Tag Archives: Katniss Everdeen

Divergents, Outlaws, and Rebels: the Vigorous Dissident Essential to Social & Political Health

The tense struggle between law, justice, and freedom was not the subject nor even a significant sub-theme  of Homer’s Epics the Odyssey and the Iliad, nor of Vergil’s Aeneid nor the Epic of Gilgamesh, nor of the Ancient Maya Popol Vuh.  

Justice and Fairness/equity vs. Law and Order, however, very much forms a core subject of the new movie Divergent and up to a point the movie Veronica Mars which I have already just recently mentioned on these pages.  I find myself comparing these movies to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, but I cannot say that this competition defines movies, which concern mostly naked law and oppression divorced from any but the most cynical pretense of law or fairness—even the laws of probabilistic statistics being ridiculed in the refrain, “May the Odds be Ever in your Favor”…which is so patently false that a graffiti artist in one of the “Districts” writes more accurately: “the odds are NEVER in our favor.”

Veronica Mars, set firmly in the modern world of Southern California, indicts the police state as producing “the best justice money can buy” and similarly the prosecutorial system as responding more to the demands of “the court of public opinion” than anything else.  It also (and very accurately) belittles the world of “big money law” as serving no purpose but squashing the little man and his “frivolous lawsuits” against Fortune Five Hundred Clients…. 

Divergent, however, focuses our attention on other aspects of the current struggle.  In both Veronica Mars and The Hunger Games, family is portrayed as both natural and essential to survival, but the dystopian tyranny of the (current modern and future) American Dictatorships has not turned itself against the family, or dedicated itself to the destruction of human nature.  Indeed, in the Hunger Games, the future dictatorship of Panem capitalizes on human nature and human weakness, including family ties, to maximize its own power and control over the subjugated people.  

The three movie franchises have different regional roots and reflect their origins.  The Hunger Games is distinctly Southern, Confederate, and Appalachian in its cultural theory, including the matriarchal family structure and themes of tendencies towards racial segregation (Districts 11 vs. 12) fraught with intimate friendship (Katniss and Rue).  Veronica Mars expressly screams its California setting and cultural roots in almost every scene and dialogue sequence.  Divergent is set in the ruins of Chicago (which strangely look a lot like the current city of Chicago WITHOUT a major civil war).  (This just has to be the future American Civil War described/predicted by the propagandists for Chancellor Adam Sutler’s English Dictatorship in V-for-Vendetta).

I could be wrong, but I think that the association of Chicago with Divergent is very well thought-out and correlated with the socialist-communist background of the largest city in “the Land of Lincoln” (Abraham, that is, the Sixteenth and arguably the first covertly Marxist President of the United States, and a worthy forerunner to the current 44th President, also associated with Chicago and Illinois).  

The futuristic “Brave New World” of Divergent’s Chicago is a quasi-caste based society (divided into five broadly functional “factions” emphasizing not so much specific jobs or professions as “approaches” or “attitudes” in life—not entirely different from the Indo-European tri-functional society with subdivisions of each function, but not at all expressly Dumezilian in the way that Buffy or The Lion King were).  

In the “Divergent” world, the nuclear family still exists as the key reproductive unit but is frowned upon generally and entirely forbidden after puberty.  Life begins for “Tris”—the heroine of the movie, at a ceremony where she voluntarily chooses which to which functional faction she will belong.  This aspect of the future Chicago is much more benign than the Hunger Games, to be sure—there are no automatic annual sacrifices contrasting with great “movie-sports star” wealth in latter day Chicago…..  The only articulated motto of the Status Quo Establishment in Divergent is “Faction before Blood”, although the Dictatrix strongly suggests that suppression of human nature is the primary goal of government….

(Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World vision of a world totally without families, especially without mothers [aside from the State as Ur-or-Uber-Mutter], remains, thankfully, far in the future—although my former friend Jon Drew Roland, a false-flag, former freedom riding, and fear mongering “Libertarian” residing Texas, also with a Chicago connexion, assured me many times that “eu-social” social insect-like “Queen Bee” reproduction through the State apparatus is entirely foreseeable).   

The tension between law and justice, rules and fairness, legal and equitable values, seems to have arisen primarily because of the pronouncement of a vast inventory of laws Hebrew Bible, and the need for resolution of all doubts in favor of equity and fairness was first and perhaps best articulated by that noted Ancient Rabbi, thought by hundreds of millions around the world to have been the Messiah: Joshua ben Josef, aka Jesus Christ.  

The Kingdom of Israel & its secessionist spinoff, Judea, to both of which Jesus was allegedly the direct lineal heir, through the House of David, grew up in the southwest corner of “The Fertile Crescent” of the Ancient Near East, near the border of Egypt in northeast Africa.  The Nile and Tigris-Euphrates, with the Levant in between, were the two “cradles of civilization” in the Western World.  The Ancient Near East is famous for its early law codes, over which the Sun God Shamash (Sumerian Utu) presided, as an antecedent to Apollo in this role, but the division between rules and fairness seems to have only occupied a minor part of the Ancient Sumerian and Semitic Consciousness….at least until Jesus’ final year on earth. In Greece and Rome, “laws” were seen as the tools of the elite, while equity and fairness were seen as the pleas of the weak and defeated.  This is as apparent in Thucydides Melian Dialogue as in Cicero’s orations.  It was this world that gave birth to Jesus, of course, and his “equitable revolution” in thinking about Justice and Right.

In the history of world epics, after the Four Gospels, Dante’s Divine Comedy is the first to articulate the primary of law in the world, tempered with the concept of Justice, but Dante seems to have viewed Hell as a very legalistic place, with only the levels of hell discerning or distinguishing “levels” of fair or equitable punishment.  Ironically, it is hard to see the role of Christian forgiveness in Dante’s writings at all when he writes, in the Fourth Canto of Inferno:

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
fecemi la divina podestate,
la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore.

Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.

“THROUGH ME ONE GOES TO THE CITY OF SORROW,
THROUGH ME THE PATH TO ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME IS THE ROAD OF THE LOST PEOPLE.

JUSTICE MOVED HE WHO IS MY HIGH CREATOR.
I WAS MADE BY DIVINE POWER,
SUPREME WISDOM, AND PRIMAL LOVE.

BEFORE ME NOTHING WAS MADE,
SAVE ETERNAL THINGS, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER.”

Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire; Are Lies and Murder the Essential Elements of Human Culture?

The late Anthropologist “Cultural Evolutionist” Leslie A. White, is justly famous for his antecedent definition of “culture”, which may be loosely paraphrased as “man’s uniquely extra-somatic adaptation to the environment, dependent upon symboling.”   The late “Conservative” British PM during WWII, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (he had a great-grand niece named “Lady Diana Spencer”), is for his part justly famous for commenting something to the effect that men are the only creatures who periodically set out on campaigns of mass murder against their conspecifics for reasons only tangentially related to food and mating, the essential building blocks of evolution, if at all.

Preceding both White and Churchill was Sir James G. Frazer, the author of the 12 volume Golden Bough, “the mother of all” anthropology encyclopedias.

This week the beauteous Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in Catching Fire premiered in Los Angeles and happy I could be here to see it happen.  Suzanne Collins second book of the Hunger Games Trilogy is but poorly abstracted in the movie.  I’m not sure that anyone who had not read the book could really make sense of the plot.  The first Hunger Games movie provided a much more coherent summary of the written text, but luckily or unluckily that’s just not the point at all.  In some ways, spending two hours or so gazing at Jennifer Lawrence’s unique and unending deliciosity is quite enough but, after seeing the first movie some 17-20 times and reading and studying the trilogy intently for the entire summer thereafter, I have concluded and still believe that

The Hunger Games Trilogy is a brilliantly allegorical Revolutionary Text designed as a protest against the De Facto Reality of Modern American Statist (Degenerate Communist Realpolitik) “political reality.”    

