PRESENTED BY THE REGINA MAKING PEACE VIGIL
Mockingjay Part II, the fourth and final installment of The Hunger Games series of films, is now playing in cinemas. Based on Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, the movies, like the novels, have been enormously successful. Set in the near future, the story takes place in a country known as Panem, a post-apocalyptic totalitarian society established in North America following the destruction of our civilization.
At the centre of the story is Katniss Everdeen, a mere 16 years old at the beginning of the series. We learn of her struggles, first to provide for her mother and beloved younger sister after their father’s death, and then to survive the Hunger Games, a nationally televised event in which children between the ages of 12 and 18 are required to fight to the death until there is only one remaining.
The Hunger Games trilogy is categorized as “young adult fiction.” However, its multitude of fans represents a broad demographic, extending from pre-teens to senior citizens. As many of us know, it tackles serious issues and offers a critique of contemporary society.
…but what can The Hunger Games tell us about present-day Canadian society?
1) CLIMATE CHANGE
In The Hunger Games, climate change is responsible for the demise of North America: The Mayor of District 12 tells the history of Panem, “the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained.”
Canada is known internationally as a climate laggard. On the 2015 Climate Change Performance Index, we rank 58th out of 61. Tar sands development is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada. If environmental damage untimately leads to food and water scarcity, what will that mean for peace?
Panem is an extremely unequal society, with a disposable periphery where Katniss and her family struggle to survive, being exploited to feed the glittering capital where people live in unimaginable luxury. It is a classic case of what the Occupy Movement calls the 1% and the 99%.
Since the 1980s, inequality has been rapidly increasing in Canada, reversing the trend since the 1930s that saw increasing equality.
Today in Canada:
The richest 1% earn 13.3% of income, up from 7% in 1982.
The highest paid 100 CEOs earn 171 times more than the average worker, up from a ratio of 105 to 1 in 1998.
900,000 people use food banks every month.
1 in 5 children live in poverty.
Ways to Reduce Income Inequality: 4 Measures
- Increase tax rates on high incomes. Reverse corporate tax cuts.
- Raise the minimum wage to $17 an hour and index it to inflation.
- Invest in social housing.
- Introduce high quality universal early childhood education.
3)BREAD AND CIRCUSES
Panem, the name of Katniss’s country, refers to the phrase “Bread and Circuses.” Coined by a first century Roman writer, it describes how ruling classes pacify commoners by providing entertainment that serves as a distraction from their exploitation and subjugation.
In ancient Rome, it was gladiatorial contests that provided the deadly distraction. In Panem, it is the Hunger Games. What is it in our society?
What activity prevents you from helping to change the world?
4) WAR AND PEACE
The Hunger Games are a metaphor for war. We too send our young people off to kill other young people–in our case in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. As Collins indicates, even the most brutal of the young fighters in her novels are creations of the adult world which programs them, almost from birth, to fight and kill.
The anti-war stance of The Hunger Games is also evident in the portrayal of the impact of violence on the young characters. Like many soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, Katniss suffers from PTSD, experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and guilt.
5) THE LOVE STORY (Spoiler alert: highlight the text to read)
Another indication of the novels’ attitude to war is the resolution of the Gale-Katniss-Peeta love triangle in favour of Peeta, “the boy with the bread,” and not Gale, Katniss’s childhood hunting partner. A man so consumed with “rage and hatred,” Gale sees violence, no matter the cost, as the only way forward.
Canadian culture has always been rootes in politeness and consideration for others – so much so in fact, that it has spawned hundreds of Canadian “sorry” memes.
6) POWER & CORRUPTION
The ultimate futility of armed resistance is, however, most clearly apparent when Coin, the president of District 13, the centre of the armed rebellion, begins to replicate the power plays of the Capital, dropping bombs on children and planning to reinstate the Hunger Games. Violence begets violence is Collins’s message.
If armed resistance is not the way to respond to brutal, unjust power, what is? Collins’s answer seems to be a fostering of certain values – community, resourcefulness, self-sacrifice, love – combined with a strategy of revolutionary non-violence.
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In The Hunger Games, the three-fingered salute is a symbol of resistance to unjust and corrupt power.
Let’s do the three-fingered salute across Canada!
- IT’S THE ONLY PLANET WE’VE GOT! Following the world’s biggest climate conference, to avoid catastrophic climate change, world leaders will have to stick to their set limits on carbon emissions. Let Prime Minister Trudeau know that real climate leadership means not supporting tar sands pipelines or the expansion of the tar sands: email@example.com or 613-992-4211.
- STUDY WAR NO MORE! Regina high schools, public and Catholic, offer a military training program to grade 11 and 12 students. Students earn 2 credits for taking the course. They are also paid $2,000. Let Premier Brad Wall know we do not want the youth of our city educated for war: firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-787-9433.
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