FYI

For fans of Girard and/or The Hunger Games.

Comments

  1. Very interesting. I haven’t read any Girard, but I have read The Hunger Games. Because that’s the type of Thinker I am.

    I get confused about the “scapegoat” concept as applied to the Crucifixion/Resurrection.

    • notrelatedtoted says:

      I think what he is getting at is that Christianity does not make “the other” the scapegoat……rather, it takes the sin upon itself.

      • It’s partly that, but also the fact that as priest/victim, Christ provides a sacrfice which is both eternal (historically once, sacramentally every time the priest confects the Eucharist) and perfect – himself sinless yet taking on the sins of the world – because God would accept nothing less than someone as perfect as himself to atone for man’s sins. Therefore by taking the sins of the world upon himself, Christ provides the perfect scapegoat. Then by surviving the suffering and death, his scapegoat, instead of being let loose into the desert to expire, comes back, cleansed of our sins – affording us an opportunity to do the same. Thus, while sinfulness requires a scapegoat, in grace, the scapegoat has been made obsolete. Baptism. Eucharist. Confession. etc.

        Is Christianity the only faith that makes that claim? I don’t know. I always wondered if perhaps that’s what Girard was getting at…

        It came home to me in a recent mission at our parish that the suffering Christ underwent would have been no different from that of anyone else being crucified during Rome, Inc., but his suffering was increased to a shitcrazy degree by taking on the sins of each soul who has ever lived, the weight of those countless sins’ damage to the framework of the universe, the weight of their guilt, etc.

        Who knew that so much utter “nothingness” could cause so much suffering?

        At any rate, if you haven’t, see Father Barron’s “Catholicism” series. I haven’t seen the whole thing yet myself, but I’ve seen enough to say that it’s THAT good.

        JOB

  2. notrelatedtoted says:

    I recently discovered that my two oldest (12&11) had blown through the Hunger Games trilogy, so I picked up the first one to see what they’ve been up to.

    Now that I’ve finished the first one, I think I would have preferred they wait a couple of years to read them. But to be fair, my son has read more WWII history than most people I know, so maybe these books aren’t all that much of a step up for him. At any rate, there’s some fertile ground for discussion.

    The article intrigued me because it’s impossible to read the book without thinking of the Romans feeding the early Christians to the lions. The difference is that the “otherness” of the protagonists is purely political, rather than religious. Matter of fact, there’s no religion or spirituality in the story at all (at least in the first book). In this way, Nazi Germany becomes a closer analogy (or any other fascist regime, really) and perhaps makes the story more troubling.

    It’s really the only “adolescent fiction” I’ve read – I’ve skipped out on Harry Potter, Twilight and whatever else it is that kids read these days. I don’t think it’s written from a Christian perspective, but I think this book might be fun to discuss with teens alongside LOTR, Narnia, et al.

  3. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    Why isn’t Quin taking the bait?

  4. I saw the movie on Tuesday, started the book yesterday morning, and finished it last night. I had jury duty, so granted I was sitting in a quiet, windowless room for the greater part of yesterday, but still, the story was such a wild ride, I couldn’t put it down. The writing wasn’t half bad for young adult fiction (I couldn’t get past the first page of Twilight — I have plenty of high school students who write better than that), and I found the romance to be very believable.

    I’m a little bewildered though about how the story is being lauded as something that promotes “family values” and “family bonding,” and things like loyalty and selflessness and such, considering it is about people murdering each other. I would think a good teaching point here from a Christian perspective might be (and I’m just taking a stab here): If you have a choice between starvation and murder, you should starve, because murder is a sin, and starvation isn’t. Murder, even if you’re doing it to feed certain people whom you love, is still murder. But maybe that’s just me. And that kind of book probably wouldn’t have me turning pages, I must admit.

    There were plenty of thematic threads in the first one about war and violence and I can’t wait to see how, in the rest of the trilogy, the author teases them out. I hope she does. I’ll be reading the next two books for sure, this time before the movies come out or (who am I kidding?) probably by Monday.

    • notrelatedtoted says:

      “I’m a little bewildered though about how the story is being lauded as something that promotes “family values” and “family bonding,” and things like loyalty and selflessness and such, considering it is about people murdering each other. I would think a good teaching point here from a Christian perspective might be (and I’m just taking a stab here): If you have a choice between starvation and murder, you should starve, because murder is a sin, and starvation isn’t. Murder, even if you’re doing it to feed certain people whom you love, is still murder. But maybe that’s just me. And that kind of book probably wouldn’t have me turning pages, I must admit.”

      That struck me as well – I think it strikes a chord with conservatives because the story takes place under the auspices of a totalitarian regime. I think that creates a danger too read to much into it. On the one hand, Katniss does commit some significant acts of self-sacrifice for the sake of her family and . On the other, there is a whole lot of situational ethics built into the story. It reminded me of all those dumb lifeboat-type questions.