Suzanne Collins officially states that her original inspiration for the story of the Hunger Games Tributes was the story of the Minotaur in Ancient Crete’s Labyrinth.  And this is quite on point and consistent with my own analysis.  The Minotaur mythically and allegorically recounted the historical transition from  rituals of human sacrifice to bull sacrifice to “game” among the ancient Hellenes.  Earlier this evening I was discussing Francisco Goya’s Tauromaquia series, and how this related to the story of the Minotaur and the Hunger Games.  (“Tauromaquia = tavromachia = “bull fighting”).  I feel I grew up with bullfighting in the Opera Carmen, in my years in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras,  Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain….although to be honest in all those years I never once attended a real live bull fight—call me a stuck up WASPY Prude, go ahead, I dare you…. but I think I understand that there is a strong emotional and psychological connection between games which involve ritualized murder and the risk of death…..the very story of the Golden Bough….

Or is it the story of humanity?  Are lies and murder the essential elements of human culture?  “Man’s uniquely extra-somatic adaptation to the environment dependent upon symboling… In that all symbols by necessity abstract reality in an arbitrary manner, are all symbolic expressions essentially lies?  Does all linguistic expression inherently falsify the real world?

Or are some lies worse than others?  The movie does not manage to portray the deviousness or the oppression of President Snow’s regime in Panem, or of the role the Hunger Games play in that reality.  But every element of politics in Panem is false and deceitful.  And the magic of Katniss Everdeen is that she possesses an emotional will to surmount the ritual combat, murder, and sacrifice for the sake of love…. So the Hunger Games seems to reduce life (by and with a marvelous array of symbols) to Freud’s abstractions of the forces of Eros and Thanatos—“Love and Death” (also the title of a marvelous movie by Woody Allen and Calvert Watkins’ selection of the primary elementary themes of all ancient myths and epics…)

Earlier this month I commented on Human Sacrifice in Africa—why indeed is Human Sacrifice—MURDER, so absolutely essential to human life and society?  If it is not essential, then why is it everywhere, universally and diachronically omnipresent?  In both Frazer’s original works and all spinoff commentaries, from Jessie Laidley Weston’s From Ritual to Romance to Gillian Feely-Harnik’s more recent commentaries, the question: WHY IS MURDER SO IMPORTANT TO HUMAN CULTURE? Remains unanswered, and yet clearly it is. 

Hollywood may be disgusting and degenerate in a thousand commercially successful ways (ok, possibly several million, actually), but it seems to reflect something real and genuine about the (quite possibly disgusting and degenerate) essence of human nature.  Hollywood could not make it through one week of television or cinema without killing off hundreds of people in more-or-less “true life crime” scenarios.  Why is that?   Why are all or nearly all religions, including everything from Christianity to Aztec Idolatry to the post-World War II “secular religion” based on the memory (or imagination) of the Nazi Holocaust, why are all human religions based on murder?  How many (if any) great stories can you think of which do not either focus on or center around one or more murders, unjust killings, senseless wars?  Can human culture exist without murder and deception?  Can human language exist without lies?

Oz: Mythic Power in the Power of Mythic Deception

Ok, my not so amazing prediction: “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” will not be nominated for any academy awards next year.  The new Oz comes out just over 11 and under 12 months after The Hunger Games (premiered March 23 2012) which is its ideological opposite: Hunger Games is a movie of the people against the government crowds are shown, but closeups of faces in the crowd are not cartoon snapshots of stereotypes—in the new Oz, all the common people are cartoon snapshots). 

Oz is a movie which not only glorifies but presumes that monarchical government and autocracy, a government of “Archons” is both natural and essential.  In Oz: the Great and Powerful, we see only the cartoonish choice between good dictators/kings and bad dictators/kings (reminiscent of the 1939 Glinda’s question to Dorothy: “are you a good witch or a bad witch?”)

“Oz, the Great and Powerful,” may neither be certainly a great or powerful cinematic event, but it is not a bad movie.  It is more than worth seeing and thinking about.  As a statement of political power mythology, it is closest (but superior both as a movie and as a dramatic contribution to mythic evolution) to “Batman, Dark Knight Rises”.   

As a Disney Production and product of the Magic Kingdom, Oz finds pro-monarchist, elitist ideological common ground with The Lion King (June 15, 1994).  But whereas world of Simba and Mufassa was elegantly pure Dumézilian structuralist mythology in support of the absolute monarchy of the lions, Oz merely celebrates Bush-Cheney-Obama low-brow dictatorship by deceit.  

Fair to say I enjoyed Oz: the Great and Powerful more than I thought I would given the almost universally disappointed/disappointing reviews.  It is true that the three witches are pretty much flat, two dimensional, and on the dull side even if they are more conventionally attractive than even Glinda was in the 1939 Classic and each is more beautiful possessing more sex appeal than Elphaba in “Wicked.”  But Elphaba is a MUCH more interesting character, developed with oh so much more depth and dimensions.

“Wicked” has ten to a hundred times more lasting mythological power as a post-modern statement of relativism than anything in “Oz, the Great and Powerful.”   But on the other hand, James Franco’s Oz is more realistic as a portrayal of conservative, monarchical values than Batman or Bruce Wayne was in the last installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy.  Oscar Diggs is not exactly Scar from the Lion King either.  He is really closest to any of the past four U.S. Presidents Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama.  His personality comes nowhere close to as engaging as Ronald Reagan or as articulate and humble as Carter.

There are really only three ways to portray political power in a story:  (1) as natural and necessary—so that the struggle is between good and bad “rulers”, (2) unnatural and not only unnecessary but oppressive and therefore evil—so that the struggle is between the people and the power structure, and (3) natural or at least “a given” —“always with us” (kind of like “the poor”) but essentially trivial and irrelevant.

Movies of the third type used to be fairly common in the American cinematic repertoire, but they have all but vanished in modern times.  The third type of movie was the “heroes ride off into the sunset” variety of “Western” or “rugged individualist” myth embodied and exemplified seriously as in (1) Casablanca, (2) High Noon, and (3)  The African Queen or comically as in (4) Cat Ballou.  

Recent years have seen Hunger Games and Serenity in the “Government is the Enemy” category pitted against Batman: Dark Knight and now Oz: the Great and Powerful.  Oz and Batman presume the paradoxical necessity of autocratic rule in society, with “Good” Autocrats guaranteeing “Freedom & Justice” while “Bad” Autocrats are just like the Good Autocrats only “Bad.”   Television series such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,”, “Angel”, and “Dexter” tend to vacillate between “Government as the Enemy” and “Government is always there but Irrelevant.”  

