Society today is filled with individuals looking to consume as much as possible. We lament frequently about how social media is taking over our lives. Some of us are angered when we look upon the time wasted from binge-watching the latest series on Netflix. Now pair this with the “foodie” phenomena that has swept through our nation. We are constantly looking for the next entertaining story and the next five-star restaurant. I too have fallen victim to the rush of endorphins I receive from Knowing I can immediately watch the next episode of the new show I have discovered. My taste buds and my brain are stimulated by the thought of all of the potential restaurants filled with stunning menu items I can try.
Like any indulgence, I wonder what is the cost of a lack of moderation? After all, I do believe in many situations moderation is for cowards. Life is meant to be lived and when you slow down you die. I agree that you should end life like a base runner belly-sliding into home to beat out a tag at the plate, standing up, brushing off and saying “WHOA WHAT A RIDE.” The question I constantly return to though is whether these indulgences distract us from what is truly important in life.
I am not the first person to contemplate this concept. In fact, two people much smarter than I brought up this concept. One as a reflection of the failure of a nation and the other as a warning of the potential cliff top, we are all racing towards like buffalo. The Roman poet Juvenal was the first to address this concept when he authored the latin term “panem et circenses” meaning bread and circuses. He described them as the two things only the people anxiously desire. This term became commonly known by the people of Rome to describe the willingness of their people to trade in a democratic Roman Republic for the autocratic Roman Empire it became.
Karl Marx described a similar concept when he coined the term Dominant Ideology. He used this term to describe the fact that a disadvantaged class (the proletariat) will accept that it is their fate to be unable to gain upward mobility. Or in laymen’s terms that the working middle class will forever accept that they are the working middle class. It makes sense if these concepts are confusing to those of us who do not have a background in sociology. Fortunately the Hunger Games series puts these theories into a more modern view of the dystopian society we can potentially fall into.
In the Hunger Games series, characters who live in the capitol have willingly traded in their freedoms to allow the government to make any and all decisions. They do so in order to ensure their life centers around food and entertainment. Characters from the Capitol were noted for going to extreme lengths to appear as fashionable and indulge as much as possible. They were always tattooing new makeup on their faces, having plastic surgery, and changing their hair color. They openly served a drink at parties that would force guests to vomit in order to consume more of the “splendid food” being served. They would watch and cheer as the lower class members of their society killed each other in a gladiator like arena.
We should point out that these two concepts were brought up by a poet from hundreds of years ago and are exemplified by a series of novels that exist in a mythical dystopian society. Yet, I often wonder if we are in the middle of falling off of that same cliff that trades in freedoms in order to focus on the two things we anxiously seek. Food and entertainment (panem et circenses). Is our willingness to trade in our data privacy rights to corporations across the world for increased ease of life a step in the direction of trading in our freedoms? At what cost do we engage in such actions? I think we need to consider the potential demise of our nation when we trade in such freedoms and information about ourselves. I recently heard a quote on the Tim Ferris Show that provides a great take on our current situation in society.
Big Brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always distracted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed.Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby
This is the issue we face when we only concern ourselves with finding the next show or meal we can drool over. The time spent on such an endeavor forces us to turn a blind eye to the world around us. Our country is engaged in the longest international conflict in our history. The Speaker of the House of Representatives in our country has made her intentions clear to launch a Presidential impeachment inquiry. I don’t bring up these points to be negative or to say that one side is right or wrong. I bring them up to ask the question, are we as a people failing to take action?
The ability to gain upward mobility in society, the need for an appropriately elected democracy, and the success of our nation all depend on one thing. The actions of individuals. It is the individual citizen who is responsible for taking actions to achieve objectives they believe are best for our town, state, and nation. If we put as much effort into the episodes we stream and the restaurants we try, America will forever remain the world’s super-power. If we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted by bread and entertainment, our elite status will surely perish.
American’s are not willing to be sheep marched off to the slaughter. The history of our nation, the actions of our ancestors, and the willingness to do right in the world are a legacy we should be proud of. It is not easy or comfortable to obtain upward mobility or take actions that will benefit the group at the sacrifice of ourselves. As a people we must find strength in the history of those citizens who have gone before us. We must take actions to create the world we want to exist for our children and grand children. No one else will do it for us. If they do it will not be the world we desire.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.