Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.
~ Roman poet Juvenal in Satire X, circa 100 A.D.
This poet was frustrated with his countrymen for neglecting their civic duties—relinquishing their power to the privileged elite—to instead focus only on panem et circenses: bread and circuses. They only cared about food and entertainment.
Suzanne Collins draws a startling parallel between our society today and the dystopian one of The Hunger Games trilogy: we may not have pink hair or dyed-green skin or gold eyeliner, but too often, our primary focus is what we will eat and how we will amuse ourselves. In the books, it’s easy to judge the superficiality of the Capitol people: their devotion to fashion and entitlement to rich food is laughable.
But if someone who grew up in say, Rwanda were to enter your home, wouldn’t he or she be astonished at the ease and perhaps even idleness of our lives? In The Hunger Games, Katniss is awed when an elegant meal appears at the push of a button. In District 12, whatever filled her belly tasted good to her. Our kitchens aren’t so different from the Capitol’s dining rooms, with our snacks in the pantry and a microwave to warm frozen meals or leftovers. It sickened Katniss that the Capitol people derived such joy from watching kids kill each other. But wouldn’t an African, many of whom have witnessed loved ones dying of disease and violence, be likewise disturbed at our affinity for gory movies? Death is often entertaining in our world, too.
Let’s face it: Our country today is more like the Capitol than it is the Districts. But we can still be as brave as Katniss and as determined as Gale to start a revolution.
First, forget about fashion and food. They’re not important. Picture the beauty of a wildflower swaying in the breeze or the grace of a bird gliding in the sky: that’s how we will appear to others when we forget about worldly cares and just focus on being who God made us to be.
Next, find a way to use the talents and opportunities God has given you to do good, because when you have nothing to do, food starts to seem like the most important thing. Proverbs 19:15 says, “an idle person will suffer hunger.”
Katniss was far from idle, but she focused only on her physical hunger, causing her to miss the point: she was hungry because her government was cruel, and needed to be changed. We must understand that we have a battle to face each day, not one against hunger or hunters, but against the evil powers of the world (Ephesians 6:12). If we choose to focus only the day-to-day details of food and clothing, we’re failing to put on our armor, and instead becoming a spectator in the war between good and evil.
This battle is for real, and it requires volunteers, just like Katniss, just like Jesus. The devil, on the other hand, is like President Snow. He wants us to stick to our roles: to either focus on our daily struggle to survive, like the people of the Districts, or our next meal and fashion statement, like the Capitol people. Defy him. Take on the spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind” that God has given us (2 Timothy 1:7). Don’t let our privilege rob you of your power to change your world.