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Catching Fire

I got halfway through Catching Fire and WHISKY TANGO FOXTROT, I had to stop for a breather because THEY ARE SENDING KATNISS BACK INTO THE ARENA, WHAT KIND OF MONSTER SENDS KATNISS BACK INTO THE ARENA, I DISAPPROVE HEARTILY OF THIS TURN OF EVENTS, I mean I can totally see the story logic behind it and it will probably be glorious but GODDAMN IT I JUST WANT KATNISS TO BE HAPPY YOU MONSTERS.

Ahem. On a different note, I feel the strange urge to give President Snow How to Be a Better Dictator tips, because he clearly needs some help in this department.

And by “better” I definitely mean “capable of holding onto power indefinitely despite being evil,” not “actually being kind of a good ruler” tips. This poor man, he walks into Katniss’s house and is all “let’s speak honestly with each other,” and then he actually does it like a rank amateur. All the best dictators lie like rugs, President Snow. Get with the program.

Anyway, in the course of speaking honestly, President Snow strongly implies an ultimatum to Katniss, and later on he lets her know that she’s failed. President Snow! No! You never tell your political enemies that they have failed and are powerless putty in your hands until they’re actually walking down the hall to the firing squad! Until then, keep dangling shreds of false hope in front of them and make them jump through hoops like porpoises. Surely that’s amusing in a tedious sort of way.

At all times, keep this maxim in front of you: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” You want to minimize your subjects’ freedom, you’ve got to make sure they’ve always got something to lose. The revolutions come when the bread lines get too long, President Snow.

And this is really his problem: he’s all iron fist and no velvet glove, when that soft fuzz of lies is what makes dictatorships function. You want to prevent revolution? Then you need buy-in. You need your subjects to believe the system offers them something.

Why present the Hunger Games as what they actually are - a terrifying reminder of the wealth and power of the Capitol and a punishment for recalcitrant districts - when they could be rebranded as a glorious opportunity for district bonding and social advancement? Make people root for their own district tributes! Set up tribute training centers in each district! Smile as parents fight each other for the chance to train their children to die gory gladiatorial deaths, because a win in the arena is their best and maybe only chance for social advancement.

(I get why Collins wanted the drama of selection-by-lottery, but as long as volunteers are allowed, I really think that every district no matter how poor would be training tributes. Sure, the poor districts’ tributes are going to be kind of like the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings, but they’re still going to give it their best shot.)

And all that intra-district bonding will have the glorious side effect of making all the districts loathe each other. Encourage that. To you all the districts may be indistinguishable conquered colonies, but don’t let them realize that. Play up their differences. Get them to direct their hate at each other. Divide and conquer, President Stone. Divide and conquer.

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Comments

I mean really the problem is that THG as it stands is a series about a rebellion against tyranny, and if President Snow were better at evil dictatoring it would probably become a series about learning to live under tyranny even as it cracks your soul apart. I would read it! But I'm not sure it would garner the same kind of audience as THG.