Sparrow’s review of Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2) > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Sep 15, 2009 12:37PM) (new)

Trevor It warms my heart when I see someone take the red pill (sorry, vague Matrix reference) - I'm not sure there is any going back once you start to see that the world is flawed in that way. There is no question we (we citizens of societies of power) are as morally responsible for the horrors of the third world that are allowed to continue mostly by our inaction as those were during WWII who let Hitler do what he wanted to the Jews. And it is worse still in our case as we don't even have to share the fate of those born in the third world if we speak up. Speaking up in our case is cost free, and we still don't do it - how morally reprehensible is that?

Great review, by the way


message 2: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Thanks, you guys!

Trevor - Matrix metaphor forgiven. Speaking up is always such a struggle, though, because it takes a lot of work to put your money where your mouth is. I also go back and forth about whether to think of life as war or not. Derrick Jensen is very persuasive about this (and Suzanne Collins is, as well): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e75I4y... . It is not my calling to blow things up, but I do not think that using violence makes someone like Hitler. I think that people can use the same tools, but be on the polar opposite sides of an argument (see the youtube clip at 5:50). The tough thing about that is that obviously persuading people is preferable to using violence. I've started referring to climate change as Giant Snake Attack because of this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/opi... .

Abigail - I adore the Underland Chronicles. Hunger Games is different, but it still has the brilliant subtlety she uses to discuss really serious and relevant political issues. I never feel like she's transparent with her message, either. All of the political implications in what she says come to me later when I'm thinking about the books or reflecting on my reactions to them. She's so faithful to the stories, even while she brings in the huge topics. As usual, I totally agree with the Pullman quote. Kids' books are wonderful.


message 3: by Trevor (new)

Trevor Loved the clip - wonderful stuff


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review, Meredith. I have the first book in this series on the way to my house, due to your review. (Also, Giant Snake Attack = climate change? This is a *great* term for this. Maybe we should bring zombies too? Giant Undead Snake Attack? Brrr, I just scared myself.) I don't have time right now, but I will be checking out the thing about America's blood sacrifices. Sounds really interesting...




message 5: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Giant Undead Snake Attack = EVEN BETTER!! People are sure to start paying attention. I recommend the Stanford lecture over the article, if only because the article has that brown background that makes me fall asleep. I don't know how to post a link to an iTunesU lecture, otherwise I would. Also, I seem to be having trouble with all the links in this review. *sigh* Hmmm. Should I do my homework, or obsess about links on bookface?


message 6: by Buck (new)

Buck This is really good stuff, Meredith, and fully deserving of my vote, but it's time to stop the voting ping-pong madness. Plus, I just voted for Ceridwen's latest thing and, well, I'm getting self-conscious about the frequency with which you two appear in my updates. People will talk.

Okay, now I'm being gay. You raise a lot of really serious issues in your review and here I am reflecting on my voting patterns. I'll try to think of something more relevant to say. In the meantime, do your damn homework already.


message 7: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Homework done-ish. Oh, no wait. Nevermind. Oops. Even if you just vote for us because you're afraid we'll beat you up, that's okay too.

Anyway, Ceridwen, now I'm worried about you reading Hunger Games that the shallow character development will be off-putting to you. Hope not!


message 8: by Eric_W (last edited Sep 16, 2009 06:35AM) (new)

Eric_W Terrific review. I fear I will have to read the books. My daughter (YA librarian) has been promoting them wildly. The Derrick Jensen video was interesting, but not totally persuasive. I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War (went to a Quaker school), but I wonder if pacifism and civil non-violent disobedience aren't, in fact, the most effective way to confront power. Let's not forget that Tecumseh lost. He also doesn't address the issue of collateral damage.

