francisco, and afterward an arrested friend of mine posted this on Facebook: “I forgot to mention that Max gave me the Hunger Games salute in jail today. It was awesome.”

In this way do fiction and reality meld in misery and triumph as, this very day, janitors in California go out on strike, and even Golden Gate Bridge workers will be protesting. May Day actions are planned across the globe.

Still alive and kicking, Occupy is chipping away in a thousand places at the status quo., the little organization that defeated the Keystone XL Pipeline (so far), is holding a global Climate Impacts Day on May 5th and plans to take on the petroleum industry in its next round of actions.

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By prosefights, May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Future electricity cost and supply problems deserve study, we believe, now that the liberal arts ‘educated’ are trying to take policy control.

Electricity rate increase to subsidize solar generation of electricity appears to be on their agenda?

Mr Sweet has not responded.

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By putoff, May 3, 2012 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry, Ms. Solnit, but your writing style is too convoluted for me to enjoy what you’re talking about.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t had my coffee this morning, but I think you’d do well to put in more commas and remove a lot of the clutter.  Methinks most of it is left-over scrap from when you used to eat books. I couldn’t get past the first page.

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By balkas, May 2, 2012 at 7:38 am Link to this comment

no, not imo, revolution did not errupt in most arab lands,
russia….protests errupted there.
and to date, as evidence proves, protests are for kids. they not only fail
but actually exacerbate an already horrible situation.
destruction of libya, denial of a palestinian state, NDAA and other acts,
assassination of some individuals, stand your ground ‘law’, continued
occupations, greater poverty/hatred/racial divides all happened while
people protested.
we witness in this piece once again [it never ceases] the usual lament,
enumeration of symptoms, etc., but not the cause for them!

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By heterochromatic, May 2, 2012 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

that’s as communist as there is likely to be. unfortunately the people at the
“vanguard” of the Soviet Union” weren’t at all communists in that sense (or much
at all).

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By balkas, May 2, 2012 at 7:12 am Link to this comment

USSR had proportionally more fascists [or people who’d defend with life own
serfdom/dependency] than countries like germany, italy, spain, venezuela, cuba, vietnam,
and SSSR broke up only because of that.
russia was probably about the last country in which one shld have started building a more
egalitarian society.
how about u.s? does anyone think that structure of society in u.s can be changed by solely
protesting, complaining, wishful thinking or only by getting political.
let’s face the fact: politics is all!
i may be a communist, but as jesus had meant it or as i think he meant it!

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By balkas, May 2, 2012 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

yes, no jobs! but there is work; and, as always before, in all lands—but
not enough hands to do it or to do all we needed and need now to do.
and who decides, what shall and what shan’t be done? 
in u.s, seems, 98% of americans; alas, deluded, dumbed, frightened,
angry, racially/ethnically divided, blood-thirsty, hateful, etc., beyond
and so made by whom?

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By heterochromatic, May 2, 2012 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

balkas——do you much mourn the Soviet Empire?

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By balkas, May 2, 2012 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

most powerful nation? or most powerful region, inhabited by many
ethnicities; 3 or 4 races; led by one or two top ethnicities; which are
enriching selves more than any other!
most powerful region [there is no longer an amerika, but, then there
never had been one in the first place] doing most of the killings,
maimings, destruction, harm to the biota, threatening, blockading,
sanctioning, etc.
and that’s the politics in US which have prevailed thus far and worst yet
to come!

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By Shenonymous, May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

The facts of this article is philosophically remindful of Jonathan Swift
and his essay “for the benefit of the clergy” in ”A Modest Proposal”
but its entire title is ”A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children
of the Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents, or the
Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick”
  The insanity
that was partisan politics and religion in the early 18th century was a
clarion perspective of the mental derangement that exists in our
contemporary society, as The Hunger Games illustrates, with
absolute clarity.  Swift’s pamphleteering approach was to use satire,
whereas Hunger Games takes a much more serious attitude drawing
on the electronic tyranny that permeates our youth today, youth meaning
from about 14 to 25-year olds. 

Swift’s grotesque thesis was a direct demonstration of an utter
outrage at what he considered disgraceful economic and political
policies of the Irish and English governments, using the contrived
voice of an economist, giving a copious amount of detail, metaphors
for the unexaggerated conditions of the corruption of those in charge
and the effects on society, also using irony and parody with extraor-
dinary wrecking effect.  Doesn’t this sound too too familiar?  Are we not
sickened enough yet?  Swift simultaneously targets his biting criticism at
Protestant-Catholic divisions, contemporary economic theories, and
other oppressive factors.  How far will this pluralistic society allow the
confiscation of a naive public’s thinking power to continue?

With Hunger Games, food becomes the prize for an ever hungry
district-divided society.  We know from the description above the young
people are sacrificed.  At least there will be 23 less stomachs to feed at
the end of the combat.  Is that what civilization has come to?  17 million
American children go hungry each day, according to an ABC news report
in August 2011.  Is that what we have become today?  a nation that
defines millions of kids with morbid malnutrition?  Hunger Games
action is more in physically reminiscent of the Roman Gladiator Games
in training preparations, there is only a cursory indictment in Hunger
of the ruling class and a more or less capitulation to the situa-
tion not as incisive as Huxley’s dehumanization found in his negative
utopian Brave New World’s unsuccessful rebellion.

John Savage was not able to integrate having to accept the “brave new
world he came to hate and found himself unfit to come to terms with it
to have even an unassuming life. He ultimately finds death the better
part of valor. 

Hunger Games is our era’s cautionary tale of the dreadful social
disparity that is our reality, but it does not quite approach the power of
its literary predecessors.  I do wonder, though, if the consequences
portrayed in this more or less melodramatic story for adolescents will
seep into their conscience and affect their morality to any significant

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By heterochromatic, May 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

because they were nothing like soup kitchens in any real sense and nobody among
the homeless was turning to those poseurs because it was the only place to get a

OO’s commitment to feed anybody was about an inch-deep veneer over what they
were about and there was no OO effort to make any feeding program sustainable.

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By azythos, May 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

” ‘camps like Occupy Oakland last year was the way they became de facto soup

“and couldn’t reading this sophomoric jumble”

What exactly is “sophomoric” about that quote, and exactly why? Articulate, please.

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By gerard, May 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

Yeah, one of the things we have to liberate ourselves from is the deep awareness of tragic probabilities that fill our hearts with sorrow and terror and demoralize our will.
  At the same time, the spirits of the One PerCent are being injured, splintered, emptied of spiritual power. Right action is stifled. Vast sums of money are available, but souls starve.
  Led astray by wealth, the people locked in the towers might be shaken free by some pixilated public celebration—a Wall Street Aerial Art Exhibit—millions of pieces of paper the size of dollar bills, painted in bright colors—hand-made original designs of all things loveable and good—dropped down from several towers near the Exchange, to float in silence on the breeze between the canyon/buildings and picked up by passers-by.  No anger.No curse, No criticism. No cry.
  Just an acknowledgement of common humanity.
  A reclamation, an offering, an introduction:

  Hello!      From me to you.  Here we are!
    Now! This moment!
              This once-in-a-lifetime










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By heterochromatic, May 1, 2012 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

well, I tried… i got to the point where she put out that stuff about

“camps like Occupy Oakland last year was the way they became de facto soup

and couldn’t reading this sophomoric jumble.

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