Huge props to Suzanne Collins.

She achieved what every High School English teacher only dreams of doing: getting the nation’s youth to read George Orwell. Although her book “The Hunger Games” isn’t really a work by Orwell, the same themes still ring true. Authoritative Government is a miserable way of life.

First, a quick synopsis. The book begins in a post-Republic USA, where portions of the country are split into districts, an all-powerful Capitol exists, and starving to death isn’t uncommon. Our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, has been selected along with 23 other boys and girls from all over the country, to compete in the annual “Hunger Games,” a gladiator style, government-sponsored event where 24 tributes (nominees) go in to a staged wilderness arena, and only one can come out.

Truly awful isn’t it?  These kids, ranging from ages 12-18, plucked from their lives and their families, are forced to become brutal killing machines (Kony 2012, anyone?) all for the mere sport and blood-lust of the Capitol, and to make sure that the people of the districts know who is in charge. A government run by fear.

Well, thank Heavens it could never come to something like that in our country, right?

Not so fast.

When I began reading the book, I wanted to read between the lines. I started examining the mentality of the society, which operated out of fear, and I paid close attention to small things that were embedded in the culture of the districts that would allow for such an over-reaching central government. What I found mirrored issues we face today in the USA. Let’s take a closer look and see if you can find the parallels in our society and the society of “The Hunger Games.”

In the world of the Hunger Games, in their fictional country of Panem, weapons are illegal. Never mind that people are starving and a gun or bow and arrow are perfect family feeding tools; never mind that in a world of “every man for himself” weapons are a source of protection. No, the Capitol made sure that the people know that “weapons are dangerous, and we are taking them for your own good.” I guess the kids were brainwashed into believing that weapons aren’t cool. A nod to Eric Holder with that statement.

In Panem, fences mark the territories. They were built by the Capitol to “keep the dangerous animals out” because remember, there are no weapons. Nobody is allowed to cross the fences into the wilderness; that is too dangerous. Never mind that the forest has plenty of game and vegetation to feed the citizens; no, poaching is punishable by death. Which leads me to wonder: are they keeping the beasts out, or are they keeping the citizens in?

There is no religion in Panem, or if there is, you don’t see or hear about it. Besides, you are not allowed to be together in large groups that aren’t under constant surveillance by the Capitol’s police or by the genetically-altered government created birds, the Mockingjays, that could be listening in at any moment and could take your messages back to the Capitol. PATRIOT Act, maybe?

The schools are managed by the Capitol; the food is managed and rationed by the Capitol. Even the local governments of the Districts, are managed and appointed by the Capitol and pretty much exist to carry out the will of the Capitol.

Communication between the districts is forbidden. There is really no need for communication though; you aren’t allowed to travel between districts anyway. But that isn’t so bad because you are probably going to be too busy meeting your Capitol assigned quota of your district’s particular resource. Be it coal, or grain, or whatever the Capitol assigns to your district, that is the industry; that is your career option.

But you won’t say anything. You won’t whisper dissent. Why would you? Do you have a weapon to use in a rebellion? Nope. Do you have any means of communicating and creating a group to stand against the Capitol? No.

You won’t speak out of line, you won’t cry for your lost rights. You never had rights, or even if you did, you weren’t taught about them in the schools. You don’t know the first thing about government, because that really wasn’t stressed in the curriculum. Just approved material, deemed relevant by the central Government– that was all you were taught. That, and fear was certainly a part of your education.

You helplessly sign up for your turn as a tribute for your district in the Hunger Games every year. If you put your name in the drawing a few more times you might get some more food rations for your starving family.

You stand there with a forced smile, blind to the tyranny, ignorant of liberty, a government-created pawn, waiting for your name to be drawn so you can go fight another battle for the bloodthirsty society and the seemingly omnipotent Capitol.

Now, let’s play a game. Go back through what you’ve just read and substitute “Washington D.C.” for “Capitol.”

Scary, right? Read “Animal Farm,” and “1984.”

Know government, no freedom. No government, know freedom.

Tanner Salyers :: Shawnee State University :: Portsmouth, Ohio :: @TannerSalyers