      *********SPOILER ALERT*******

      The most troubling part for me was the near suicide at the end. Wouldn’t it be better to force them to kill you (and perhaps create an even greater affront to the Government) than to off yourself? There are many other instances where I think the protagonists could have said “non serviam,” but I like how the story makes that part of the struggle.

      • Yes, I’m hoping the intensity of that struggle will increase in the next two books. So far, I see it as a decidedly non-Christian book, though, because survival is presented as the greatest end.

        Yes, Katniss can be presented as heroic because she is just “doing what she has to do” and, unlike the Careers, not buying into it in her heart. But she is still participating. It made me want to go back and read Merton’s Letter to an Innocent Bystander:

        “Here we stand, in a state of diffuse irritation and doubt, while ‘they’ fight one another for power over the whole world. It is our confusion that enables ‘them’ to use us, and to pit us against one another, for their own purposes. Our guilt, our deep resentment, do nothing to preserve us from a shameful fate. On the contrary, our resentment is what fits us most perfectly to be ‘their’ instruments. How can we claim that our inertia is innocent? It is the source of our guilt.

        Is non-participation possible? Can complicity be avoided? You in your country and I in mine – you in your circle and I in my monastery: does the fact that we hate and resent tyranny and try to dissociate ourselves from it suffice to keep us innocent?”

        • Cubeland Mystic says:

          E and ~T

          When I read “decidedly non-Christian book,” two ideas pop into my mind.

          First, the author intends to ignore Christian realities because it is irrelevant to the story.

          Second, the author purposely excludes Christian realities to show how things might play out in its absence.

          I have not read the book, but I saw the movie, and it seems to me the absence of Christianity makes it Christian. It is sort of like the Dark Night, you tend to think more about God in his absence than you do in his consoling presence.

          • True.

          • notrelatedtoted says:

            I would take issue with the “decidedly” part. I agree the book is non-Christian, but can’t speak to the motive or level of intent.

            That said, intended or not, one of the questions I plan on raising with my kids is where Katniss finds her sense of right and wrong. I suspect that the “morality” of the book is driven largely by the characters’ material needs. Although Katniss’s instinct to survive isn’t pure self-interest, it still comes down to providing food for her sister and her mother. And of course, a large part of the story is kill or be killed.

            Of course, Collins doesn’t have to explicitly impose a clear moral framework to tell the story. I would argue that any such moral framework is largely missing from LOTR (perhaps assumed or implied, but really not discussed), and the story works just fine. But what is interesting here is that the characters are trapped in a moral quandry….obviously uncomfortable with the choices available, with little time to consider their options. Thinking about it and reflecting on Father Barron’s article, the only way out is some sort of radical subversion of the current order.

            Or maybe it’s just a situational ethics wankfest. WHEN CAN WE EAT THE CAPTAIN?

            • notrelatedtoted, I think you must be a good parent.

              Also, who’s Ted?

              (Unless your name means “notre lated toted” and that’s some kind of Latin thing that I misunderstood.)

        • notrelatedtoted says:

          I like those questions about non-participation, and thanks for the Merton quote.

  5. Cubeland Mystic says:

    SPOILERS

    In the movie we also have Katniss crying after Rue is killed, and why the flower memorial, and the three fingers?

    Here is another angle, I don’t have a lot of time to think through it but there is a great deal of competition for education. Kids are competing for resources. School as a means to an end. Some of the kids will have a bigger ending than others. It’s all about scholarship money and someone has to win and someone loses. In this case loss isn’t loss of life but loss of that dream scholarship. This is very minor and probably falls under the category of social commentary. But social commentary is in there big time. Hope this makes sense kind of rushed.

    • Cubeland Mystic says:

      Another thing to consider is how one thinks about things in the face of death or deprivation of moral and material resources.

    • notrelatedtoted says:

      “In the movie we also have Katniss crying after Rue is killed, and why the flower memorial, and the three fingers?”

      As for the crying, I think you can easily take a humanist position and just say there’s a recognition of a shared struggle, etc.

      The flower memorial IS interesting. Such a memorial is almost always indicative of a belief in an afterlife. I’ve been wondering about that part for a while, particularly (1) the fact that the Capitol covered it up; and (2) it was important to Katniss and viewed by her as an act of rebellion.

      • The State tries to convince us that there is glory in murder. The Hunger Games were set up to instill fear in the populace, and to remind them of the State’s power, so they don’t forget, but also to cater to the worst instincts in us all: We want OUR guy, OUR team, OUR people, OUR nation to WIN. We want to be victorious, to conquer, to assert our power, our dominance, to subjugate others (thank you Y chromosome!…ha ha…kind of.)

        Katniss is moved by the death of her friend, who is supposed to be her enemy; specifically, she is moved to pay her respects, because she recognizes that the only proper response to the death of this human being is grief. Not celebration. Not happiness. Not pride. No matter the context. Rue being dead means Katniss is that much closer to “winning,” but Katniss has a conscience and refuses to glorify or revel in the death.

