You Are Panem’s Capitol

A reporter asked me how the world would be different if people took a year of leisure after each seven years of work, instead of retiring at 65, as I suggested in Why Retire? I guessed that young people would have more interesting stories to tell about what they did with their year off. More interesting at least than the typical retiree story of another year of golfing or organizing photo albums. As people get older they get more comfortable with set patterns, and less eager for adventure.

This might be good for their near needs, but less fits our far ideals about how we should live our lives. This is also probably why people tend to like marriage more than you might think from their youthful inclinations.

I thought of this while watching The Hunger Games. The book and movie express a strong sincere class and urban/rural envy and hatred. People from the heroine’s poor starving coal-mining District 12 are not allowed to leave or choose their laws, and are forcibly humiliated by the Capitol region, where folks live in lazy shallow luxury.

You might think this echoes your 99%er hatred of the 1%, but not only is the anti-urban-elite element strong here, on a cosmic scale you are more like Panem’s Capitol than District 12. Because unless humanity creates a strong permanent central government to control fertility, far future folk will return to very slow growth, and thus to near subsistence incomes. And you might consider what this vast horde will think of your rich ways.

Yes, you didn’t choose to live now, and you may have a right to spend your wealth any way you want. But future folk may have a right to hate or despise you, if they think you have mostly squandered the gift of living in our rare age of luxury. District 12 folks despise Capitol folk not just because their riches seem stolen, but also because they seem weak, shallow, selfish, and self-indulgent, with little sense of or contribution to larger possibilities. Future folk may think the same about you.

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