PS Thanks for the reference to the Standford lectures. I discovered a whole bunch of other interesting stuff there!


message 9: by Sparrow (last edited Sep 16, 2009 10:50AM) (new)

Sparrow Yes. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful woman. I agree about Derrick Jensen. The other big issue I find him not totally persuasive about is how he seems to think that the destruction of civilization is the only answer. I think both of those points for him are primarily about identification, though. He makes a lot of arguments about how we don't take seriously how destructive industrialization really is, because if we did, we would make more of an effort to stop it. Like the Giant Undead Snake Attack analogy. Because we identify with civilization, we can't think of it as our enemy. I think it's a good point, but I'm not prepared to abandon civilization entirely because of it. I'm hoping for a better solution.

At the end of the Endgame lecture, he does say that people should do what they feel called to do to help people and nature, whether it be filing lawsuits, or growing rooftop gardens, or blowing up dams. But he says that his point is that people who grow rooftop gardens shouldn't judge people who blow up dams. At the same time, I think it's not too much of a stretch to use that argument for bombing abortion clinics, so violence still seems futile in a lot of ways. As Operation Ivy says,

Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! oh... we're so stupid!
Killing each other, don't we learn nothing?!

Gotta room inside our mind, yeah we gotta
We can't see out because we're blind, but it goes to show
We've gotta make ourselves dream, alright
From the room without a window to a different way to see."


I'm glad you like the Stanford lectures! There are some really great classes.


message 10: by Eric_W (last edited Sep 16, 2009 11:26AM) (new)

Eric_W Meredith H. wrote: "Yes. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful woman. I agree about Derrick Jensen. The other big issue I find him not totally persuasive about is how he seems to think that the destruction of civil..."

The big problem I find with the environmental movement is that it's a movement of and by and for the rich. Only the wealthy can afford to purchase organic food and shop at Whole Foods. Instead of focusing on providing clean water (something doable and well within our means) the focus is on something amorphous like global warming. The Sea Shepherds, instead of helping to find an alternative form of employment that would pay more! than whaling, prefer confrontational tactics that really don't help the whales but get themselves on TV. I didn't see them taking on the U.S. Navy for its use of sonar that may be doing more damage to all whales rather than just minkse (sp?) whales. Derreck is selling thousands of books which use paper which destroy forests. There has to be some middle ground, but the desperately poor people of third world countries can't afford to be environmental. Let's focus on raising their standard of living instead of preserving ours. (Sorry, I preach too much.)


message 11: by Buck (new)

Buck I’m just spouting off here, but is it possible that a secularized form of horny-for-Rapture millenarianism has migrated into the environmental movement? What seems to animate SOME activists is not so much a desire to save the earth as a desire to get rid of all those damn, dirty people with their Wal-Mart-bought gewgaws. Of course, this would be a minority view within the movement, even a perversion, just as Stalinism was a perversion of communism – but it was a logical perversion nonetheless (notice that grossly unfair rhetorical sleight-of-hand there? See how I did that?)

Obviously, mindless consumerism is neither pretty nor sustainable. But is a full-scale reversion to hunter-gatherer communal living really the best option on the table?

BTW, I listened to the Jensen lecture and, sorry, but that guy’s a whack job. I can agree that pacifism is an intellectual luxury — Orwell said the same thing in the context of WWII. But what’s even more luxurious, more decadent, is complacently inciting terrorism from the relative safety of a lecture podium. The day Jensen, with his own hands, disembowels one of those evil CEOs he likes to vilify, I’ll cut him some slack and at least grant him the courage of his convictions. But until he steps beyond that ethical pale, I see no reason to take him seriously as a thinker or a revolutionary.

It should go without saying that you're still one of my favourite people around here, and if you started blowing up dams, I'd try to understand and maybe even help smuggle you across the border. But that guy Jensen really creeps me out.



message 12: by Sparrow (last edited Sep 17, 2009 12:12AM) (new)

Sparrow Buck wrote: "It should go without saying that you're still one of my favourite people around here, and if you started blowing up dams, I'd try to understand and maybe even help smuggle you across the border."