        That scene was extremely moving. I was reminded of the corporal works of mercy: to bury the dead. Respect for life means respect for the body, whether dead or alive, and treating the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. If you honor the body in death, you send a message that the body of a human is something sacred, even if the life inside is gone. This is something each of us feels, knows in our bones, whether Christian or not. This message of the sacredness of the body is the exact opposite of the message that the Hunger Games tries to send: that a human body is nothing of any significance and can be used by the State as a pawn in their game and can be disposed of in any way at any time at their will, even for mere entertainment, even pleasure. Beautifying the body with flowers, grief, feelings of affection and loss: Where is there room for any of this in the Hunger Games? Katniss makes room. And that is her act of rebellion.

        It is a beautiful scene because Katniss acknowledges and demonstrates to those who are watching the unspeakable: that her “enemy” was not, in fact, her enemy, as she was informed, as “they” tried to get her to believe. Her enemy was NOT her enemy but her sister, her friend, her neighbor, who deserved nothing but love. This is something Christ tells us. If only we would listen.

        The only proper response to the death of a human being is grief. Katniss makes a small effort to acknowledge this. She doesn’t, however, go so far as to understand that it is not only the humans we have personal affection for (Peeta, Rue) that we should protect and grieve the loss of. It is not only our family and friends that we should respect, honor and love. We should love our neighbor and, yes, even our “enemy.” That’s where it stops short.

        This all brings to mind a question:

        Why could we not care less if our soldiers in Iraq kill five Iraqis on a given day (extinguishing life!), but if our soldier piss on their dead bodies, the country erupts in moral outrage? We are shocked, appalled.

        In the Hunger Games, people are allowed to – encouraged to! – murder each other, but eating each other’s dead bodies: well now, THAT is not allowed. It is the one and only rule in the Games.

        It is a careful line for the State to walk: We mustn’t expose savagery for savagery.

        (Disclaimer: Written after one beer.)

        • Cubeland Mystic says:

          What kind of Beer?

        • Ellen,
          Y chromosome? Did you not see Mean Girls? (ha, ha – kind of.) The Idols of the Tribe are by no means sex-specific.

          We don’t care if Iraqis are killed – to the extent that we do not care – because we are at war with Iraq – to the extent that we are at war with Iraq. But once they’re dead, they’re not in the war anymore. Pissing on the dead is a further act, one we deem barbaric even if we approve the killing.

          I haven’t read the book, but I did see the movie. And Rue was very much her friend, as in, someone who helped her and cared for her and shared her goals. It’s not like she made flower memorials for the people whose deaths she caused.

          • I knew that Y chromosome thing would rankle someone. Yes, I saw Mean Girls, but tricking someone into eating high-calorie nutrition bars is not quite the same thing as deadly physical violence. I’d venture to say that those with a Y chromosome are naturally more likely to find appeal in shooting, raping and blowing shit up. I mean, does that even need to be debated? I have the entire history of the universe on my side! Even the Pope said that if aliens do exist, they probably won’t come attack us unless they have Y chromosomes. (Fact!) But gender stuff is sort of beside the point. (Peeta, after all, had qualities that were very classically feminine – just like Jesus!) Speaking of attacking…and while I’m on my soapbox…(prepare for diatribe, but I assure you it’s not a drunken one)…

            We were never at war with Iraq. It was a “war” on “terror,” remember? We were at war with “terrorism.” The Iraqi people were never “in the war,” so I find their deaths, especially in such atrocious numbers, to be hard to so casually dismiss or accept. Maybe if their country had attacked us, all Iraqis could be said to have been “in the war,” but we attacked them. We invaded their country. Let’s not forget. (“Never forget!”)Even IF they HAD attacked us, civilians are never to be considered “in” ANY war. They are always off limits. Killing them is never just. And 100,000 Iraqis died, and most of us didn’t bat an eye. All 100,000 Iraqis were not armed combatants and were not “terrorists” or “insurgents” or whatever other label the press wants to give “the enemy.” For the sake of argument, I’ll give you 500. Let’s say 500 of them were trying to acquire a dirty bomb to come blow up New York, because ”they hate us for our freedom.” That’s 0.5%. Why should we not care about the slaughter of 950,000 people, most of whom were, let’s be honest, innocent civilians, but we care about soldiers urinating on five dead bodies? I still don’t get it.

            Killing is barbaric. War is barbaric. That is the irony about the cannibalism thing in the Hunger Games. If you train someone to kill, you are training them to be a savage, to go contrary to their nature, so you can’t be surprised when they start performing barbaric acts. I quote/steal something written by a friend:

            Even soldiers do not take kindly to war. After World War II, studies by the U.S. Army showed that between 80 percent and 85 percent of soldiers never fired their weapons at an exposed enemy in combat. Chris Floyd:

            “Many times they had the chance, but could not bring themselves to do it. They either withheld their fire altogether or else shot into the air, to the side, anywhere but at the fellow human beings—their blood kin in biology, mind and mortality—facing them across the line.

