Many thanks for the cake replica of the Capitol that you sent us. It’s rare for a cake to be as delicious as it is beautiful - a repulsive layer of fondant often seems to be the price for elegance - but your chef exquisitely balanced the demands of the tongue and the eye. Please relay our compliments.
We’re especially glad to have received this token of your esteem because we know our next lesson is going to be hard to swallow. And that masticatory metaphor is intentional, President Snow, because if we had to pick one thing that worries us about your reign, it’s the food situation.
We know that in our last epistle we told you to focus on abstract concepts. But frankly, President Snow, we didn’t mean </i>you</i>. You should keep your people stuffed full of nonsense about freedom and glory, but you yourself need to keep your eyes always on nitty-gritty reality, and the nitty-gritty reality is that starving people are hopeless people - and therefore free people, people who have lost everything and are ripe for rebellion.
You’ve surely heard the phrase “bread and circuses”? You’ve got the circuses part down, but there’s a reason the bread is listed first. It’s hard to focus on even the most spectacular bloodbath at the circus when your stomach is so empty that it’s trying to eat your spleen.
Well-fed philosophers don’t spark revolts. It’s hardly even worth repressing them; that only brings attention to their work. No, it’s hungry women in bread lines that you need to watch out for, President Snow. Heed the examples of King Louis XVI and Tsar Nicholas II. No dictator can be called successful who ends up executed by his own subjects.
It’s not a bad idea to have a pair of listening ears at every bakery. Shoppers love to indulge a good grumble, and a good listener can become an invaluable barometer of social mood. When the mumbles turn to shouts, that’s a sign that the women have had enough, and you’re done for if you don’t ship in some bread pronto.
We suspect that you’ve kept your subjects hungry on the grounds that a hungry populace will be too tired and busy scouting for food to even think about revolt. This is true as far as it goes. But when the people get too hungry - when they reach the grim conclusion that there is nothing left but to watch their children starve to death - they’ll skip right over thinking about revolt to doing it.
By no means do we think that you should utterly reverse your policy and begin providing plentiful food year round. Keep the populace hungry. But don’t push them to the point of starvation. Ensure that even in their hungriest moments they always have a feast to look forward to - a feast that is, of course, provided by the bounteous generosity of the Capitol.
You know what would make the Hunger Games even better? Feasts. After seventy-five years it’s probably too late to rename the Hunger Games, but you can certainly change the associations people have with the name. No more mandatory standing in the village square, stomachs growling, staring sullenly at the screen. No! Now when people think of the Games, they’ll think of the one good time of the year when they aren’t hungry.
(We also strongly suggesting cultivating special seasonal Hunger Games dishes. For more information, please consider purchasing our expansion pack, Food as an Aid to Empire. Remember, There’s No Price Too Great for a Great Dictatorship! (™))
A supplementary feast when the victorious tribute visits each district may also be in order. An entire year between feasts is too taxing for both the human memory and the human stomach.
Here’s some next-level dictatorship for you: never mandate if you can make people do something of their own supposedly free will. Lay out vast feasts at the screenings of the Hunger Games, and the people will flock to watch. Their hungry children with demand it.
True, the viewers will be too busy chewing to notice some of the finer points of the games, but they’ll still get the highlights. Get them relaxed, let them drink a little beer (maybe a lot of beer), and their natural human propensity to root for their own and loathe their enemies will come out. Entice the people in with cakes and ale, and they won’t just be sullen bodies wishing they were somewhere else as they try not to watch the show. They’ll get engaged. They’ll get invested. They’ll become complicit.
Soon they’ll love the Games just as much as the denizens of the Capitol do - and for a far lower price tag, to boot. By all means, President Snow, let them eat cake.
Your replete friends,
The Society for Improved Dictatorship
This entry was originally posted at http://osprey-archer.dreamwidth.org/5730