Awww. Ditto, I'm sure . . . although people never really talk about smuggling people from Canada to the U.S. I'm not sure why. It must be all that expensive food we get at the Whole Foods. This is all a little redundant to my review of Walking on Water, but, Buck, did you get to the part in 30 Rock where they're making the porn video game and Tracy Morgan asks Frank to tell it to him in Star Wars? That clip is kind of the same as the other, just different translation. Sorry for the weird graphics. Just picture that Frank made it. Also, I feel surprised if you consider creepy fully bad with all that communism on your list. I kind of think that's part of his charm.

Eric, I'm not exactly sure how to respond to what you're saying. I guess I'll bring it back to Catching Fire as an example, but it might be a little obvious or plodding. Sorry about that. So, the people in the capital import all of their goods and are only trained at specialized or luxury jobs, similar to how the U.S. (like many developed nations) is becoming. The people who make all of the goods and grow all of the food for the capital are oppressed and starving. So, to go out of the scope of the book but back to real life, what if the people in the capital had the option to buy their food and other goods in some alternate way that did not involve oppressing the other cities, but cost a little more? I think that's the human rights/environmentalist argument to buying slow foods.

I agree that water is a huge problem, but unfortunately the water problem is often caused by industry or U.S. military intervention (like the case in Iraq in the Gulf War). It seems like a shallow solution to treat the symptom (although I would never argue that treating the symptom isn't absolutely necessary at this point), but ignoring the cause of the symptoms. I can't speak to the Sea Sheperds, and sonar is definitely an important issue. I guess to that I would just say that I am more culpable for doing nothing about that than the Sea Sheperds.


message 13: by Buck (new)

Buck The porn video game episode is classic. But I still say Jensen is a nutbar. It must give him great comfort to think of Western civilization as a Death Star. That would certainly make killing those who disagree with him a lot easier.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

. . . although people never really talk about smuggling people from Canada to the U.S. I'm not sure why.

So, latter day Michael Moore kind of makes me want to punch him in the balls, but did you ever see the TV Nation where Mike found a bunch of unemployed Canadians, and they ran across the border holding hands? Almost as good as Yaphet Kotto trying to get a cab in NYC.


message 15: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow No, I never saw the TV Nation thing. That sounds really funny. Maybe I already said this in this thread, but I can't go back and check because . . . I just can't right now, but a couple of my friends and I have been trying to think of the left-wing equivalent of Glenn Beck, and all I could come up with was Michael Moore. I agree with a lot of things he says, but I always instinctively want to not agree with him. Or at least I want to pretend not to agree with him just to make him madder.

On a different note, we should do some bookface field trips - 1. to that place with the monument to the guy who invented the semicolon because that's soooo awesome; 2. to the border between Canada and the U.S., and we can just run back and forth playing red rover. It's pretty late while I'm writing this, so #2 might not seem like such a good idea tomorrow, but #1 will always be awesome.

I hadn't seen the Yaphet Kotto thing before. That's so annoying! Argh, people! Give other people a ride in your cab.

Finally, about the Death Star, I still think I instinctively feel like there is a difference between defensive violence and aggressive violence. And I think Jensen's ideas were directed more towards the Bush Administration than CEOs. Maybe Canada doesn't have the kind of passionate feeling about the Bush Administration that a lot of Americans do. Hopefully, the last election was enough of a peaceful revolution to get some shit done.


message 16: by Callie (new)

Callie Great review! Thank you, gives me a whole new appreciation for this book.


message 17: by Sparrow (last edited Dec 04, 2009 04:32PM) (new)

Sparrow Thanks, Callie! For some reason I have all these post-reading personal revelations with Suzanne Collins books. She's a gal that's totally my style. Who knows how much of it I just read into the story? :)


message 18: by treehugger (new)

treehugger Fantastic review, thanks for putting it all out there! You really nailed a lot of what I felt while reading these books, but got too busy to really sit down and fully experience it until reading your review...

She is pretty sneaky in showing the reader that while it's easy to feel morally superior to the people in the book who allow their economy to remain as unbalanced as it does that we are really no better at all!