            This reluctance is even more remarkable given the incessant demonization of the enemy by the top brass, especially in the Pacific, where the Japanese — soldiers and civilians — were routinely portrayed by military propaganda as simian, subhuman creatures fit only for extermination.

            Yet even with official license given to the most virulent prejudice, even with the sanction of a just cause (self-defense against aggression), even with the incitements of mortal fear, of grief and anger over slain comrades, even with all the moral chaos endemic to warfare, U.S. soldiers killed only with the greatest reluctance, in the direst extremity.”

            Throughout World War I, soldiers in opposite trenches would often reach informal “no shooting” arrangements. Artillery was fired at precise points, at precise times, to avoid casualties on both sides. If a misplaced mortar hit the opposite line, the offenders would shout an apology to prevent a retaliatory strike. On Christmas Eve in 1914, British and German soldiers in Flanders met in “no man’s land” to exchange gifts, play soccer, and celebrate Mass together.* During the Civil War, Confederate and Union soldiers would fish from opposite sides of the same river and would meet up to exchange newspapers and other goods. In the Crimean War, enemies actually drank together. In the Peninsula War of the early 1800s, enemy troops fraternized at times in between the fighting, sometimes drawing water from the same wells.

            After World War II, the military used psychological manipulation to raise the “firing rates” of U.S. soldiers. After the Christmas Truce in World War I, troops were ordered to restart hostilities under penalty of court martial. In subsequent years, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to prevent the troops from going hippy. Troops were rotated up and down the trenches to prevent them from forming bonds with the enemy.

            War proves the exact opposite of the Hobbesian worldview. Rather than keeping men from reverting to savagery, the State must keep them from reverting to peace and cooperation! Hobbes would say that society functions because beasts have been trained to act like men; in truth, war functions because men have been trained to act like beasts.

            Yes, Rue was her friend. But the friendship itself was subversive because they were supposed to be enemies.

            *Not every soldier approved of these arrangements. One that disapproved was a young strapper named Adolph Hitler. Apparently, Hitler was no fun at a party. Who’d a thunk?

            • Whoo hoo! Here we go!

              You wrote:

              “Yes, I saw Mean Girls, but tricking someone into eating high-calorie nutrition bars is not quite the same thing as deadly physical violence.”

              Granted. But what you wrote in reference to the Y chromosome was not about deadly physical violence. You wrote:

              “The Hunger Games were set up to…cater to the worst instincts in us all: We want OUR guy, OUR team, OUR people, OUR nation to WIN. We want to be victorious, to conquer, to assert our power, our dominance, to subjugate others (thank you Y chromosome!…ha ha…kind of.)”

              What you mentioned in regard to the Y chromosome was wanting our side to win and the other side to lose. As you yourself noted, those worst instincts are in all of us, XX and XY. That’s why I mentioned the Idols of the Tribe. Tribalism is a natural tendency, and runs pretty easily to denying the humanity of those outside the tribe. There’s a fair amount of history backing that one up, just as there is a fair amount of history backing up your claim that men tend more easily toward inflicting lethal physical violence. Ladies attended lynchings same as men.

              As for Iraq, I was not making personal claims. You asked why a person might be sanguine about the death of an Iraqi and then get upset when a soldier urinated on the body of that dead Iraqi. I was offering an explanation of how that could be the case. I was careful to use the qualifiers “to the extent that we do not care” and “to the extent that we are at war.” Certainly, as long as there were Iraqis attempting to use lethal force against American soldiers, there was an armed conflict that felt like war on the ground – that can be granted without making any claims about the justice of the invasion or the nature of the conflict. (It is true that war was never declared, but it is also true that the military operation there was authorized by Congress.)

              Also, your initial post made no mention of civilian deaths, which are, as you note, problematic in an entirely different way that the deaths of enemy combatants.

              The friendship with Rue was not subversive. Even the bad guys formed alliances – and Tucci’s tone in mentioning that indicated that it was an accepted part of the Games.

              I haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak to the cannibalism question too closely. But I can say that I don’t find the prohibition ironic. The Games are, first and foremost, a media event. Lethal violence is good TV. Cannibalism is not.

              The wartime examples you cite are powerful and worthy of reflection. But it is also worth reflecting on the notion that those same men who fished on opposite sides of the river were willing to slaughter each other wholesale in combat and treat each other abominably outside of combat (Andersonville comes to mind). It wasn’t all training.

              • Okay. But I don’t understand your overall position or point.

                • No overall position or point. Just particular responses to things you wrote. The thing I really wanted to respond to was the claim that the friendship with Rue was subversive.

                  • Oh, come on. Really? No opinion or view of the Hunger Games with regard to Christianity or anything else? I’m not buying it.

