Reflections on Panem

The Arts is about taking in experiences, places, sights, smells, ideas, and words from the world around, mixing it all up in your psyche, and then regurgitating it out in some art form. In this case writing. I once read a quote in a children’s book that I love.

by Trudi Trueit in Scab for Treasurer? (Secrets of a Lab Rat)

“… if you long to understand the world, read a book. If you long to understand yourself, then write one. “

So with this quote in mind, I write this post where I reflect on the world of Panem from the Hunger Games trilogy. (this is a spoiler post)

As I was reading the books, I kept playing connect the dots. Connecting something from Panem to our world. Here are some of the connections I made.

Capitol & the Districts
The districts each provide various resources or good for consumption to the Capitol. However the districts cannot use the goods directly themselves. District 11 was agriculture. Most of the stuff they produced went to the Capitol; the quality/variety of the food they ate was no better than District 12. The people in the districts had a low quality of living with few rights.

Seemed a lot like a history lesson on colonialism to me.

People in the Capitol
The citizens of the Capitol are depicted as being out of touch with reality. The districts exist to provide any needs or desires for the Capitol from food to electronic gadgets. The Capitol citizens are focused on appearances, what to wear, how to look, what to serve at a party. Little or no value for one’s natural bodies. A society where wrinkles cannot exist, people are artificially enhanced to be more alluring. Where little pills exist so you can throw up at parties, just for the sake of being able to eat more food.

The point about not knowing where your food comes from rings true for most of us who don’t work in agriculture. A year ago I watched the documentary Food Inc., which discusses the industrial style production of meat and poultry and its impact of on the environment. An eye-opening movie, one that I recommend watching.

The point about not knowing where your electronic good are made reminded me of the news articles regarding “sweatshop” conditions at electronic manufacturing companies in China. These are the places that build our smart-phones, MP3s, camera, etc. We all want lower cost electronics, but at what cost to the human condition.

As for the color of hair and tattoos. Ironically, I was at the salon having my hair highlighted while reading the book. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a little superficial, after all who wants to be like the Capitol citizens. I did get a chuckle when I realized the other stylists at the salon had pink and green hair and tattoos.

The no wrinkles and artificial enhancements are clear references to the botox and plastic surgery trends.

Lastly, being able to vomit on a whim. Bulimia.

Putting on a Show
The Hunger Games as well as Mockingjay’s role in the rebellion, was produced like scenes for a show. The purpose for Unit 451 at the Capitol wasn’t to go kick some butt, but to shoot promos to air.

This reminded me off a movie, Wag the Dog, where Hollywood fabricated a war to subvert attention from a presidential scandal. On a more serious note, when we see movies/tv coverage about conflicts in the Middle East or Asia or anywhere, how much do we really get to see and who decides. Now with the Internet it is much easier to get different perspectives on a conflict.

So what does all this mean? Is Panem an extreme version of our world hundreds of years from now. I certainly hope not. Instead, I see it as a mirror by which we can reflect on who we are, and maybe make some changes for the better along the way.

What do you think?

See my earlier post for my review of Hunger Games. Click here for my review of Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

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2 Comments to “Reflections on Panem”

  1. I have read the books, but your discussion and your thoughts have me intrigued. Your question at the end made me think “reflection.” Have often thought that our government, military and so on are only a reflection of where humanity is. That’s why it’s so important that we raise children with a social conscience and sense of responsibility. Will have to read the books now, they have been on my TBR list.

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