I think an amusing trend in our quest to staunch our collective guilt is our willingness to fling ourselves into helping after a terrible disaster - like the earthquake in Haiti for example. Did those people have clean water or decent housing BEFORE the earthquake? Nope. Was Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, or ANYONE queuing up to get into Haiti to make good health care, clean water and safe housing a reality for these people before the earthquake? Nope.

Is Haiti the only place where even the most basic of human necessities is not available to most of the population? Nope. See: Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, MUCH of sub-saharan Africa! Are we all rushing around, arms a'flailin' to get those people what they need in the absence of a giant media frenzy?? The vast majority of us are not.

It is the disconnect between the Reality of the third world and our experience of the third world (through the media) and finally our generalized cultural "shrug, waddaya gonna do?" attitude that makes us the bad guys. Somehow I think our self-congratulatory responses to disasters make us even more repugnant. How can we go on living with ourselves after reading Suzanne Collins!!! :) I vote for HER for that Massachussetts seat :).




message 19: by Sparrow (last edited Jan 26, 2010 08:16PM) (new)

Sparrow Umm. Jon Stewart/Suzanne Collins ticket for 2012 Presidential election anyone? We could make Nicholas Kristof the Sec. of State. Wow. Is there, like, a SIMS game where I can make that happen, or something? Life is so pretty on my computer.

I saw Sister Helen PreJean speak last night, and she made the same comparison you did with Haiti. She was pointing out how we are not, as a people, insensitive, but when violence is institutionalized by laws and religion it doesn't look like violence anymore. Her thing is the death penalty, and she's arguing now that even life sentences are torture as it is defined by Amnesty International. And that's even here in the "developed" world. I think that knowing what we believe about things really is a big step in changing things, even if it seems like nothing.

I follow Kristof on facebook and he's been in Congo this week. Yesterday, his post was pretty much exactly what you're saying, too:

I keep thinking of a little girl I met with The IRC here in eastern Congo. First her parents were killed last year, then the people who took her in. She saw it all. The outpouring to Haiti has been fabulous, and I'd love to see the same to other crises, including this savage war in Congo.


message 20: by Buck (new)

Buck treehugger wrote: "Was Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, or ANYONE queuing up to get into Haiti to make good health care, clean water and safe housing a reality for these people before the earthquake?"

As a matter of fact, both the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders were active in Haiti before the earthquake hit, as were hundreds of other aid organizations. Haiti's problems have always been manifold and deep-seated, but a lack of attention from NGO's was never one of them.


message 21: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow See, this thread is more your style, Buck. *gasp* That's why you're my friend, isn't it?! Because you think I'm loony tunes. sheesh.

Anyway, I think the point was they weren't queuing up before. When a disaster happens, like in Haiti, there's that sense of emergency and people coming together to help. In a lot of the other disasters, it seems like people just stand around trying to figure out whose fault stuff is. In reality, the natural disasters in the past years and the war in Congo are probably equally man-made, but the human activities that cause the natural disasters are a step removed from the actual harm. And the harm from the war is more gradual, so the bad-guy part seems more prominent in war and the victim part seems more prominent in an earthquake.

Agreed, though, that if we are going to point fingers, Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross are probably the least to blame of anybody.


message 22: by Buck (last edited Jan 27, 2010 04:28PM) (new)

Buck I wouldn't say looney tunes. Slightly unbalanced, maybe. But I also think you're extremely bright and terribly funny, if that's any consolation.

But to the point: there's lots of blame to go around for what's happened in Haiti, and I suppose we're all complicit to some extent. But let me bring the discussion around to a subject I know slightly more about: Canada's treatment of its native peoples. Living conditions on most of our reserves are appalling--a national disgrace. Whose fault is this? Well, ours, I guess. But why does it persist? After all, the government pours billions upon billions into social programs for natives every year, and nothing ever changes. Is there some conspiracy afoot to keep natives oppressed? I don't think so. The government is reasonably well-intentioned; mainstream Canadians are reasonably well-intentioned. I'd say the biggest culprits are the usual, shabby human ones: inertia, ineptitude, lack of courage, lack of imagination. And that goes for both sides.