                    • Nobody here but us critics. But I will say that the Guardini quote that Percy uses at the opening of The Last Gentleman seems a propos: “We know now that the modern world is coming to an end…at the same time, the unbeliver will emerge from the fogs of secularism…He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces of the very Revelation he denies…Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world, but the more precious will be the love that flows from one lonely person to another. The world will come to be filled with animosity and danger, but it will be a world open and clean.”

              • Re: Rue. I don’t think the bond was so much subversive as it was normal – probably what you are getting at by citing the natural tendency toward cooperation than killing. Older girl taking care of younger, especially after younger girl saved older’s life. Motherly instincts combining with a sense of justice. But it’s not like Katniss ever promised Rue she wouldn’t kill her in the end. THAT would have been subversive – the way the stunt with the berries at the end was subversive.

                Surely, part of the delight of The Hunger Games was precisely the fact that it was children being made to kill one another, instead of adults who might be able to better steel themselves against their own actions. In light of that, a bond of affection between two girls would not be subversive so much as wickedly delicious.

                • Could it be normal and subversive at the same time? I think so, if the environment they are in — which is totally artificial (like most wars) and totally unnecessary (like most wars) — is an abnormal state of affairs. In that case, what IS normal and natural subverts the game, whether it is meant to or not.

                  • Well, I’m arguing that the normality of bonding is part of the Game’s perverse delight. Yeah, the viewers who enjoy friends killing friends are perverse, but I don’t think the Games are subverted by it. If anything, their awful splendor is heightened. Not just children, but friends!

                    • p.s. Again, just imagine if she had done the flower bower for both Rue and the one who killed Rue (and who Katniss killed in response). THAT would have been subversive.

                    • cubeland mystic says:

                      Ellen

                      I was reading at work, so I was not reading you closely. I have to go back re-read everything.

                      One thing I did get out of the film, and I was going to comment on it earlier, is that it was a hobbesian reality portrayed in the Hunger Games. The kids even formed alliances as I think most Hobbesians would predict.

                      What was contra-Hobbes was Katniss’s “alliance” with Rue. It was more like a dependency where Rue was dependent on Katniss. In a Hobbesian world there would be little utility in it for Katniss. That is my impression from the movie. The book might be different. In the movie Rue was good for pointing out the Wasps, and then taking care of Katniss after the stings. In that particular situation she needed a killer on her side, not someone who could do chores. The book might be different. It seems to me that under Hobbes Rue is a dependent, hence keeping her around is a liability

                      I am not really following you or Matthew. Are you disagreeing with each other or pointing out subtle variations on the same theme? I took your Y chromosome comment as a reference to war’s brutality, and some men are savage, but you preceded it with the all inclusive “we”. I don’t disagree with you, nor do I think you are making an exclusive claim about men . . .”We want OUR guy . . .”

                      Your aniti-war soapbox is pretty good too. I’d have to hear more of it. One of the most subversive things Jesus said was “Be not afraid”. As I grow older I see the way fear is used to manipulate. Ultimately taxes and extortionate healthcare costs are the terror weapons of our society so far right now. It is not so far fetched to believe that we are manipulated into projecting our fears onto enemies so clever people can draw attention away from their exploitative action here at home. Be not afraid is very liberating. If you are afraid you allow yourself to be subjugated. This is a huge topic. Hope I am making sense. Earlier today I was too busy to write now I am too tired. Loved both of your exchanges.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

            Men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction.

            • I love those movies!

              Still, despite all that,I’m glad the Y chromosome isn’t going anywhere soon.

              I recommend the documentary Why We Fight. You can watch it on YouTube. Turns out the reason is a lot more complicated than Y chromosomes. (Shocker!)

              “I find it sometimes amusing when people ask me, what do you work in, and I would say explosives …[she laughs]” — Anh Duong, Defense Scientist…woman

              The last line in the film, by Karen Kwiatkowski, pretty much sums it up, I think.

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                Maybe the Y chromosome is not disappearing… but even if it is, life, uh, finds a way.

                Thanks much for the tip on Why We Fight! It sounds like it might be a good korrektiv to Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts, which I read around this time last year.

                Coincidentally, three days ago, my Army-officer kid brother called to say he’d managed to get through 2+ months of agony and graduate Ranger School. (He lost 20 pounds in those 2+ months — a real-life Hunger Game.)

                Same brother also, a few years ago, gave me his thoroughly-read copy of Dave Grossman’s On Killing, which made the same general point, and used some of the same evidence, as you and Chris Floyd cited above about humans’ powerful reluctance to kill.

                Thinking about my brother, and Anh Duong, and Viet Dinh, I can’t escape the thought that the role of Vietnamese Americans in post-Vietnam War US national security and/or imperialism would be a topic worth studying. How does one apply for a grant? Does anyone here know? (How to do it successfully, I mean.)

