THE MOMENT A TRIBUTE BECOMES A VICTOR
The years contemporaneous with the release of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari were like our own in many ways. In exploring differences, the one most people would cite would, likely, be technological advancement. True, the hydrogen bomb has served its purpose as “history’s exclamation point. It ends an age-long sentence of manifest violence,” according to Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore; though only for escalation unto death. But in another sense, that just gives people time to stew. The future may be here, but that also means those techniques of propaganda, mind control, and what used to be called ‘subliminal messages’ are only being perfected more and more.
Caligari was filmed in December 1919 and January 1920 and premiered February 26 in Berlin. In 1918 Oswald Spengler released his influential The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization.
Socialist and Communist parties were attempting to take power in the wake of the war. In 1919 the Versailles Treaty was signed, a treaty that was later vilified by Adolph Hitler as a shame against German pride. On January 5th 1919, 500,000 people participated in a spontaneous demonstration known as the ‘Spartacist Uprising’, claimed by the Social Democrats as part of their movement. It was quelled by the army and national militias. On the same day the political party that would later be transformed by Hitler into the Nazi party had its first meeting.
The United States, during the course of their involvement of the war had adopted, first the Espionage Act of 1917 and then the Sedition Act of 1918, curtailing rights dealing with anti-war movements, protest, and free speech.
Rosa Luxemburg, author of “Reform or Revolution”, in 1919 was executed by right wing assassins.
Through 1923 and 1924, The United States bailed out the ruined German economy to stabilize the mark in the face of hyperinflation. Thanks to Article 48, one of the clauses of the Weimar constitution, which said they could issue emergency decrees if the republic were in grave danger, the German government was allowed to pass emergency legislation that helped them to cut through red tape, in order to stabilize the mark. Interest rates quadrupled. Taxes were raised, especially on farmers. Those who had taken loans at the old currency rate, now had to repay them in the ‘real’ currency. Following the stabilization, in a period that came to be known as ‘the rationalization movement’ German businesses fired male breadwinners, men with children who made higher salaries so they could hire single women for the sole reason that they were paid much lower wages. “What was effective economically, proved to be highly destabilizing in a social sense, and in a political sense as well,” according to historian Thomas Childers. Unemployment was high, there was a high rate of bankruptcy, and a serious agricultural recession.
In 1923 Hitler and his cronies attempted an overthrow of the Weimar government in the infamous ‘Beer Hall Putsch’, a laughable attempt at an overthrow which resulted in the arrest of Adolph Hitler and many others. However, he used his subsequent public trial as a grandstand to defend himself and speak his views, to diffident applause. Reluctantly they acknowledged him for his outspoken views on the damages done to Germany after the war and his thoughts on the way she could be returned to greatness. He was good at gaining converts based on his emotional appeal to people’s fears and weaknesses, their shame in embarrassment. The Nazis were the only party who advocated the country spending its way out of the depression, wrote Childers.
In an era of pernicious media there is something worse than what is seen. And that is what is ignored. Such is what The Hunger Games represents.
“Media blindness” is a game of overlap and it is ignorance. It comes in many forms. Whenever media interferes with the message, you are media blind. But what about intention? What about self-reflexive art?
Whenever the content takes advantage of the media, to conceal a hidden message, there is a potential for blindness. Whenever you don’t realize the potential for media blindness, there is the potential for media blindness. Whenever a medium is so prevalent that it conceals the obvious thought even coming to the surface to embrace other media, like the supersaturation of television and the internet over books, that is an epidemic of media blindness. It “used to be” called being dazed. Or stupid. Or in bliss. Or ignorant. But those are just words concealing the fact that it is media blindness.
In a world overrun with media blindness, one can only hope those who ‘run the media’ (when it’s felt at that point of being so separate from us; true dystopia), will pity us with moments of reflection, like for Katniss, when she remembers her true purpose, the real reason she has inside her, when she turns on her futuristic window TV in her bedroom in the Capitol training facility, which automatically tunes itself to the nature channel. (Of course, that probably wasn’t the programmer’s intent, it was probably just… the odds being in her favor.)
But that’s bullshit. Because the way we are talking about media here, is in a pantheistic religious way. This is the mode in which we view media today. And unfortunately, the fact that Donnie Darko (2001) had to stand up and face the drawing on the chalkboard where he was confronted with the spectrum between ‘Fear’ at one end, and ‘Love’ on the other, meant that the filmmaker, on some level, felt that that message was as important as Donnie’s response.
You blink, and there’s a revolution. Or you blink, and you missed it. Something will fill the gap.
MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR
Only when you realize that the hunger games is the actual state of the world, and that victory means dying, alone, will you recognize that also, you may believe, as some contest, the impossible statement that the framing device added to Caligari had nothing to do with German politics. The Hunger Games, is the fevered dream of a madwoman. It is the tale of someone who has broken from actual reality, and dreamed up their interactions into a grand narrative explaining why they are in a war-of-all-against-all. Their explanation is that, somehow, there is a privileged position of status to be had that is to be gained by those who can rise above the slaughter, through slaughter, to reach their benevolent level of care, although these invisible elites initiated that very slaughter.
So, may the odds be ever in your favor. May you escape the inconsistencies of this nightmare. Or, may things strange, obscure, and oblique, penetrate the haze that all this generates. Even the words I speak, may you see through them to the truth I am not speaking. May you escape the very conditions of your birth and roam freely in the countryside away from all of this. May God have mercy on your soul. May you be able to generate the truth out of the fiction, and simply know. You need to know. There is an enemy, and it is not your friends. Of course there is no enemy, how could there be. And revolution is an everyday affair.
In an alternate universe, I am sure some civilization celebrates a different version of this story, where that tall blonde punk kid, I think his name is Marvel, who was all about winning the games, who came from the district that raised their children to be warriors, well, things would have turned out differently for him. He went to his war without a blink. He stepped into the tube and as soon as the clock counted down, ran into the center of the chaos because he was going for the big ass sword, no one would stop him, and he was going to slaughter all comers.
And though in our version it is told that Katniss killed him, with her strong-armed friend Peter, there is another version that is remembered in song and legend.
I am sure that in the alternate universe with its sanguine sketch, this individual is allowed to triumph. And as victor, he would take his winnings, he would feed his district, but more than that, he would start there and go on to change the fucking world.
In his personally designed paradise, whereas in our version he alone would be awake, in, I’m sure his eternal kingdom of boredom, his dream would be to rather be slain by the pretty, earnest girl and be eaten by the human faced monsters in his regrets, had he only the chance… in the world I’d like to see, he might dream himself another tale.
Scott Thomas Smith is a St. Louis writer who has an unpublished novel and an unfilmed screenplay to his name, and a few stories around the web. You can find out more about his work and read most of it at his homepage, http://www.theneonheart.com. He is currently and for the foreseeable future working on an old-school role playing paranormal/cyberpunk/detective video game called ExXception Draft using $20 “RPG-Maker” software, which he hopes will be the first ‘great American novel’ of sorts in the video game medium. For more info check out exxceptiondraft.tumblr.com and keep up with Scott on twitter @theneonheart.