Politics is an essential part of the Hunger Games, and the lecture by Dr. Leahy and the Guest Lecture by Dr. Telhami both showed a different aspect of how the Hunger Games and politics interact. Dr. Leahy’s lecture focused on the different aspects of totalitarian regimes and the methods that are employed to control the people. At one point in the lecture, she quoted Arendt, a German-American political theorist, with the phrase, “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.” This quote was very pertinent to the Hunger Games for a variety of different reasons. For one, Snow employed this idea very widely in his treatment of the people in the Districts and in the Capitol. In the Capitol, he surrounded them with excess so that they would never think to question the Games and turned the Games into a form of entertainment to dehumanize the Districts and prevent people from wondering about the humanity of the Games. Among the Victors, Snow destroyed their convictions by threatening the lives and safety of the people that they cared about. In the Districts, people were only given a very basic, propagandized version of what history was and what proper behavior was so that they never considered trying to withhold their children from the reaping; and they were forced to watch as their children died year after year. In addition, Snow controls information and people through spying and technology. He watches everyone who could be a threat through different forms of surveillance to make sure that they never step out of line or ignore his orders.
Another major theory that Dr. Leahy brought up in her lecture was the idea of control of resources in totalitarian systems. These resources include the military, economy, and actual physical resources. The people in the Districts have been forced to specialize their economies, and they are required to supply different things to the Capitol. In return, they are sent basic food supplies to help everyone get by. However, it is never enough for food to be plentiful, even though people in the Capitol eat in excess, and children in the poor Districts often had to take tesserae to help their families survive. In addition, Snow controls the Peacekeepers, which are essentially the only military force of Panem. Peacekeepers are in charge of maintaining order and the borders of the Districts, to prevent interaction, illegal hunting and gathering outside of the District fences, and more. In addition, people are encouraged, and even rewarded, if they turn others in for potential violations.
Another interesting point that was brought up in this lecture, and in the lecture about Dystopias, was the control of information. Totalitarian governments limit media, free speech, and what is taught in order to control the perspective of the people. In the Hunger Games, people are given virtually no information about the other Districts or the world outside Panem, if it even still exists. Katniss is shocked when she sees how huge District 11 is, and realizes that the video of the Reaping must show only a portion of the population present. On top of that, the Districts have very little way to communicate with one another, they are fenced in with no real media to tell the other Districts about what is going on. In District 12, Katniss only heard about the rebellion in District 8 on the television in the Mayor’s house. No one else had access to that information.
Dr. Telhami’s talk focused on modern day politics in the Middle East. When I arrived at the lecture, I wondered how it was pertinent to our class on The Hunger Games, but he actually made a lot of relevant points. For one, he talked about the expansion of knowledge as a catalyst for the Arab Spring. In The Hunger Games, Peeta uses the claim that Katniss is pregnant to try and make the people of the Capitol realize the inhumanity of the Games – to bring knowledge to them that Snow took away with his propaganda and his bread and circuses. Snow disassociated the Capitol people with the people in the Districts, but the knowledge that they could lose the Victors that they loved made a lot of the people in the Capitol angry and upset. In addition, when knowledge of District 13’s survival came to Katniss, it was one of the first times she seriously considered the possibility of the full scale rebellion.
Another point that Dr. Telhami brought up was the idea of a sense of identity. Snow destroyed the sense of identity and solidarity between the Districts by cutting them off from one another and not allowing the District’s to know much about one another. There was no sense of community, so any District that thought about rebelling expected to be alone in that fight. When the Districts actually had a figure head to stand behind, in this case Katniss as the Mockingjay, it finally made them realize that it was more than 1 district that had rebellious thoughts and it gave them something to stand for. The people could unite under their hatred of Snow, their starvation and poor conditions, and much more. When Cinna turned Katniss into the Mockingjay with her dress, it became apparent that even some of the elites of the Capitol were on the rebellions side.
A final segment that Dr. Telhami brought up was the idea that public empowerment does not always mean that they will define policy. The different political figures and leaders will reach agreements that will allow for stability. In the Hunger Games, there were only a select few people that were in charge in the rebellion. Coin was meant to be the new President, and she would have advisors from throughout the leadership of the rebellion. Paylor became the President when Katniss killed Coin, but even so the end of Mockingjay made it clear that Panem would have a long way to go before true democracy could be found. Stability, however, was a much more achievable goal.