Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Arab Spring and Dr. Shibley Telhami

The Arab Spring and Dr. Shibley Telhami

 According to Dr. Telhami, who has been taking polls to measure Middle Easterners' feelings about identity, after the Arab Spring, many identified more as Muslim or Arab than with their country. This shift in identity coincides with the Hunger Games. In the first book, the districts are very divided, promoted by the competitive nature of the Games and the cleverness of the Capitol. However, in Mockingjay, the citizens start to identify more as rebels and against the Capitol, than with their home district. Also, Dr. Telhami discovered that when asked which non-Arab leader they admired most, almost all answers were influenced by the leaders ability to stand up to and against Israel, even if the leader showed less than compassionate tendencies. This parallels the rebels ability to admire and follow President Coin despite her, at times, obvious evil ideas. The rebels' unacceptance of her is much smaller than their dislike of President Snow.

A huge illusion to the Arab Spring in the Hunger Games is Katniss' nickname, the girl on fire. The demonstration to kick of the rebellion in Tunisia, the very first nation to rebel in the Arab Spring, was started by  Mohamed Bouazizi in 2010. Bouazizi was working as a street vendor with a produce cart,  when a police official confiscated his tools and told him to shut it down. An hour later, he doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire in the middle of traffic. This act of martyrdom started an entire period of revolution, not just in Tunisia, but in the Arab World, and parallels Katniss willingness to commit suicide with berries in the 74th Hunger Games. Interestingly, both significant events involved produce, Katniss with her nightlock berries and Bouazizi with his cart.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


The Appalachian region relates to District 12 of Panem in its culture and its literal location.

The grueling dominant profession of mining and the therapeutic culture of song and dance occur in both. Katniss' dad and Gale's dad both died in the mines, but Katniss and her father shared the love of music, specifically Appalachian songs like the Hanging Tree. This song, though gruesomely named and discussing a very sad story, was therapeutic and comforting to Katniss during Rue's death and after District 12 was destroyed. Perhaps songs ease the harsh conditions that these people live in. Even the sad songs about hanging promise a happier or more peaceful place in the future thanks to love.  On the other hand, actual Appalachian songs like the one in which a man sings about killing his girlfriend nonchalantly, almost play down the hardships of Appalachia by making it seem normal or comedic.

The founders of Appalachia, the Scotch-Irish were fierce fighters and highly independent, a description that could easily be used on Katniss. Appalachian lyrics and literature emphasize family and nature, which are very important to both Katniss and Gale. Nature is valued for its healing properties and ability to find escape in. Prim and her mom use nature to gain a vast knowledge of herbs and plants to use in medicine for every ailment or injury they encounter.  Katniss and Gale use their hunting outings in the beautiful nature of Appalachia to escape the hardships of the region.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dystopian Literature

There are eight common traits of a dystopia:
1) A dystopia is simply a utopia with one fatal flaw. In the case of Panem, the fatal flaw is the Capitol. The idea of having 12 or 13 districts, each specializing in one export due to their location and resources, has great potential for a utopian society. However, the Capitol messes up the whole system by hogging all the goods and services while supplying nothing to the districts. url.jpg

2) Stability is valued at all costs. In DIstrict 12, simple things like going to the meadow to hunt were strictly forbidden. In District 13 during the revolution, stability seemed so important that the inhabitants had to have their schedules tattooed on their arms, preventing any excuse to step out of line. When things are no longer stable, a dictator cannot be sure that all the pieces are in the places he wants them to be. Instability leads to unpredictability which can lead to a loss of power.

3) Who's interests are being served?
President Snow acts as though he is helping the districts in every way he can, providing them with stability, treating victors like superstars, and more. However, he is serving his own selfish interests while acting like those aline with the rest of Panem's best interests. He pays for the Victory Tour, and gives the Victors and their families a better house and monthly earnings, but they are now his property. Career tributes believe by winning the Games, their interests will be served. Children in District 1 and 2 train their whole lives to be these victors. They won the games, but they did not win their freedom, because they will be under Snow's control as long as Panem stays the way it is. Finnick was prostituted  and all the people Haymitch loved in his life were killed. Does that sound like their interests are being served?
4) Reflects specific societal problems or tendencies
The media and people are obsessed with tragedy. Everyone in the Capitol and everywhere in Panem wants to know every little detail about Peeta and Katniss' lives and love. When Peeta claims that Katniss is pregnant live on Cesar's show, everyone freaks out but they do not stop the Games from continuing because they love the added layer of drama. url.jpg

5) There are three 21st century dystopian common themes:
a) gap between the haves and the have-nots
The gap in the quality of life and overall economic status between the higher districts and the capitol is appalling. People are literally starving in District 12, while those living in the Capitol drink solutions that make them throw up so that they can eat more food.
b) environmental destruction
c) technological surveillance
President Snow can see everything happening in District 12. Many of the district's inhabitants are unaware of this, but Katniss knows she is being watched because Snow implies to her that he knows about the kiss between her and Gale. In the actual arena, EVERYTHING is filmed. The most sacred final seconds of children's lives are shown live to the world. 

6) Internalization of propaganda:
The traumatic Hunger Games have become a normal part of civilians lives. Though they recognize how horrible it is, the districts are not phased by the advertisements, victory tours and other propaganda the Capitol throws at them. The inhabitants of the Capitol, on the other hand, have become completely desensitized to the horror of the games. They see it purely as entertainment and cannot fathom the gravity of the situation.

7) Control of information
The Capitol controls all the information that is being received by the districts. During the rebellion, the news only shows what the Capitol wants it to show, skewing the perception of all those not involved in either District 13 or the government. The information Peeta gives is false and he is only saying those things because the Capitol tortures him.

8) Actual weapons and fear
Though actual weapons cause devastating harm and are used by many in the Hunger Games, President Snow and the Capitol's first choice for keeping the districts in line is fear. The entire reason behind the Hunger Games is to remind all those unhappy civilians that Snow can take the things you love most, and not only kill them but force you to watch. Though Snow cannot directly reach every single child through participation in the Games, he inflicts fear in every family. Every mom being forced to watch the Games knows that the tribute could be her child.