So what's the solution for Canada's natives, and for places like Haiti and Congo? Damned if I know. I doubt anyone does. The system is intractably fucked-up. Some of that is "our" fault; some of it's "their" fault; but a lot of it's just the intractably fucked-up nature of reality itself. And there's only so much we can do to change that at any one time.

Well, would you look at this drivelling rant. Apparently I'm the unbalanced one. I take back what I said about you (except for the good stuff--I meant that).


message 23: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Oh, alright¡ If I can't be your witch doctor, I'll have to settle for being hilarious¡ I've been sick and haven't seen humans for a couple of days, and here it's got me online begging for compliments.

I'll give you that stuff's fucked up, but I'm holding out that it's not intractably fucked up. I think systems change all the time. Otherwise, I'm getting into all this debt for nothing, and that is just not an acceptable option.


message 24: by Buck (new)

Buck And now you're begging for sympathy, too! Well, fine, you've got it. And since you're feeling shitty, we can argue about this some other time (if that's what we're doing; I suspect our differences are more temperamental than political/philosophical and we just banter like this for the fun of it. I know I do).

Anyway, drink lots of ginseng tea or whatever your placebo of choice is. If you're wondering, I feel super awesome today. In fact, I'm heading out for a run to burn off some of this pesky energy I've got built up. Not to rub it in or anything.


message 25: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Dang! Way to call me out. I don't know what's come over me. No, I've been trying to pick fights this whole time I've been sick, and no one will bite. I'm glad you were here to give me what I needed to feel better. No ginseng, just some good back and forth on unsolvable human rights issues. I do love the banter.


message 26: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Hallelujah! I finally figured out what was wrong with those damn links.


message 27: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy Thanks for this review! I'm glad I'm not the only one to find Suzanne Collin's style to effect me to such a degree!


message 28: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow So, I was able to go to about half of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at my law school this weekend. One of the speakers was Maria Gunnoe, who is sort of a real-life Katniss. Her pictures about the mountain-top removal mining around her house are incredible. The video in the link above shows most of it. She also showed us this link where you can see how your area is contributing to mountain-top removal mining. Check it out you guys! I mean, I knew before that it was bad, but I guess I'm such a visual person that I needed the pictures.


message 29: by Manny (new)

Manny Great review, and I had exactly the same reaction to that part of Inglourious Basterds. It's very clever.

By the way, I haven't read any of the Hunger Games books, but I believe that the basic idea may have been copied from an obscure SF novel, Fred Saberhagen's Berserker Planet. Same kind of deal: an elimination tournament where gladiators fight each other to the death until just one is left, while effete rich people get their kicks watching. It sounds though like the Suzanne Collins version is a lot better.


message 30: by The Winter Rose (new)

The Winter Rose Excellent review. After reading both books, I had a very similar experience. And at the same point in the book. That scene when they are at the party really did make me stop and go "Oh shit... she's talking about us as a country... and she's right." I immediately felt so guilty and stayed that way as I read through the book. But I think books like these are important. She's posing so many important questions and showcasing vital themes that need to be discussed right now.


message 31: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Thank you! I think I was reading the book so quickly and my brain was so wrapped up in school, that I didn't even realize the application to real life until it hit me a few days later. So true and smart, and, like you're saying, important. Have you read the Gregor books? I think they're the same way. It's really incredible how she can create these comparisons and just be human about them, not morally superior or hypocritical in that way that always ruins a good analogy.

She's my hero. Can't wait for the next one. So far, yet so close! ;)


message 32: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Manny wrote: "Great review, and I had exactly the same reaction to that part of Inglourious Basterds. It's very clever.

By the way, I haven't read any of the Hunger Games books, but I believe that the basic id..."