In “Oz: the Great and Powerful”, we see a very specific “real world” dramatic retelling of the story of the disembodied leader becoming more powerful after death, as an Icon and a Myth, than he ever could have been as an earthly individual.  The Character of the Wizard Oscar Diggs is not even “intriguingly” Banal and Ordinary.  He is really kind of uninspiringly banal and ordinary—much like the real life Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.   Like George W. Bush, Diggs is a master of illusion and deceit, and that is his primary qualification as a leader.  Like Clinton, Oscar Diggs’ “Oz” is attractive to the ladies and that makes the movie at least somewhat pleasant to watch.  But as with last year’s somewhat deadly dud “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp, stories involving beautiful but jealous witches are really so awfully unoriginal as to be boring—and I’ve not only watched too many I’ve lived the story in real life just several too many times….ahem, but I digress…

Unlike the stories of both Dorothy Gale (or her as yet cinematically almost unknown friend and colleague in adventure in most of L. Frank Baum’s later stories, “Ozma”) and Elphaba, there is hardly a hint of feminism or “girl power” in any of the three witches.  (No “Buffy” or “Willow” or even “Anya” on the scenes of this Oz).   Even Glinda (Michelle Williams) is at best a kind of exquisitely delicate, weak, very pretty and attractive but only marginally talented “second rate” witch outshown and outperformed by Oz’ mechanical illusions which ultimately succeed in vanquishing and exiling the evil sisters to the East and West of the Emerald City.  [It made sense to see Oz on St. Patrick’s Day weekend since Oz, like Ireland and Ancient Maya Yucatán, is a magic land divided into four color-coded cardinal direction (NSEW) quarters of the world with Green at the Center—the Emerald City = the Yaxché at the Center of the Maya universe and Tara at the cosmic and ritual center of the Emerald Isle itself].  

[The beautiful witch who turns green and ugly (the future W.W. West, Mila Kunis) reminds me ever so much of my own former wife Elena K….. beautiful and ambitious in the beginning, looked really good in red, but ultimately deadly and green   for all the wrong reasons (Elphaba was green for “good” reasons).]

What are interesting from the standpoint of mythic deconstruction in “Oz, the Great and Powerful” are Oz’ assertions that he is more powerful as a disembodied image than as a man, that illusion is more powerful than reality.  This IS a valid post-modern deconstruction of the American Presidency, and of Institutional “Corporate” government and economy in general.

Does the generalization apply to the life of Julius Caesar, or merely to the post-mortem TITLE of Caesar, which endured for a thousand years as the Supreme Emblem of “Imperial” Authority in the non-Latin monarchs (Kaisers & Tsars) of Germany, Austria, and Russia?  

A certain kind of post-modern deconstructionalist will tell you that Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar both planned their deaths for the purpose of Apotheosis and Institutionalization of Power.  This is exactly what Oscar Diggs does in “Oz: the Great and Powerful.”  

Power by deception and illusion is the political science of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and Cardinal Richelieu’s dictum “to dissemble is to rule” as well as the apparent embodiment of the theory underlying American foreign policy probably since the sinking of the Battleship Maine. Power by deception and illusion is a very anti-democratic theory of the origin and nature of power, totally opposed to the Katniss Everdeen or Buffy Summers schools of “Divine Kingship through Combat and Sacrifice.”  Katniss and Buffy were both pitted against dictatorships built on bloody lies and concealment of the truth, as were the “Wild West” type heroes on the Crew of “Serenity” (paired with Buffy and Angel, also by Joss Whedon).  As I have been writing for more than ten years, Buffy Summers’ death in Season Five of her series was a classic “Golden Bough” moment, though after Buffy’s resurrection in Season Six she was not quite “divine” after all.  Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games together played the game of the Rex Nemorensis in Diana’s Wood at Aricia very well as a team (a wonderful team unprecedented in history or myth).

Essentially, the lesson we should learn from “Oz: the Great and Powerful” is that all institutional (aka “Corporate” = permanent but impersonal, perpetual) government originates in and works best when founded on lies. In this political theory, lies and falsehood and illusion are sources of strength, and the secrets must be kept by those in the “inner circle” of government, even by China Dolls….(a reference to the “Dainty China Doll” in L. Frank Baum’s original book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” which did not make it into the 1939 Judy Garland “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” musical movie).

Batman: Dark Knight surely reflects the same ideology, but never states it quite so bluntly.   So Oz now joins with certain deconstructionist interpretations of the lives of Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy…. in articulation the rule by deception explanation of the origin and nature of political power.  I can only pray for the ultimate triumph of the poor man’s “Divine Kingship” model of weak government, an essentially anarchical theory of government as a model of or metaphor for nature red in tooth and claw…. wherein the King (or Queen) is normally only a symbol of nature rather than an actual wielder of power.  

In which connexion, long live Buffy Summer & Katniss Everdeen.

Excelsior! and Eureka! 165 Years of California Gold: from Sutter’s Mill to Jennifer Lawrence (January 24, 1848-January 24, 2013)

On January 24, 1848, gold (AU 79 on the Periodic Chart of the Elements) was discovered on the South Branch of the American River at John Augustus Sutter’s Mill in “New Helvetia” (New Switzerland), California.  Sutter’s history kind of set the tone in California for a culture of real estate piracy by “claim jumping” and disregard for any rights except those established by possession of money……

At one time the absolute ruler of what amounted to a private kingdom along the Sacramento River, John Sutter saw his immense wealth and power overrun in the world’s rush to pick California clean of gold.

Sutter was born John Augustus Sutter in Baden, Germany, though his parents had originally come from Switzerland, a lineage of which he was especially proud. In 1834, faced with impossible debt, he decided to try his fortunes in America and, leaving his family in a brother’s care, set sail for New York. There he decided that the West offered him the best opportunity for success, and he moved to Missouri, where for three years he operated as a trader on the Santa Fe Trail.

By 1838, Sutter had determined that Mexican California held the promise of fulfilling his ambitious dreams, and he set off along the Oregon Trail, arriving at Fort Vancouver, near present-day Portland, Oregon, in hopes of finding a ship that would take him to San Francisco Bay. His journey involved detours to the Hawaiian Islands and to a Russian colony at Sitka, Alaska, but Sutter made the most of his wanderings by trading advantageously along the way. When he finally arrived in California in 1839, Sutter met first with the provincial governor in Monterey and secured permission to establish a settlement east of San Francisco (then called Yerba Buena) along the Sacramento River, in an area then occupied only by Indians.

Sutter was granted nearly fifty thousand acres and authorized “to represent in the Establishment of New Helvetia [Sutter’s Swiss-inspired name for his colony] all the laws of the country, to function as political authority and dispenser of justice, in order to prevent the robberies commited by adventurers from the United States, to stop the invasion of savage Indians and the hunting and trapping by companies from the Columbia.” In other words, Sutter was to serve the California authorities as a bulwark against the assorted threats pressing in on them from American-controlled territories to the north and east.

Ironically, as headquarters for his domain, Sutter chose a site on what he named the American River, at its junction with the Sacramento River and near the site of present-day Sacramento. Here, with the help of laborers he had brought with him from Hawaii, he built Sutter’s Fort, a massive adobe structure with walls eighteen feet high and three feet thick. Two years later, in 1841, Sutter expanded his settlement when the Russians abandoned Fort Ross, their outpost north of San Francisco, and offered to sell it to him for thirty thousand dollars. Paying with a note he never honored, Sutter practically dismantled the fort and moved its equipment, livestock and buildings to the Sacramento Valley.

Within just a few years, Sutter had achieved the grand-scale success he long dreamed of: acres of grain, a ten-acre orchard, a herd of thirteen thousand cattle, even two acres of Castile roses. His son came to share in his prosperity in 1844, and the rest of his family soon followed. At the same time, during these years Sutter’s Fort became a regular stop for the increasing number of Americans venturing into California, several of whom Sutter employed. Besides providing him with a profitable source of trade, this steady flow of immigrants provided Sutter with a network of relationships that offered some political protection when the United States seized control of California in 1846, at the outbreak of the Mexican War.