                • cubeland mystic says:

                  Hi Angelico

                  Please tell your brother congratulations that I admire and respect men like him, and that I am teaching my children to do the same. His efforts are no small accomplishment. Also pass on my appreciation and thanks to your parents for helping to form such a great young man.

                  If he wants me to complete his training let me know.

                  Ellen he might be single.

                  • Oh, yeah, that’s all I need Cubeland, another boyfriend I have to try to convert. So I don’t include the below text to be argumentative or disrespectful or…anything like that. This whole thing has actually been the source of a fair amount of pain in my personal world since the fall, when I published my book; it’s been on my mind a lot, so I don’t take it lightly. I myself have a lot of mixed feelings, I have had people very close to me who have served in the military, and I know what good people they are. It’s all very sensitive. But as I was typing my note to Angelico, this popped up in my email inbox, from a friend, and I feel compelled to share it. Given what day it is and all, and what we’ve been discussing in this comments thread, it seems apropos, and I hope, Angelico, that you won’t find it offensive or combative…or anything like that. I share it out of love, an earnest concern for truth and for the whole world.

                    Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!
                    Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
                    Behold: your king is coming to you,
                    a just savior is he,
                    Humble, and riding on a donkey,
                    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

                    He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
                    and the horse from Jerusalem;
                    The warrior’s bow will be banished,
                    and he will proclaim peace to the nations.
                    His dominion will be from sea to sea,
                    and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9: 9)

                    “Although Mark does not allude to the text, the entrance into Jerusalem (11:1-11) is such a clear echo of Zechariah 9:9 that hardly any interpreter doubts that a reenactment was deliberately intended. The Messiah king appears as meek and lowly, riding upon an ass, without the trappings of royalty and the panoply of war; he is the very antithesis of the conquering political and military hero.”

                    Rev. John L. McKenzie
                    Light on the Gospels, p. 95

                  • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                    Cubeland, thank you.

                    From the too-little I get to see him and hear from him these days, I can tell my brother has tremendous love for his comrades, and he proves it through actions. Whatever else he may be, he is a suffering servant.

                    Regarding the teaching of your children: A lot of the enlisted soldiers come from dysfunctional homes, so my brother must try to supply through his own words and example what they didn’t get while growing up. As a father yourself, could you please pray that he gets a share of the same grace God is giving you to be a good dad?

                    You could probably teach each other a few things about physical privation and psychological torment. Wish he were here now to have that discussion.

                • More than worth it, I would say. That would be a fascinating topic. I applied for a Fulbright once. It wasn’t that hard, but I don’t remember that much about it. I think the idea of that one is that you have to go overseas. Might be worth looking into though if you could include some travel to Vietnam. Your Army-officer kid brother sounds like a pretty tough dude. I hope he stays safe. (Why does he fight?)

                  • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                    Thank you very much, Ellen — and Cubeland Mystic, too. Please do join me in praying that my brother will remain not just physically, but morally and spiritually, safe.

                    Why does he fight? Well….

      • ANOTHER THOUGHT: That frightening moment in the Republican debates when the audience cheered after Perry announced how many people his state had put to death during his tenure. Cheering? Yes, cheering. Sends shivers up my spine.

        • I don’t like that moment, either. But I don’t think they were cheering death. I think they were cheering justly exercised authority. I think they believed that the death penalty is a kind of ultimate foundation of justice, and that its exercise was an affirmation of that principle. But I wasn’t there, so this is just conjecture.

  6. Matthew, did you remove the reply button so you could “get the last word”? Clever! But I just subverted that with this very post.

    I so have to go to bed, but…

    I must ask: So what DO you make of the flower memorial? I know you don’t see it as subversive. How do you see it then? (And I know you’re not trying to posit anything here, just critique my flippant remarks, but I can’t let you get away with that!)

    If it wasn’t subversive, then why did the Capitol refuse to air it?

    And even notre lated toted said: “it was important to Katniss and viewed by her as an act of rebellion.”

    If you don’t think it was an act of rebellion against “the message that the Hunger Games tries to send: that a human body is nothing of any significance and can be used by the State as a pawn in their game and can be disposed of in any way at any time at their will, even for mere entertainment, even pleasure,” then what was it? (Yes, I just quoted myself.) Or do you think it was rebellious but not subversive? I guess that’s possible.

    I disagree with and was surprised by the “chief lesson” at the end of your review. But that could start a-whole-nutha convo re: writing and audience and questions I have for you, Matthew Lickona, Catholic, critic and cultural observer, which may have to wait until we perhaps meet in person.

    (If you respond to this and I don’t write back, that doesn’t mean you got the last word, okay? It just means I went to bed, okay?)

    • Ellen,

      I fear you have a mistaken impression about the Korrektiv. No one here has any interest in the last word, except maybe Cubeland, and then only in the sense that the last word is the last Word. The lack of a reply button has apparently been placed by our overlords to warn against tediousness.