I didn't get this post! Or maybe I did and it got clumped with other ones! Lame. Anyway, I think it's what has become the traditional "kids eat kids" story. Lord of the Flies and all that. I haven't heard of Berserker Planet. I know people compare it to Battle Royale, which I think is a ridiculous book. Anime bloodbath with no heart. It's true, though, it is the same story. Thinking about it, I think there's also something Greek about the story - like Oedipus and Electra. I'd hate to go head to head with Abigail on that one, because I'm no Greek scholar. But there's that voyeuristic aspect of the gore, and knowing the gore is inevitable because the oracle said so. Also, Titus Andronicus.

Really, Manny, you should read the books. I think you'd really like Collins. They, oddly, give me renewed faith in humanity after a good Twilight binge.


message 33: by The Winter Rose (new)

The Winter Rose Meredith wrote: "Thank you! I think I was reading the book so quickly and my brain was so wrapped up in school, that I didn't even realize the application to real life until it hit me a few days later. So true an..."

I haven't read the Gregor books yet. I will take a look at them. Thank you for the reccomendation.


message 34: by Kelstar (last edited Jun 18, 2010 04:36AM) (new)

Kelstar Good review. I don't think we all evil, but you do make some good points. I noticed it when I was reading the books too that our society definitely has some things in common with District 1. As Katniss puts it, all the silly things that are so important to them in their lives(no "" can't remember exactly what she said). It hit me too when they were all throwing up so they could continue to gorge themselves. There are people in our society who do that and it is terrible that we live in a society that pushes people to that. Although it is not socially acceptable like it is in the book where they provide drinks at parties out in the open that make people throw up. We have our share of followers and people who just accept what they hear, but there are plenty of people who think for themselves and fight back against injustice. Most certainly it is not a perfect world, but I guess the first step is caring isn't it?

I think it is part of what makes Collins book hit even harder those many small similarities we have in common with District 1 and it taking place in the future. It gives us something to think about the direction we are heading in. It's sort of a warning of how important it is to continue to question leaders and fight back and protest instead of stay silent, passive and uninvolved.

I know how you feel about how it disturbed you about yourself though. I could not help but think about how much time and energy I put into grooming myself and how important my little rituals have become. Putting on make-up every morning, shaving, plucking my eyebrows worrying about how white my teeth are and how my hair looks. It certainly makes you feel shallow and silly knowing what is going on around the world.

All that said I cannot wait until the next book comes out! I read both those books in the last three days.

Hopefully I'm not repeating anything I only read a few of the other comments. BTW Clarissa Explains It All is fantastic!


message 35: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Thanks for the comment, Kelstar! Sorry I took so long to respond. I've no excuse, except that every time I read your comment, I thought maybe I should consider what I think about it for a little while longer.

I guess, I don't think that we are all evil in the sense that we are completely evil, but I do think that most of us participate in some way in this system that is broken. And I do think, whether we actively participate or passively participate, that the participation is evil. Even using Katniss and District 12 as an example, the circumstances described in District 12 are not outrageously different than what actually happens in West Virginia today. The mountaintop coal mining there has devastated huge expanses of land, wiped out villages, and poisoned the population, but the corrupt legislature and judiciary won't question the coal companies. I do think that the first step is probably caring, but in many ways I think caring is useless and most of us don't really know what to do beyond that. At the same time, I don't really think it helps anyone for us to live unhappy lives for the sake of it or torment ourselves about things we're not doing anything about. I like action better.

Anyway, as usual, no solutions. Only questions. I'm glad you like Collins, though! She's wonderful. And Clarissa Explains It All FTW!


message 36: by Randy (new)

Randy I loved the review, M.

These threads have spawned so much intelligent discussion that my head is reeling.

I agree that we are all evil at heart to an extent...all the debate over the Gulf Oil Spill and who to blame...in a nutshell anyone who uses anything that is made from petroleum i.e. plastic, fuel, etc...basically everyone in industrialized nations.

Now, if we can get Collins to use the Gulf Oil Spill, Sperm Whales and what's currrently going on with the sun's solar flares we might just have another Apocalyptic masterpiece in the works.


message 37: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy As cathartic as white liberal guilt is, doesn't there remain a difference between collective and individual responsibility?