Barely a week before the war’s end, however, there occurred a chance event that would destroy all John Sutter’s achievements and yet at the same time link his name forever to one of the highpoints of American history. On the morning of January 24, 1848, a carpenter named James Marshall, who was building a sawmill for Sutter upstream on the American River near Coloma, looked into the mill’s tailrace to check that it was clear of silt and debris and saw at the water’s bottom nuggets of gold. Marshall took his discovery to Sutter, who consulted an encyclopedia to confirm it and then tried to pledge all his employees to secrecy. But within a few months, word had reached San Francisco and the gold rush was on.

Suddenly all of Sutter’s workmen abandoned him to seek their fortune in the gold fields. Squatters swarmed over his land, destroying crops and butchering his herds. “There is a saying that men will steal everything but a milestone and a millstone,” Sutter later recalled; “They stole my millstones.” By 1852, New Helvetia had been devastated and Sutter was bankrupt. He spent the rest of his life seeking compensation for his losses from the state and federal governments, and died disappointed on a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1880.

On January 24, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.: I took time off from my somewhat manic-depressive studies of Louisiana Civil Law to  go to the Prytania Movie Theatre for a free showing a a movie “Haiti Redux” where I happened to sit next to an Iranian-American student of Real Estate at New York University named Alexander who identified himself as being from Beverly Hills, California.  It seems that one of the Professors from the Real Estate Department at NYU was one of the co-producers of this movie about the efforts of various small academic and artistic groups to help in the reconstruction of Haiti after the January 12, 2013.  They came to New Orleans as a kind of “study of comparative disaster sites” I guess (seven and a half years after Katrina).  

I have previously commented on how Iranians, especially Iranians of the Jewish Faith and sub-ethnicity, have taken over Beverly Hills, so it was a weird triangulation on the world.  The movie itself was slightly interesting but kind of pointless.  Why a bunch of “do gooder” White people from New York need to go down to Haiti to tell them what their “standards” ought to be for everything in life begged (in my opinion) the question of why Haiti is such a basket case of a country in the first place.  

It makes no sense to say that Haiti is the way it is because of White Oppression of Blacks, because Haiti was the SECOND INDEPENDENT NATION IN THE NEW WORLD, after the U.S., to fight for and win its own Independence.  Basically, after the French Revolution had started in the 1790s, the Black Slaves rose up and either slaughtered or exiled the French landowners, and their country has been a living hell ever since.  Coincidence?  Karma?  Genetics?  Some combination of all three?  The movie “Haiti Redux” did not explain.

January 24, 2013, at 10:00 p.m.: Since I was already at the Prytania, and kind of bored and frustrated by the Haiti Redux movie, I decided to stick around for “Silver Linings Playbook”, not having heard or read anything about it in advance except that it had 8 nominations for Academy Awards.  This is only the third movie of Jennifer’s I have seen, but I’m already quite madly in love with her and I am very happy that she has been nominated for “Best Actress” in this piece.  To begin with, the young Katniss Everdeen, I mean Miss Lawrence, outshines the rather more sensationally ballyhooed Kristen Stewart by a factor of roughly 10,000 to 1, both as a genuine actress and a beauty with sex appeal….well, beyond any effect I can describe without using metaphors of NASA technology and intergalactic astronomical explorations.

But the movie Silver Linings Playbook scores a more important victory.  It turns the past year’s penchant for portraying ordinary Middle-Class White people as insane subjects for clinical analysis and institutional confinement into a marvelous romantic comedy.  So of Jennifer’s three movie’s I’ve seen so far: in the HUNGER GAMES, she is a heroine par excellence, a beauty with skills and brains reminiscent of her own real Kentucky frontier heritage and background.  Katniss Everdeen’s mental strength and character in that movie equate with her physical skill and practical experience.  But then in HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, Jennifer’s character, though still exquisite in every way, was drawn into a tragedy of mental illness and depravity of ordinary middle class White People.  This media theme is part of the Western Power-Elite’s current campaign to destroy all vestiges of the America that was pre-1965, pre-Johnson, pre-Vietnam, pre-Johnson-Nixon, pre-Watergate, pre-Nixon-Ford, pre-degenerate malaise, pre-Carter, pre-fake Neo-Con Restoration, pre-Reagan.

But a stroke of genius—you bring Katniss Everdeen together with “Deer-Hunter” and American Icon Robert DeNiro, and you have a recipe for REGENERATING the American Middle Class Dream.  It all started out, depressingly enough, in a mental institution, no Jennifer’s character wasn’t there but she COULD have been—showing yet another real aspect of modern America that men are treated much more harshly for their transgressions than women.  I thought initially it was going to be yet another—everyone who LOOKS American as Apple Pie is Demented movie.  But the movie totally transcended all that and convincingly showed that “Temporary Insanity” is actually pretty normal and that even people who have taken a sampler of the entire menu of the nastiest psychiatric drug menu imposed by Non-American Non-Whites who have their consciousness completely together.

I have this terribly depressing fear that Obama era politics will lead to an Academy Award going either to “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (which at least is incredibly original) or to “Lincoln” which is anything but original and in fact deserves to be panned on every single historical point contained within it, but I’m casting my vote for Silver Linings Playbook and Jennifer Lawrence as the incomparable Tiffany….  OK, I’ve also confessed in the past that I tend to fall in love with any and every girl I meet named Tiffany, but this is a personal hazard of mine which has no bearing on my evaluation of the movie.  Robert DeNiro is the best I’ve seen him in many years, and this movie has truly redemptive potential at a time when America Desperately needs it.  

Strange to think of the similarities between the California Gold Rush and Hollywood Movies as the parallel and independent but key defining features of California culture…. but there they are, separated only by the difference between Northern and Southern California….

People Dream of Freedom when they Go to the Movies—and it’s been a big year for Anarchist Fantasies….Katniss & Peeta, Suzy & Sam, and now the Bondurants….

Aside from “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises”, it’s been a great year, so far, for anarchist philosophy in film.  Anarchism is a terribly misunderstood word: in historical and linguistic terms, “anarchy” does not mean or suggest, by any stretch of the imagination, a society without order or laws.  “Anarchy” is in no way whatsoever synonymous with “Chaos”, “Chasm”, or “Void.”

In Ancient Greek, “archon” was a rather generic title for a rule or lord, meaning and semantically similar in meaning to German “Fürst/Führer” or Latin “Princeps/Principio.”  “Archaeology” is the study of “beginnings” as everyone known, beginnings of humans anyhow, not quite as ancient as “Palaeontology” which the study of “Old Life Forms” including the “Dawn Horizon” (Eocene) at the border between geology and biology.   A Prince (princeps) is a Fürst is an Archon, in any event, and to believe in AN-ARCHY is to oppose Princes (Princeps, principes, Fürsts, or Führers), in other words to believe that society can exist without LEADERS who wield any sort of absolute or even decisive power.  That is why our leader under the Constitution was named after the person who simply “presides” over the Congress and government—indeed, the first to bear the Title “President of the United States” before George Washington were ALL merely parliamentary “presiders”… the individuals who maintained the order of debate, recognized speakers, hit the gavel for adjournment and such like distinctly NON-military, NON-coercive functions…. The Vice-President is still the President of the Senate and presides at Joint Sessions of Congress…. but the American President has become a Führer –and shows signs of being the office is showing signs of becoming an hereditary principality—with Roosevelts and Kennedys and Bushes dominating the political landscape for most of a century….

The basic conceptual link between “fürst” “princeps“, “archon“, “archaeology” and “principio” was the equation of “first in time, first in power, first in right” (compare George Washington “First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen).  And there were those who wanted to make Washington a real “prince”, “fürst” or “archon“—among them pseudo-Monarchists such as Alexander Hamilton).   A similar semantic construct is the “council of elders” out of whom the “Princeps” may be selected, otherwise known as “the Senate.”  From Latin “Senectus” = Old Age/Old Man, cf. Cicero’s De Senectute “On Old Age.”