      I haven’t read the book. In the movie, there is no mention of Katniss’ intention for it to be a rebellious act, nor do I recall any sign that the Capitol refuses to air it. It struck me as a sweet space for grief, emotion, and humanity amid the fear, adrenaline, and barbarism. But it didn’t seem subversive.

      I stand by my assessment of the film, which took care to hammer home how many things had to go Katniss’s way for her to triumph, how many people had to step in and help. I really liked it. The film did not pretend that the world was on her side – quite the opposite. But neither did it pretend that she could make it on her own if she just believed in herself. Without Peeta, without Cinna, without Haymitch, without Rue, without the big dude who saves her life… she’s dead. Human community vs. the inhuman State – subversive!

      • Also, emphasizing the necessity of aid from outside was a nod toward the necessity of grace in a fallen world. Parachutes from heaven, indeed.

        • Just joshing about the last word stuff. I figured that was the deal.
          Well, I’m just surprised that you see that as the MAIN takeaway, that’s all, considering everything else that is going on in the film. I mean, yes, it’s nice that people help each other survive and form bonds and alliances, human community as you call it, but I don’t see that — which is completely normal and natural — as being subversive, let alone, particularly virtuous. I mean the “Careers” were helping each other too, but did that indicate anything more than a pack mentality and utilitarian mindset? “This one knows how to set mines, so we’ll keep him.” They turn on or abandon each other at the slightest provocation. Is that human community or just plain pragmatism? It’s hard to argue that the bond between Katniss and Peeta or Katniss and Rue is of the same stock. What sets it apart really is that moment with the “burial” and the flowers. True, she doesn’t do it for the other dead kid. True. But she does it for someone. That’s something. It was clearly an uncommon thing in the Hunger Games.

          And I still say that the reason it’s a threat to the games, and thus the State, is because it calls attention to the sacredness of the body. Not to mention, it is simply beautiful, and beauty is never really pragmatic. It exists for its own sake. Like Kierkegaard said, love for the dead is the purest of all loves, because they can’t give you anything in return. One would be hard pressed to argue that Katniss decorated the body with flowers because she hoped to win gifts from Rue’s District. And speaking of gifts…

          She received them by playing the game: manipulating the audience with false displays of emotion, putting on “a show” that caters to their base instincts and superficial, sentimental notions. Is that kind of “help” from a “community” subvert the game? I would say that kind of “help” is all part of the game. It can’t possible subvert it. Yes, the audience wants to root for a “winner,” some who shows skill and cunning and promise, but they also want her to kiss the boy and fall in love. She learns, and then does what she has to do to extract from them what she needs: She gives them what they want. All of the gifts are given only conditionally. Conditions: She must perform well, have a high chance of success, keep people enthralled with her (“Here we are now, entertain us!”), and worst, win their sympathies through manipulation, catering to their basest instincts, which, I would say, is the exact opposite of grace. God does not bestow grace based on one’s abilities to work well with others, skillfully manage the perceptions of others, and “make people like us.” That’s the thing about grace: There are no strings attached. The gifts in the Hunger Games, though they fell from above, literally had strings attached!

          But back to the flower burial moment.

          Two final thoughts.

          This from the end of the first book, during “The Bachelor”-style final rose ceremony, where she is brought out with Peeta to watch highlights from “her season”:

          “It’s like watching complete strangers in another Hunger Games. But I do notice they omit the part where I covered her in flowers. Right. Because even that smacks of rebellion.”

          This from the beginning of the second book, in reference to the double suicide:

          “All I was doing was trying to keep Peeta and myself alive. Any act of rebellion was purely coincidental.”

          I see Katniss’s act with the flowers as one of rebellion and subversion, though perhaps not totally conscious or intentional. It was more intuitive and instinctual. In the end what matters less is her intention and more the viewers’ interpretation or reaction, what they see in her act that maybe she didn’t understand herself. It is totally possible that she doesn’t fully understand her actions.
          She loves Peeta without knowing it (she is only 14 after all!), so perhaps she subverts the games without consciously intending to, without “knowing it,” but she does it simply by listening to her heart and acting according to what she “knows” is true. When the child cries out, “But the emperor isn’t wearing anything at all!” that child’s intention might not be to subvert, but the effect it has is one of subversion.

          STILL, I think a true triumph (according to the last Word) would have been an outright refusal to play the game, even better organized resistance. But I still have two more books, so I’m holding out hope…

      • notrelatedtoted says:

        “I haven’t read the book. In the movie, there is no mention of Katniss’ intention for it to be a rebellious act, nor do I recall any sign that the Capitol refuses to air it. It struck me as a sweet space for grief, emotion, and humanity amid the fear, adrenaline, and barbarism. But it didn’t seem subversive.”

        In the book, there’s a part where Peeta is wondering prior to the start of the games about how he doesn’t want the games to change who he is. This leads to a brief discussion of what he can do to communicate that message to the State as a minor act of rebellion.