I haven't read the book, so I hope this doesn't get me in trouble (commenting on books I haven't read has become something of a habit this week and it hasn't been pretty), but let's say for example there were one or even ten individuals in the rich city who were completely self-aware about what was going on, and were totally dedicated to putting an end to it. What could they do? Well, nothing. The best they could possibly do is sacrifice themselves for the cause, and that would yield nothing if the collective were in opposition.

After writing it I guess that's kind of an obvious point, but I emphasize only because I don't think it's particularly productive to sit back and say, we all have to stop oppressing the third world! we all have to stop mountaintop coal mining! we all have to help Haiti! we all have to provide clean water for the Congo!

Because, frankly, I don't think I have to do any of that stuff. I haven't in my whole life oppressed even one third-world individual. Haven't mined not one single mountaintop. I don't even like coal.

Now, I'm not disavowing that I'm an active participant in a social system with sanctions these sorts of activities or collective results. But to a certain extent my participation is involuntary, in the sense that I didn't choose where to be born (as far as I know). I can disavow myself of this society as much as possible, but ultimately I have the personal prerogative to live and be productive (will to power, etc.), and unfortunately that means I can't spend my days gathering my own walnuts and rescuing chickens with their beaks hacked off. It's regrettable, but there's a compromise that must be made. I can be aware of this compromise, but I can't avoid it.

So what am I saying? That the individual is never responsible and so there is never anyone to blame for the effects of the collective and we're all doomed to sit back, blameless, as the world destroys itself? Well, maybe that's true. But I don't think that's what I'm trying to say. It's more like I'm saying that we have to recognize that these problems are buried structurally within a society which is of itself offensive and destructive. Inertia, like Buck said. The creature in whose bowels we thrive is by his nature a monster.

We need to step back and realize that the way you change the collective is by molding society. And the way you mold society is from within, through knowledge, through wisdom, and through technology. Think about it. If you had lived in the 1300s instead of the 2000s, you might have believed that society was destroying itself through overpopulation and filth. God, it must have been a terrible place. But the answer to getting out of the 1300s was not "stop having babies and clean up the streets." The (dystopian, viewed from today) conditions of the early middle ages were mitigated through advances in culture, religion, trade practices, and the germ theory of disease. How do we get out of the problems of today? I don't think the answer is "stop mountaintop coal mining." You're just looking at one consequence of something that is deeper and systemic. The answer is: evolve. We have to, as a world, become smarter, wiser, and we have to not sacrifice to the altar of anti-industrialism technological progress.

I don't know if that makes sense. I'm not trying to posit some enlightened or technological utopia. I'm just pointing out that viewed contemporaneously things always look pretty bad. But it's not necessarily the individual's responsibility to try and go around putting band-aids on every ill that the collective to which he belongs commits. Sometimes it makes more sense for that individual to compromise with that society and live his own life however small or big and try to make whatever difference however small or big as humanity plods along.


message 38: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow I completely agree. Derrick Jensen, for whom I'm pretty much a one-woman marketing team, was talking about what you're saying when I heard him speak. He says that none of us should try to conserve water individually by taking shorter showers or other crap like that until they shut down the golf courses in California and Arizona, which use these extraordinary amounts of water every day. He made the point that when we use toilet paper, it is not hypocritical, even though the people who make the toilet paper might be bastards, because it's the system in which we live.

I don't even really think that non-participation eases the conscience because there's always something more you could be doing.

I still think it's important to understand the system we live in, though, so that we can evolve into something better. I don't think it's practical when people say the solution is to revert to a tribal culture because I just don't think that will happen. I agree with what you're saying about how society always has forward momentum, and any solution that comes will probably be a new solution.


message 39: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Meredith wrote: "I completely agree. Derrick Jensen, for whom I'm pretty much a one-woman marketing team, was talking about what you're saying when I heard him speak. "

You certainly are gung-ho for this Jensen fellow. But Buck says he's a crank, so I'm skeptical. One day when I'm not doing math problems for money I'll have to check out the video or whatever you called it.