The Hunger Games came out with a bang on March 22, and Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark became my favorite Anarchist leaders of the year (under the Tutelage of Haymitch Abernathy) until they were supplanted (not in my affections, or literary appreciations but in the movie theaters) by Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky (under absolutely nobody’s tutelage but the eventual protection of a brilliantly anarchistic but otherwise “sad, dumb policeman” named Captain Sharp played by none less of a long-time portrayer of anarchistic characters than that legendary Teuton from the cold and free side of the Rhine, Bruce Willis).   And this all happened in a very real 1965 spot in New England on the Fictitious Island of “New Penzance” under Wes Anderson’s really fairly brilliant direction and writing (with Roman Coppola).

But just Wednesday a new marvelous and historically founded paean to actual 20th century anarchism, appropriately called “Lawless”, celebrates the Virginia “Hillbilly” Bondurant Family from Franklin County (actually, they lived in the Hills east of the Blue Ridge, southeast of the Shenandoah Valley in Franklin County, so the hills were kind of low….).  Turns out that the book “Wettest County in the World” was written by a certain Matt Bondurant who was the grandson of the chief leader of the family.

Unlike The Hunger Games, it is largely devoid of mythological and epic references or archetypes.  Unlike Moonrise Kingdom it is neither allegorical nor atavistic.  Lawless simply celebrates the last time in the United States when a large portion of the population, the majority in fact, absolutely, positively, unquestionably recognized that “the law was an ass”.   Not only Catholics and heavy drinkers of every religion but ALL sane people opposed Prohibition and only perverted-to-pathological idiots and cynical criminals (both in and out of politics) actually supported it.  The current “War on Drugs” is in no principled way different from Prohibition, but the mechanisms of propaganda are such much more sophisticated these days that few people appreciate it.

But what unifies The Hunger Games, Moonrise Kingdom, and Lawless is this simple truth: JUSTICE IS AT ITS MAXIMUM WHEN ADMINISTERED BY THE PEOPLE FOR THEMSELVES WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE FROM THE GOVERNMENT—ANY GOVERNMENT.

Governments exist, in essence, to defend the people against wars, to enforce laws which make some of the people criminals and disenfranchise them to the benefit of those who either profit from or obtain their identity as “fürstin“, “principes“, or archons from the oppression of others.

Prohibition movies are an old trope, and there’s nothing all that extraordinary about Lawless except that it’s apparently, largely, mostly true…  But it DOES so totally fit in with my two leading movies of this year as a celebration of the nobility of the free human spirit to maintain freedom at the cost of blood…. and such values cannot be too often celebrated in these Modern United States of America where everyone seems to be enjoying the ride, enjoying the “protection racket” of the criminal government which has, for the most part, completely enslaved us, and does so no less (but always more) during each successive Republican or Democratic administration….

A New Saint John the Baptist? Or is she doomed to the fate of Cassandra? Thoughts for June 23-24, Johannisnacht und Johannistag

I am sure that some readers are already weary of my Hunger Games obsession with this latest experiment in Science Fiction as Mythic Reality/Historical and Prophetic Allegory.  Rather like Saul of Tarsus blinded on the road to Damascus, I am a late convert, and have that same “recent convert’s fanaticism” that Paul had, which my grandmother always used to make fun of in people of our time. Having only discovered the series on March 23, 2012, when the movie came out, today, June 23, is my 90 day “anniversary” as a Hunger Games Fanatic—and to think I went to see it at midnight on that day merely out of a long-standing habit of trying to see movies on the early morning premier.  At that time I knew absolutely nothing about the series.  

But since then, I have not only seen the movie countless times and read all three books, but become convinced that Suzanne Collins is a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for—the future of North America.  My question today is whether she is the new Saint John, making straight in the desert a highway for our savior, or doomed to the fate of Cassandra of Troy—granted by Apollo the gift of prophecy but cursed never to be believed (until it’s quite too late).  

A close friend is facing an appeal of a major constitutional case in Florida that has already dragged on for seven years.  She is trying to decide whether to quit or go on forward.  I have told her there’s no purpose in proceeding unless she runs the race as if to win.  So I wrote her:

You have faced an unjust judge for a very long time, maybe even several.  (See Luke 18: 1-8, below).  Are you ready to faint?  If you want peace at last, I don’t want to sell you on anything.  I for my part do not fear fighting nearly so much as I fear the day when I might stop fighting.  The constant striving and the eternal journey, the quest, those are the most important parts of being alive, to me at least.  And I always quote what Victor Laszlo said to Rick in the movie Casablanca“You ask why do we keep on fighting?  You might as well ask why do we keep on breathing.  If we stop breathing, we die.  If we stop fighting, the world will die.”  I personally have lost more than most people in the world ever came near to having; I confess I was born into something like the top of the top 1%, certainly more than about 99% of the people in the world, outside of America and Western Europe, anyhow, could ever even have dreamt of having. While was growing up and, really, for a large part of my adult life, I had everything without working for it.  I don’t anymore, pure and simple.  That was a loss, but none of that deters me.  And none of that makes me feel anything but admiration for those who had had the strength and courage to work hard and achieve great things through dull hard work throughout their lives.
If it scares you to think of losing everything because you fight, then you really need to stop fighting.  Jesus died so that we might have a chance to be saved, that we might have a chance to live free—but He never once told us that freedom or salvation were easy—Look at Matthew 10:34-39, below my signature at the bottom of all of my letters…. do you want to take your cross and follow after him to Calvary (the “hill of the skull”?).  I do, but I don’t want to drag you if you don’t want to go.
From a different historical angle, but way similarly, from my new favorite books, the Hunger Games Trilogy, there is a song called “The Hanging Tree” (you know, the Cross is sometimes called a “Tree” and we know that crucified victims are always “hung” on the cross–albeit by nails in their arms rather than ropes….)
Here is the “Hanging Tree” that Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen learned from her father.  One of the beautiful parts of Suzanne Collins’ art, in my mind, is how she uses words to create and describe a heroine who is not at all skilled in verbal communication but whose emotional power and commitment always lead her to do the right thing. The intuitive truth in music and singing is a recurring motif in the books.  Katniss Everdeen, like C&W’s Loretta Lynn, was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in very poor corner Appalachia.  At one point, by a mountain lake cabin, Katniss spontaneously sings this song, which her father had taught her, primarily for the benefit of a mute and voiceless person whose voice box and tongue were cut out by the cruel NDAA-worthy “Capitol” government of Katniss’ highly centralized future North American Home called “Panem” (Panem is, I think a rather elaborate Classical Greek-Latin pun, I think, on the word “Bread” on the one hand and a previously decentralized confederation E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) subjected to a an all powerful “Pantocracy”—oppressive supreme government):
Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run so we’d both be free.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree.
Aside from being an eerily old-fashioned, even ancient-sounding piece created by Collins in the first decade of the 3rd Millennium, this song is a metaphoric foundation of a rebel dirge—a cross between Irish & Scots that is, in fact, somewhat characteristic of Appalachia.   The “man who murdered three” who was hanged on the tree, the man on the tree singing for his love to join him, was no ordinary criminal but a rebel, a revolutionary against the strong centralized government of Panem.
In the Germanic/Celtic tradition, hanging was the form of human sacrifice preferred. Even to commit suicide by rope was to identify with the God Odin/Wotan, who once, for nine nights hanged himself on a windy tree, “a sacrifice of myself to myself” as the Skaldic texts recited—the tree in question, the Linden Baum, was for a long time associated with hanging, suicide, and sacrifice, even into the 19th century where it figures in Franz Schubert’s song cycle “The Winter’s Journey” (Die Winterreise), never more ably performed than by the just recently departed Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.  The identity of the Hanged Man, even in Tarot card readings, with Christian sacrifice and prophecy seems inescapable.
In Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games (Vol. 3) the Hanged Man’s murders were not homicides committed in passion, then, nor for mere material/commercial gain, but were almost certainly acts of revolutionary defiance: SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, probably the shooting of Capitol officials, Capitol Peacemakers, Coal Mining Company, or possibly even organizers of the sacrificial Hunger Games themselves.
I think Suzanne Collins is clearly commenting on the present for thousand different reasons, not the least of which is that, in the world of the Hunger Games, private ownership of guns and even bows and arrows is strictly forbidden, punishable by death…..GUN CONTROL by the Experts like Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Pol Pot, but being implemented today by the Senate, by the Department of State under Hillary Clinton, and by your favorite President and mine, Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro, the child of a Kenyan Communist who grew up in Indonesia to become the first truly African (by his origin more than his race) President of the United States, and the first completely and overly anti-Constitutional, and anti-Capitalist, Dictator of the Proletariat.
In any event, in the song above, the Hanged Man’s public execution was punishment, but, as more importantly, the song itself, above, that Katniss sang to the mute victim of oppression, was banned an effective way to deter anyone thinking of joining the freedom fighter/terrorist’s cause.  Capital punishment, the death penalty, here became employed as Capitol punishment, a means to ingrain and inculcate fear in the districts of Panem, fear of the consequences of resistance and rebellion even stronger than the common people’s hatred of their masters.
In essence, then the song, ‘The Hanging Tree’ calls on the living who love freedom to join the martyred freedom fighter in putting their holy cause above concerns for their individual lives.  Every bit as much as “La Marseillaise,” the Hanging Tree is an invitation to revolution, i.e., to risk death in the hope of a greater life—even recognizing that it will not JUST be impure blood that stains the ploughed furrows of the fields.  I hope that someone will put the Hanging Tree to a tune where it can become a national hit, so that Suzanne Collins’ brilliant insights, first published in 2008, the year of Barak Hussein Obama’s ominous election as the American Mao, will not simply recede into popular culture history, but will actually motivate the creation of….dare I say it, a NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM in this country—and that her warnings against the evils of absolute centralization, totalitarian dictatorship (an all Powerful President limited by neither the power of Congress nor a viable Supreme Court), will be heard by many and will herald the arrival of one who will live (or live and die, as may be necessary) to overthrow this menace and restore the American Republic to the real and authentic American people.
As summer begins, I would wish everyone a Happy Johannisnacht, Johannistag, Saint John’s Day this June 23-24, and to remember the Voice of Him that Cryeth in the Wilderness, Prepare ye the Way of the Lord—Make straight in the Desert a Highway, for our God.  It might not be a bad time to read the opening chapter of the Gospel of Mark…. even though it is always good to remember also what the prince of peace once said in Matthew 10: 34-39
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth:
I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father,
and the daughter against her mother,
and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 
And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me:
and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
or else what I consider a closely parallel text in John 12: 23-27:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

And above all,  never stop praying for justice—even when the Judges won’t listen, or even when they try to shut you up, as they do, with increasing frequency, in the early stages of the establishment of PANEM in North America….:

Luke 18:1-8

18 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Confessions of a Lifelong-Heroine Addict….(oh well, since I was 6 or 8 I guess, probably not so much before that…)…from Dorothy Gale to Katniss Everdeen

The California Secretary of State having quite literally locked the doors to my running for Senate this year (at least in Tulare and Fresno Counties)—and the California Courts not seeming to offer a sufficient or accessible remedy—I now have time to indulge other (if related) obsessions my life, such as my sufferings from a lifetime of heroine addiction….  

Like almost every other aspect of my life, I blame my mother Alice and grandmother Helen almost equally….

It was my mother and father who, when I was very small, used to take me down by the Thames in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament and show me the statue of Boadicea (aka “Budica”), the last independent Iceni Queen of East Anglia who rebelled and died trying to evict the Roman Conquerors, in whose memory it was said and sung that “Britons never shall be slaves.”  We also took one trip out to Norwich to visit one of the woods where the Iceni supposedly worshipped their own goddess of Victory….called “Budika” in the Ancient British language of the Druids….(my parents were both heavily into historical and comparative linguistics).  Budika/Boadicea in A.D. 60-61 apparently burned Roman Londinium to the ground along with several other cities before being defeated and poisoning herself by the long Roman Road called “Watling Street” which we also visited…. She was a heroine and supposedly a great archer….  

Of course my parents also tried, as heart as their own agitated and addled lives would permit them, to make me aware of a very different heroine, regarding whom they required me to memorize “the Magnificat” from a very early age….”My soul doth magnify the Lord….Abraham and his seed forever…” And yes, the Virgin Mary was indeed a rebellious heroine… and she has remained a heroine to hundreds of millions of people up to the present time….  Later on, I learned to sing the Magnificat and other pieces of Anglo-Catholic “Maryolatry” as a choirboy in the junior Choir at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, under the tutelage of the late, Great Russell J. Brydon (who died just a few months after this post was originally written, in September 2012 at the age of 88:

http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20120906-russell-j.-brydon-jr.-longtime-dallas-church-and-temple-organist-dies-at-88.ece

But it was my grandmother Helen who was something of a heroine in my young eyes herself, and it was Helen who introduced me to the very first literary  (as distinct from Historical or Biblical) heroines of whose stories I ever learned in detail: namely Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and the Roman Goddess Diana and her Sacred Temple by Lake Nemi  near Ariccia (Diana was also an archer…)

The path of fictional heroines from Dorothy Gale’s grey home in Kansas to Katniss* Everdeen’s equally grey home in District 12 of Panem took 108 years….from the first publication of the Wizard of Oz in 1900 through the appearance of archer Katniss Everdeen  Hunger Games in 2008**….is really the history of the idealistic dreams and ultimate failure of the 20th century (idealist dreams in Baum’s time giving way to a more cynical realism by 1939, passing through the somewhat confused “liberation” of the 1960s, sinking into the dark, pessimistic world of Buffy and Angel and finally coming to rest in the despair of District 12 in Panem in 2008—the year Barack Hussein Obama took over from George W. Bush…two different faces for the heartless, soulless, President Snow….)

But the difference in spirit between those two places traces indeed the tragic story of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization (and of the American Dream) in the 20th Century. Major stopping points along the way (for me at least) include 1939 with the Dorothy Gale’s transformation in the person of Judy Garland and Scarlett O’Hara’s complete redefinition of the concept of “progress” in the late 19th century, Jane Fonda’s comic Cat Ballou and Barbarella in the 1960s, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in movie and television from 1992-2003.  

At each of these intervals, the world is more cynical and darker, and the heroines more complex.  Many critics have observed that the “head injury/dream sequence” aspects of the 1939 Movie Wizard of Oz and the metathesis of real individuals to “dreamtime” residents of the Land of Oz (which was COMPLETELY absent from L. Frank Baum’s book) resulted directly from Freudian psychoanalysis and the early popularity of psychology.  The general effect is to radically weaken the power of Oz as metaphor or lesson—but the movie was a wonderful hit—a lightly comic Wagnerian gesammtkunstwerk of acting, visual art, and music, so nobody really cared.  