        Katniss is confused by the discussion, and basically blows it off. Then, when Rue is killed, the light comes on and she adorns the body with flowers. She then notes that she wished she could tell Peeta that she now understands when he meant about showing the State that they can’t change who she is…..they can’t turn her into a pure murderer for their own entertainment.

        • Cubeland Mystic says:

          Fucken A right!

          And this is the power of art. For my children I will forever be reminding them that they are more than a commodity, and that they should resist the narrow vision imposed on them by the dominant culture. Christianity is rebellion.

  7. cubeland mystic says:

    I think I see the point where you guys are missing it and it is context. First, I think the relationship between Rue and Katniss was the ordered Christian relationship that folks seem to think is missing from HG. It is counter to the Hobbesian world view which would categorize Rue as a low value relationship perhaps even a parasite. In this context it was natural and not subversive.

    In the view of the state it was subversive, and even totally dangerous and led to a riot.

    Matthew, specifically your chief lesson at the end of your review. If you were raised in material and moral poverty it is a cruel blood thirsty world. If we examine our own lives and the lives of those we know who have “made it” we will see that there are indeed an awful lot of people providing an awful lot of help.

    • CM, it seemed to me that what sparked the riot was the gesture she made at the camera afterwards. THAT looked like rebellion – going over the head of the state and directly addressing her fellows.

      And you can’t call Rue a parasite when she comes up with a way for you to get out of the tree (the bees) and then saves your life after you’re stung (the leaves). Even from a Hobbesian view, she helped tremendously.

      • Cubeland Mystic says:

        I covered that she has utility in my reply. She also healed Katniss’s sting wounds. Neo-Hobbesians assign utility to everything. At some point she becomes a liability since she is the weakest except for Peeta who is a parasite when he is injured. What sparked the riot were all her behaviors prior to giving the gesture. It was the cherry on the top, if it were a random gesture with no prior Christ like activity no riot. Hence the whole the whole series kindness and humanity would be viewed by the state in the novel as subversive.

        I am using the opportunity to throw Hobbesians under the bus before they toss me into the ovens. I don’t think we are discussing the story so much as we are discussing how it relates to the real world. As I watched the movie it made me think about how the Hobbesians who want to socialize healthcare and the CERTAIN dehumanizing effects it will have. I see them as just as murderous and oppressive as this fantasy portrayal of a totalitarian state in the film/book. Make sense?

        • Yes, at some point Rue would have become a liability, since Katniss can’t win the games unless she’s dead. The flower bower does not deny that ugly fact. I take your point about kindness + gesture = riot, but I still don’t see how the burial is subverting the dominant paradigm. Katniss is a lovely person, but the I can see a regime like the Capitol holding a splendid funeral for an “ally” it knew it would one day have to destroy. Once the enemy is dead, it’s safe to heap them with honors.

          • Cubeland Mystic says:

            I see your point now. But I don’t think in that context loving burial was the appropriate response. The games are designed to make people forget their humanity, not remind them of their humanity. It showed her as a victim of injustice not the honored dead. I can’t say for sure but it seemed to me that that there was a brief scene where some of the technicians had tears in their eyes after the burial scene. Also in totalitarian minds deviation from the script is a capital crime. I think that is why the dude (Seneca?) had to commit suicide at the end?

            Are the tributes honored in the books, or are they fed to the beasts like in Roman times?

            I tend to project reality into fiction and fiction into reality so I am probably living in my mind right now.

            • I think yours (and Ellen’s) is probably the finer reading of the scene. I am a coarse fellow, and overly wicked.

  8. It’s all a big fat metaphor for the Civil War.

    It’s so obvious, I don’t even have to see the movie or read the book to know THAT.

    JOB

  9. Churchill says:

    Can I ask you a question. How funny do you think philosophers are? Are they better at pranks than one liners?

    • Quin Finnegan says:

      Depends on the philosopher, don’t you think? Look at Heidegger. He’s pure slapstick: “And your duty is to take the employment, and perform the tasks, in whatever manner the Führer of our new State demands.” Yuk, yuk!

      But then there’s Kierkegaard: “Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here? What is this thing called the world? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted? And If I am compelled to take part in it, Where is the director? I want to see him.” More of a running gag, I think.

      And that’s just a couple of existentialists. The hilarity of Plato and Roger Bacon … you’ll have to look that up for yourself. The pizza man is at the door.

      • Quin Finnegan says:

        Uh … yeah. That was an inside joke. In another post (Felix Culpa, above), Churchill was wondering what happened to the pizza man. Which itself is an inside joke, the gist of which is known only to Churchill and her stable of private demons.

      • Cubeland Mystic says:

        Quin
        Don’t you think Nietzsche is like Dr. Evil?

  10. No, Cubeland you did not hurt my feelings! I was amused. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

    • Oh, and by “a sensitive topic” I was not referring to your comment about me but about the whole military warrior versus Prince of Peace thing. Just to be clear. I’m off to read book two of the Hunger Games now….

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