I don't even really think that non-participation eases the conscience because there's always something more you could be doing.

Right. And that's the slope. I start buying organic toilet paper and you say, "that's petty, it's not enough!" and so I buy a low-water usage toilet, and that's still pretty silly and vaguely scatological, so next thing you know I'm disavowing all consumer society and living in an unfurnished garage and barely keeping my job because I smell bad. And THAT'S not enough! Because now I'm just carrying out some charade of opting out without actually doing anything.

So I'm supposed to go out and "do" something, but why? What's it really going to accomplish? I take 10 hours a week to start a NGO to get clean water to turduckestan, and now I've sacrificed 10 hours a week of my life, of my ambition. But that ambition, that working within the social structures that I acknowledge as destructive, might have led in some small way to something more. To something creative or maybe just a cog in someone else's grander ambition. The unceasing churn of history's wheels.

This all sounds vaguely Hegelian, but the perspective sort of makes you wonder about the claims that we should all be working to provide clean water to turduckestan. I mean, I love the turduckens and I really wish they had clean water, but doesn't this end up missing a much bigger perspective in the living of lives, and in the whole blanket of human history? I dunno. I think it does.


message 40: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Isaiah wrote: "This all sounds vaguely Hegelian, but the perspective sort of makes you wonder about the claims that we should all be working to provide clean water to turduckestan."

I think these kinds of claims also presume that the turducki people are stupid and can't find their own stupid water. But I do think those arguments are different than the argument that we shouldn't support people who are taking water away from the turduckis. I also think efforts to bring water to turduckistan are linked with efforts to proselytize - whether proselytizing religious beliefs or economic beliefs. And efforts to proselytize, in my book, are ultimately selfish in that their purpose is to ease the conscience or create consumers.

Anyway, my point is that I do think it's different to build the wells (even though I don't think that's per se bad, by any means) than to just refrain from supporting people who are taking the wells away. I mean, if I go into a local store and the owner is awful, I don't want to go back, but how does that apply nationally, not to mention globally? I think part of this is that we are still so young and awkward in the global economy. And I can't reconcile myself to globalism where the jerkiest person wins.


message 41: by Sparrow (last edited Jun 25, 2010 01:42PM) (new)

Sparrow Isaiah wrote: "You certainly are gung-ho for this Jensen fellow. But Buck says he's a crank, so I'm skeptical."

P.S. Buck's just antagonizing me. It's his hobby. I don't agree with everything (ETA: a lot of things) Jensen says, and he goes a little noble-savage, which always bugs me, but I think he has an interesting perspective on property ownership.


message 42: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Meredith wrote: "turduckis"

Turduckens, Meredith. Christ you're culturally insensitive. How would you like it if I called you an Ameriquois?


message 43: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Isaiah wrote: "Meredith wrote: "turduckis"

Turduckens, Meredith. Christ you're culturally insensitive. How would you like it if I called you an Ameriquois?"


Oh, I am so embarrassed. Does this mean I have to turn in my liberal guilt card?


message 44: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow I would, however, like you to start calling me an Ameriquois.


message 45: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Jesus... you really hit the nail right on the head, don't you? Amazing review, you had me as riveted as the series.


message 46: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Wow, thanks, Stephanie!


message 47: by Daysha (new)

Daysha Meredith, this is amazing. I have yet to read Catching Fire (but I have read Hunger Games), and your words have said what I cannot. Thank you.


message 48: by trivialchemy (last edited Sep 06, 2010 12:43AM) (new)

trivialchemy I just re-read this whole thread on an iPhone screen, belligerently besotted, in a car, between Santa Barbara and LA.

It may be the best Goodreads thread ever. Meredith is smarter than god.


message 49: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Nice! Thanks guys . . . um, I think. ;)


message 50: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Thanks guys . . . um, I think. ;)"

Yeah, upon reflection, my naively effusive compliment does raise some sticky questions of theodicy that I wasn't really prepared to grapple with at 1 AM.


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