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December 3, 2013

BEAM: The stuffed turkey games

It’s fitting that “Catching Fire” dominated the box office over Thanksgiving weekend. Like with any good movie, the audience most likely empathized with some of the onscreen characters of the dystopian flick.

Young girls might commiserate with the heroine Katniss. A few boys wouldn’t mind filling in for love interest Gale.

But if you really examine the matter, the most striking connection between some of the audience that weekend was the likeness they bore to the citizens of the Capitol.

For those unfamiliar with the books and movies, the Capitol is the nation of Panem’s most wealthy city. Imagine it as a kind of utopia for narcissists, a megalomaniac metropolis that the Kardashian sisters might dream up if they ever ruled the world. And they already have a reality show to build on — no need for a new arena.  

In the Capitol, citizens dress in the finest fashion, many even change their physical appearance to follow the trends. Women and men with implanted whiskers, brightly dyed body parts and gem studded skin walk around the city always wanting something more.

Excess is everywhere in the city that hosts the Hunger Games, especially where food is concerned. It’s like an eternal all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet without the bad Elvis impersonations.

Best yet, what happens in the Capitol stays in the Capitol. Really. Delectable dishes are so plentiful that party revelers actually drink a liquid that causes them to vomit.

All this goes on while citizens of the outlying cities, called districts, labor constantly, though rarely earning enough to buy a decent amount of food or even everyday necessities.

In an Orwellian twist, author Suzanne Collins dives into the consequences of consumerism and class polarization. As the government represses the population, the struggle of the haves and have-nots comes to the forefront, and eventually erupts into a fast-spreading revolt.

So how do the folks of the Capitol relate to Southern Indiana during the holidays? It’s all about overindulgence and our place in the global economy.

You’ve seen the sentiment expressed over and over again. How can Americans be so thankful on one day and so wanting the next? For a lot of us, we always crave more. The better job. The bigger house. The perfect body.

Not everyone fits in this mold. Bargain hunters on limited incomes can save some bucks that weekend after Thanksgiving. And people should be able to spend their hard-earned money as they see fit. That’s the beauty of Capitalism.

What’s disheartening is the excessiveness of Black Friday, the waste if you will, as well as the dogged consumerism that turns sane mothers and fathers into raging lunatics with a cart.

For some, this shopping fulfills an egocentric need. One day only, consumers can have it all, and at a discount no less. No need to drink a potion that makes us spew up the glut we already have. Just open a new credit card account. Spend and spend and spend some more on dolls and clothes and electronics and video games and strange gadgets, a few of which will only be used once.

Of course, like in Panem, not everyone has the means to buy the things they want. According to 2012 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 46 million people live in poverty, or roughly 15 percent of all Americans. Some of them work in the very stores the Black Friday hordes frequent.

Let’s go one step farther. When we look at the average income of households throughout the world, America ranks incredibly high on the charts. What’s considered poverty here in the States is a way of life for millions across the world.

To figure out where you stand among other of Earth’s citizens, visit the website globalrichlist.com. According to their calculator, a family of four who earns $23,283 a year, the current poverty line in America, still is among the top 2.43 percent richest people on earth.

Unlike in the Capitol, the United States has a rich heritage of helping others overcome these inequalities. Why should the holiday shopping season be any different?

In response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a new movement has begun to bring a day that promotes giving.

Called quite simply Giving Tuesday, the crusade, now in its second year, encourages others to aid charities and other nonprofit organizations through the donation of volunteer hours and the all-powerful dollar. More than 8,000 organizations have partnered for today’s drive. Check out givingtuesday.org for more information.

Games shouldn’t be played with the hungry and less fortunate. Be a victor and give back to our community and world any way you can.

As Americans, the odds are ever in our favor.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at adbeam47@aol.com

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