A lot of the verbal banter and humor in the movie likewise showed a certain “worldly” sophistication with which I think Frank Baum would only have been somewhat congenial. E.G. the Cowardly Lion’s song “there’s just no use denyin’, I’m just a DANDYlion…” and the Wizard’s closing comment to the Scarecrow:

Back where I come from we have universities, 
seats of great learning 
-- where men go to become great thinkers. 
And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more brains than you have .... 
But! They have one thing you haven't got! 
A diploma!

As a former denizen of the great academic halls of Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 and Chicago, Illinois 60637 (from various halls of which august institutions I did, for all the good that it’s done me or the world, get diplomas), and a regular visitor to many other such places, I can tell you that the Wizard here is absolutely right: 

And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more  brains than you have.... 

But such cynicism simply was not part of the original vision of Oz, and although Baum occasionally did occasionally turn such comments to ridicule life back in North America in later books, he did not at all in his first installment in which he remade European folk mythology and archetypes and reshaped them in a very idealized panorama of a world where death was rare if non-existent and even the most evil of men and creatures did not kill for sport or pleasure.

For all of L. Frank Baum’s futuristic visions, I do not think he could have foreseen the transition from the naïve and hardworking life of Kansas to the nightmarish dreamworld of Suzanne Collins’ grim opera—neither a soap opera nor a very lyric, although even in the written version (which I finally got around to reading), music plays an immensely important part in the methathesis of metaphor and character, from Katniss’ Father to Peeta, from Prim to Rue… as between the unnatural National Anthem of the Conquering Capitol and the free world of nature and the poor of the “outlying districts.”

L. Frank Baum’s Oz books in so many was shaped and defined the culture of early-to-mid 20th Century of a predominantly White Christian America, especially after the release of Judy Garland’s movie….***  The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Kansas was stiflingly dull and harsh—the American dream had already, at that point, apparently kind of run aground and needed new life— The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Oz was half atavistic throwback to the Middle Ages, half filled with futuristic wonders (such as Glinda the Good’s Magic Picture, which permitted her what we would now call “live video access” to whatever was going on in Oz or elsewhere earth she was interested.

Dorothy Gale was a simple, pre-teenage girl (Judy Garland was at least ten years older than the original character was portrayed as being in the First Oz Book, but Dorothy Gale remained essentially a-sexual throughout the series, never had a boyfriend or a beau…. perhaps recapitulating some archaic notion of “the Virgin Goddess”,  e.g. Diana Nemorensis or the Virgin Mary or the “Virgin Queen”, Mary again or Queen Elizabeth I) whose strength derived from common sense, great courage, love, and determination.  Dorothy Gale was a generalist who never specialized in anything or focused on any particular trade, profession, or way of earning a living (all throughout the long series of Oz books, in fact).  She was just flexible, imaginative, and practical—kind of a “Renaissance girl” in a very low tech way.

Being a non-specialized generalist seems to be the primary role of all feminine heroes.  Of the earliest three I knew (Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and Diana Nemorensis), if Dorothy Gale had the purest and most asexual identity, Scarlett O’Hara surely had the most impure and sexual.  

It was perhaps for that reason that I was never really taken with her until I was a teenager, even though with my grandparents I religiously had watched Gone with the Wind at every possible opportunity and my grandmother compared the mythic South with the real South over and over again.   Scarlett O’Hara was beautiful, flirtations, and OWNED men in a way that is both fairly realistic and quite cynical.  But the book and movie Gone with the Wind were brilliantly timed between the First and Second World Wars to show that the American War Between the States of 1861-1865 was the first really and truly modern war of total destruction.  

Throughout history, up until Abraham Lincoln loosed Sherman on Georgia and Grant on Virginia, the goal of Conquest Warfare had been to preserve as much of a conquered land’s wealth as possible—so that it could be stolen and appropriated for the victors.  There might have been a lot of talk in Ancient Rome about how “Carthage must be destroyed” and about Salting the Earth once it was vanquished, but Carthage was not only not burnt to the ground and left to rot by the Roman Conquest, it became one of the Great Cities of the Roman Empire, as 20-30 years of Harvard Archaeological excavations in Tunisia have so clearly shown.  Gone with the Wind showed something else when Sherman’s “wind blew through Georgia.”  The purpose was indeed, as the opening lines of both the movie and the book suggested, to wipe out an entire civilization, a way of life—to replace what Marxists call one “mode of production” with another.   NONE of Baum’s villains in Oz were as bad as that, although the movie version of the Wicked Witch of the West was pretty murderous in her general attitude….

One major innovation of Jane Fonda’s heroines Cat Ballou and especially Barbarella in the 1960s was the advent of “free love”, which never appeared even once in any of Baum’s pre-1920 writings, which was only very obliquely alluded to in Gone with the Wind, but which by the 1960s was all anyone really cared about.  

Like Dorothy Gale and Scarlett O’Hara before her, Cat Ballou and Barbarella were unspecialized generalists who could adapt to almost any situation.  They were strong, intelligent, sexy, deadly in a good cause, and then Jane Fonda went to Hanoi….  In retrospect she may have been right to do it because the Vietnam War was totally wrong, a seriously failed experiment in 1984-type “perpetual war”….but Jane Fonda’s actions did not seem positive at the time.  

In this defiance of the outward semblance of world order sense, Jane Fonda’s characters of both Cat Ballou and Barbarella somehow came to life as defiant outlaws….crossing boundaries that no one else would cross, and doing so with both impunity and (what seemed most shocking at the time) complete immunity from real official sanction.  Like the righteous killer Catherine Ballou who avenged her father’s death in the Wild West—Jane Fonda first enacted herself as a mythic reality and then, by going to Hanoi, remade herself as a historic metaphor—walking through the image of a treacherous act, unscathed, in essence to show that Vietnam was all a staged event….. a dramatic diversion to keep the masses simultaneously afraid, amused and absorbed….  

Fast forward 24 years from Jane Fonda as Barbarella and you arrive the first incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a completely modern LA County San Fernando Valley girl with no hints of modesty or virginity about her…. followed by the much more intriguing evolution of Buffy Summers in the TV Series from virginal high school freshman to intensely sexual college freshman, in a world which is increasingly dark and where reality is increasingly concealed….. Buffy’s Sunnydale was a mythic place, a lot like Los Angeles, while her first boyfriend and lover Angel eventually goes to the real Los Angeles and sets up shop as first as a private detective and then director of a large law firm—two professions which, in Los Angeles at least, possibly in the movies generally, have almost acquired the status of modern Jungian archetypes….  

The increasingly dark and brooding, sad and depressed Buffy Summers never lost her general adaptability—she could never specialize in any profession or line of work any more than Dorothy Gale or Scarlett O’Hara or Catherine Ballou… but the realization that the dark forces of the world were effectively unbeatable and had pre-existed anything good in the world—these were major transformations of the American Dream from the Early 20th Century.  And it was during the 7 televised seasons of Buffy that the 20th Century, which came in with a little girl magically transported by a tornado from dull grey Kansas to a bright and beautiful alternative universe which knew no death, went out during Buffy’s Freshman year at UCLA with a young adult barely out of her teens who was alone in the world, with her small circle of more specialized friends, fighting vampires and the forces of darkness.

And five years after Buffy ended, Katniss Everdeen picked up the bow from her archetypal ancestors the Goddesses Inanna and Diana and Queen Boadicea, and began to hunt for meagre food in the desperately hunger fringes of District 12 (in what was once called Appalachia in what was once called North America).  

