Haunted by visions of dystopian jungles, angry walls and terrifying hair, Paul Brislen joins the dots between The Hunger Games and the Trumpocalyptic future.
I’ve often wondered about the wider world portrayed in The Hunger Games. I don’t know why – it’s not as if anywhere outside North America (Panem) is even referenced in the books, let alone the movies.
But wonder I do.
What, I wonder, is the rest of the world up to while North America devours its own entrails? Are we sitting in nuclear fallout shelters (the few of us who remain) trying to eke out our meagre lives while growing radiation-induced limbs and such like?
And how did the rest of the world allow North America to become the dystopian jungle we see in the Hunger Games books and movies?
I think I have the answer.
It’s Trump, of course.
“Let’s build a wall”
Trump’s first move is to revert to an isolationist policy the US hasn’t deployed since the end of World War II. Forget international trade agreements (even the dodgy ones that give the US more power in the Pacific Rim than frankly they deserve), let’s slap tariffs on imports to “bolster US jobs”. Uhm, what? Really? The jobs making baseball caps, for instance, Donald? Yeah, those are long gone.
So reject all imports in favour of US-made products that probably, at this point in time, either don’t exist or are limited to boutique-levels of production. OK then.
“Migrants not wanted here”
Forget that the modern US is built on immigration (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and, as Lou Reed nicely added “let’s club ’em to death and get it over with and just dump ‘em on the boulevard…”) or even that the first immigrants of note were those fleeing religious persecution in Europe. Forget the real story behind Thanksgiving Dinner (that local tribes helped the new settlers before they got cheated of their lands, something which continues today). Forget that Trump’s own grandparents were migrants. Forget that many of the new era of jobs were created by migrants or that these days you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to build a world-class product and get it to market.
Let’s close the borders on new ideas, new people and better ways of doing things because we like things the way they are. Yeah.
So once the wall goes up and Trump/North America retreats behind it (even if it is a fence) then three major trends begin to play out.
The first is that all those promised jobs just aren’t about to materialise, except in the very low-paying areas of the economy.
There’s a reason why Donald’s caps were made in China. The Chinese (and Vietnamese) will work for a pittance compared with US employees but in those countries that still a giant leap upward in terms of income for those workers. China’s emerging middle class is directly attributable to the free trade deals which saw all those low-paying jobs flee North America in the first place.
So, if you want a job in Trumpton, you’ll want it to be low paying.
That’s going to create more unrest, I suspect, not less.
Secondly, there’s the defence industry. America makes a lot of weapons and spends a lot on weaponry of all kinds. The US spend as a percentage of GDP is more than the next ten nations combined, and at least nine of those nations are considered allies.
With no external focus to that spend, how will America justify forking out $570 billion a year on bombs and planes, because it needs to spend that money in order to stop the economies of several states from tanking (arf arf).
It will have to find a new enemy to point the finger at. That enemy will be domestic.
Thirdly, the trend that landed Trump in the White House in the first place: disenfranchisement.
It doesn’t matter how you cut the numbers, Donald got more votes than anyone expected (especially Donald himself) and Hilary got fewer than expected. Some will tell you Donald didn’t win – rather, Hilary lost by not getting out the voters in large enough numbers. Remember, Donald got fewer votes than John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. Clearly voters are sending a message and whether it’s white fascists (“We’re not taking this anymore”) or liberal democrats (“We can’t be bothered with this any more”) the outcome is the same. Fewer voters, less interest in the machinations of politics, a lack of representation leading to a downward spiral for all concerned until someone cracks and starts demanding a better world order.
So, a walled off North America, with a rising tide of unrest and a lot of spare ammo and guns lying around the place, with increasing disenfranchisement and a leader who lives in (literally) an ivory tower who has no experience of the world he’s running. Sounds like the back story to The Hunger Games to me.
Never mind the reality TV approach to making kids duke it out for favours. Never mind the alienation of districts untouched by outside influence for generations (more Lou Reed: “inbred piglet mutants with cloven hooves”) that are happy not to have “the wrong people” moving in, even if they bring money and jobs and new ideas and better food.
And then there’s the hair.
I like to think that during The Hunger Games novels the rest of the world has continued to prosper and has found some form of harmony without US interventionism. Periodically we look over The Wall (possibly from our orbital facilities) to see how they’re getting on. We might view them as a kind of sociological experiment, like an ants nest, and feel sorry for the individuals but really, we can’t help them until they help themselves.
I may be overthinking it of course.