When the biggest of my little brothers read The Hunger Games his main complaint with the story was that it was not realistic. Obviously, The Hunger Games is a fictitious trilogy. My brother’s problem was not with the idea of a game show wherein all the contestants are trying to murder each other, nor with the unbelievable advancements in medicine or cosmetics, nor even with the invisibility-enabled hovercrafts. His argument against the story was that the world would never and could never reach a place so completely devoid of Christianity in particular and religion in general.
The lack of religion is something that is surprisingly common in tales like The Hunger Games and it never fails to bug me. Fiction, whatever else it does, ought to reflect truth, and while post-apocalyptic stories often have interesting truths to reveal about people and society, they do tend to strike out on this one point. The world comes to a screeching halt, and people have little or no control over what is going on. Throughout human history, such a situation would induce people to go running back to God (or gods) and yet, in the majority of these stories, people ditch religion completely. To top it off, most of the time, religion seems to be dumped primarily because the government outlaws it. Right. Because governments have always been so very successful at squashing out religion.
Realistically, humans are not capable of existing without religion. We have to believe in something, whether or not we like to admit it. In removing religion, the author removes a massive part of what makes humans human. Without religion, the stories stop making sense. How can you fight for what is good if there is no way to figure out what good is? How can you fight against evil, if you cannot say what evil is? Somehow, authors whose task it is to reflect truth through their writings, overlook these disconnects without batting an eye.
Last weekend, my parents and I attended the 22nd annual Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference. This conference gathers together some of the farmers who have dedicated their lives to working away from the conventional methods of farming toward methods that are sustainable, organic, natural, less hazardous to the farmer’s health, etc. For the most part, the persons presenting at this conference were farmers, and many of their talks were on dealing with the considerable number of problems that they have to face (things like how to get rid of bugs if you can’t use poison, or how to cope with the insane number of government regulations that make it harder and harder to sell products that are good for people without getting arrested). For the most part, the people attending this conference are fairly small farmers. They struggle, they work hard, and they hope when all is said and done that they came out a little ahead in the finance department.
Considering this, it was slightly surprising that one of the two main speakers at this event was a man from Detroit who organizes community gardens in underprivileged neighborhoods. He is also a vegan. His talk, mainly on the importance of eradicating racism in the food system, included mention of the inherent evil of capitalism. The keynote speaker at the closing dinner was a doctor, president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, who asked the question, “Why should farmers have to stand up and say ‘I feed America, I have worth?’” She compared farmers of today to sanitation workers of the late 1960s. Both speakers had some good points to make, but the fact remains that neither of them could truly speak from the point of view of most of the people who were attending the conference. Neither of them could be impacted by government regulations that threaten to cripple sustainable farmers. Neither of them has to deal with watching their livelihood die in the field through some unexpected catastrophe. In short, they were deeply disconnected from the conference attendees. To have them speak at this particular gathering would be roughly the equivalent of having the headmaster of a good private school speak at a homeschooling convention. There would be elements that overlap, but many more elements would be at odds with each other.
This disconnect at the SSAWG conference really does not seem like a big deal. At the very worst, it might result in such a rift between the SSAWG organizers and the SSAWG members that the conference ceases to draw people in, and the whole thing falls apart. However, this disconnect, like the one between reality and post-apocalypse fiction is just another manifestation of a disconnected world. We have, to begin with, the separation of church and state. We draw an absolute line between truth and fiction. We separate leaders and followers, home and work, Sunday and the rest of the week, children before they are born from children after they are born, producers and consumers, life and death. We have become so good at compartmentalizing the various areas of life that it hardly even catches our attention. We don’t stop to think about it at all.
During a SSAWG class on holistic animal healthcare, the presenter stressed the idea that the goal when raising animals is to achieve a state of harmony—to get the animal to a place where its mind and body are in tune with its environment. Although that sounds a bit goofy it means, essentially, that the animal isn’t stressed out and that it is thriving on what it has to eat. It’s a simple enough idea, but the flipside is that in this system of harmony, any one thing that changes will change everything else.
This is also true for people, even when we pretend it isn’t. Even small things that happen can affect enormous changes. To ignore the way that one area of life affects all the others is to perpetuate the disconnections that abound. For instance, the keynote speaker asked why a farmer should have to defend his worth to society. If one considers everything, however, it is quite clear that at this point in time there are very, very few persons who do not have to defend their worth. If unborn infants only have worth if they are wanted, then why should they be any different after they are born? When looking at everything as connected, the causes and the symptoms become clearer; the bits and pieces of life all tied together with spiritual strings.
It is unlikely that people will ever really hit a state of harmony here on earth. However, as long as we maintain a state of disconnect, packing each aspect of life into its own compartment, there is absolutely no hope of it. We have, instead, a work of fiction that fails to capture truth, and which, therefore, leaves all the most important questions unanswered.