The gruesomeness of the Hunger Games apparently shocks some people—I would have thought that Americans had long since forgotten how to be shocked about or by anything.  Children murdering children for sport isn’t the most pleasant of ideas, to be sure. But in that 17-19 year olds have gone off to fight in every war America has ever seen….along with a few 16 year olds here and there, and since the History Channel periodically shows authentic news clips of 15-16 year old resistance “werewolves” in 1945 Post-World War II Germany being shot by firing squads of American Troops, and countless tens of thousands of teenagers have been silently snuffed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, it is hard to believe that the idea of children fighting and dying is really such a big deal to our ever hypocritically squeamish population.

The Hunger Games resonate with so much in our history and culture—with the original Victor Hugo version of Les Miserables (hopelessly buried and lost in the Broadway Musical of the same name), and in Suzanne Collins’ own account with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.  

But above all the Hunger Games resonates with the year 2012 in which America has taken so many steps towards being a brutal, repressive dictatorship like Panem, already—with idiot fake and fraudulent “Conservatives” like Lindsey Graham and Newt Gingrich competing with idiot truly fraudulent “Liberals” like Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama competing with one another to see who can shred the Constitution fastest.  

Interesting to me, given that I based my own doctoral dissertation at Harvard in large part on revisiting Frazer’s the Golden Bough and with it Diana’s Temple by Lake Nemi near Ariccia, are the parallels between the Hunger Games and the myths and rituals of Divine Kingship.  There is nothing in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, however, about games or about Tributes being well-fed and allowed every luxury leading up to their deaths.  But precisely this treatment is common in the rites of Divine Kingship, where sacrificial victims, like the individual selected for sacrifice during the rites of Toxcatl among the Aztec, are equated with the God Tezcatlipoca (“Smoking Mirror”) during the last year of their lives, given wonderful food and drink, and then sacrificed.  Similar paradigms of sacrifice are found throughout the world—

And the sacrifice of children, likewise, is extremely common: to the rain gods in Mesoamerica, relic traces of this existed even among the modern Yucatec Maya who tie small children to the legs of the altar during the cha-chaac or rain ceremony—although the children have to do nothing more that happily chirp like rainy season frogs (but woe to the boy who croaks like a dry season Toad—he will be beaten, not sacrificed, but beaten).  The Hebrew Bible itself is filled with child sacrifice (all through the Books of Kings and Chronicles, in particular, are Kings who make their children “walk through the fire”—perhaps most famously the daughter of Jeptha…), and by way of archaeological parallel—the excavations at Carthage have revealed hundreds and thousands of child sacrifices…. Among the Natchez of Mississippi, families sacrificed their children in order to rise in social status from commoners (“Stinkards”) to “Honored” Nobility according to the French records by Dupratz and recounted by John R. Swanton….

And in this sense it is perplexing: sacrifice almost always lead either to elevation in status or to outright deification: why the elite of Panem would not have recognized the risk embodied in Golden Bough-Divine Kingship type of analysis: the sacrificial victim—like the Rex Nemorensis at Ariccia who becomes King by killing the old one in combat, will always become the next king.  

At the end of the first book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Katniss Everdeen is poised to become (with Peeta), Queen and King of Panem.  This was not only foreseeable, it was in comparative mythological terms inevitable—and yet Suzanne Collins’ trilogy does not allow this drama to evolve that way.  In part, this may be because technology and traditions of oppression have obliterated the natural succession of Divine Kingship….

But Sir James G. Frazer’s point in writing the Golden Bough was to show that Divine Kingship involving the deification of sacrificial victims and their elevation as Kings is a nearly world-wide phenomenon.  I sit here puzzling at the significance of all the trappings of Divine Kingship and the Golden Bough in the Hunger Games.  

Frank Baum had either borrowed or unconsciously recreated so many motifs from ancient mythology—the Four World Quarters with colors Winkie-yellow Quadlin-red Munchkin-blue and Gillikin-purple with Green for the Center of the Emerald City are like nothing so much as the mythological and symbolic organization of (1) Ancient Mesopotamia, “Land of the Four Quarters” centered on Uruk, (2) Celtic Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Connaught, Leinster, and centered on Midhe (Meath) at Tara, and (3) pre-Hispanic Yucatan which, at several Classic sites, is divided into quarters dominated (as recorded on Stelae A & H at Copan) by Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque, and Copan and which even now is divided into four quarters (Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Petén, with Belize claimed by Guatemala and Geographically appearing to be a southern extension of Quintana Roo).

But in Frank Baum’s Oz, kingship is never strong and is always frowned upon, as are all attempts at centralization or standardization of culture, customs, or laws among the four/five regions of Oz.  For that reason, I would assume, there are no hints or traces of divine kingship in Oz—it is a Federal egalitarian Democracy of sorts (even though no one ever votes).  

But by the time of Buffy, as the 20th century closes, the need for a leader has brought forward the Slayer—“one girl in all the world” who fights the Demons.  Now Joss Whedon optimistically ended his series with a devolution of power and prowess from Buffy through the magic of Willow to Millions of “potential” slayers—-but it didn’t quite ring true, in a Television series where even the most outrageous vampiric and magic witchcraft was somehow made to feel “emotionally authentic.”

In the Hunger Games, Dictatorship is the reality and the two victors of the Hunger Games, Katniss & Peeta, are set to become the Divine Kings and possibly the real sovereigns of their land.  Perhaps the need for leadership, the need for someone to save the population, is not yet great enough, but in terms of the political and emotional significance of our story-telling, I think that the journey from Dorothy Gale’s Grey Kansas to Katniss Everdeen’s Grey District 12 tells us the story of the loss of hope and impending doom and despair which was the 20th Century.

*  Katniss is named after a plant called Sagittaria, and my grandmother was born under the sign of Sagittarius—it could be that Katniss reminds me a great deal of my grandmother Helen—similar complexions and faces…. Actress Jennifer Lawrence certainly fits very precisely the image in Suzanne Collins’ book…. and the younger pictures I’ve seen of my grandmother with long hair as a teenager in the time before the U.S. entered WWI….growing up in a place very much like the defeated districts of Panem in the Southern USA.

** In some New Age texts, 108 years is said to be a Venus Cycle, the more ordinary astrological cycle is one of 104 years.  108 is used, but oddly enough, is four years longer than longest calendrical cycle and planetary identity of the Ancient Goddess of Love, namely Inanna/ Ishtar/Aphrodite/Venus.  The calendrical cycles of Venus and the sun are said to “bind” (i.e coincide) every 2920 days, but the ultimate binding of 5 Heliacal Cycles of Venus with 8 Calendar years …. (365 x 8 = 5 x 584 = 2920 x 13 = 37,960 = 2 x 52 years (my current age) = 104 calendar years/105 “tuns” or 360 day periods—the root of the Maya and Aztec Calendars).  Like her Roman Counterpart Diana, Aphrodite and Inanna were both archers—it seems to be the feminine weapon of choice, possibly for purely sexual Freudian reasons, possibly for some mixture of Freudian sexual and Jungian archetypal causation.

*** In the 1970s, Broadway Musical and 1978 movie “the Wiz” the just recently departed Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson did their best to reframe and appropriate the Baum story for African-America in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement (or Fraudulent Civil Rights Fiasco) of the 1950s-60s…. I have never been comfortable Easing on Down the Road with them in that direction…. although my grandfather was a great supporter of alternative all black productions (now almost extinct) because they upheld and even developed, really and truly, the old segregationist’s doctrine of Separate but Equal (we actually attended the Wiz at the Majestic Theater on Broadway as well as an all black revival of Guys & Dolls in my one major summer with him (ever in my life) in 1976.