WARNING! – This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire Hunger Game Trilogy. Read at your own risk.

—–

In recent weeks, the film adaptation of The Hunger Games has become a cultural phenomenon.

Our society is fascinated by the idea of a captive populace, living in fear of their ‘Peacekeepers,’ who are only permitted to survive if they surrender their children to a fight to the death.

Our society is astonished by the callous nature of the people of the Capitol, living in futuristic luxury while the people of the outlying districts barely scrape by, living on food gathered illegally.

Suzanne Collins, the author of the series, wove a tale that encapsulated the worst fears of an out-of-control government and mixed in elements of myth and history; from the Athenian tributes to King Minos of Crete to the very real practice of punishing people for hunting on the King’s land.

The Hunger Games grips us because, unlike other recent film franchises I could mention, there is nothing supernatural at work here. No superpowers, no vampires, just people. Ordinary people whose lives were shaped by the oppression they lived under.

Here’s where the disconnect comes in.

Penn Badgley, an actor and Occupy activist has spoken out about the message of the Hunger Games as he sees it:

“It’s the one percent [killing the kids],” he told us at the after-party at the Top of the Standard. “I think you’d have to be blind to not see that. I was shocked to see all that in there.” [1]

Well, apparently I’m blind; because what I saw wasn’t the evil banks gathering people up. What I saw wasn’t “Big Oil” terrorizing District 12. It wasn’t some suit-wearing evil businessman, or a corporation bent on control, or a crazy guy abducting people and making them fight to the death for his own amusement. It was the government oppressing the people.

Thankfully, Collins didn’t give in to the temptation to make Katniss, the protagonist of the stories, into a Marxist. It would have been very easy to do; for a time we are led to believe that that is indeed the direction the story is taking us — from an oligarchical oppressor to a softer tyranny. A socialist tyranny, with the same level of totalitarianism; the same level of domination and control of the people.

But unexpectedly, in the third book, Katniss’ true allies talk favorably about the system of government in place before Panem, the current country. I expected the book to praise democracy — the rule of the people. But instead, we are told that the people of Panem should aspire to a Republic, a system that is unconquerable while the people believe in it.

If you listen to the current President; we are not a republic, we are a democracy. And he hasn’t said that once or twice. It’s a pattern.

I don’t know Suzanne Collins. I don’t know which way she votes. And honestly, I don’t really care. Her writing speaks so much louder than a single vote.

The Hunger Games embodies the ache of a once-free people, who through the soft, gradual slide of time and complacency, surrendered their liberty, and paid the price with the blood of their children. Whether or not she intended it to be so acute, the message of the Hunger Games is that the temptation to trade liberty for safety is a fact of the human condition. That when absolute power is given over to a single man, or an oligarchical council, that power will corrupt and pervert even the purest motives. The only way to avoid that fate is to aspire to ideals that transcend ideology.

 “If a man brings a good mind to what he reads he may become, as it were, the spiritual descendant to some extent of great men, and this link, this spiritual hereditary tie, may help to just kick the beam in the right direction at a vital crisis…”

-Rudyard Kipling, The Uses of Reading

At the end of the Hunger Games series, Katniss makes a choice, and ends the life of a tyrant, allowing the people the freedom they had been promised.

However, Occupy Wall Street and those who fund them have decided that the time for violence is near. They’re promising a summer of violence, civil disobedience, and turmoil — and that’s before the general election campaign really starts. Where Katniss unknowingly sparks the flames of revolution, the Occupy Protesters know that their words have launched a movement that they know may well spin out of control.

When Katniss finds that her simple act of self-preservation has resulted in a full-fledged uprising, she gets caught up in the wave, and rightfully fights against the tyrant who has attempted to murder her. But when the time comes for her to be the kingmaker and choose the future of her people, she steps back and sides with liberty over tyranny.

Does anyone believe that Occupy Wall Street will calmly evaluate their options and side with Liberty?  The people in the Hunger Games rise up after 75 years of total oppression. The founders rose up after decades of monarchical rule. We are in neither position. We have the rights and freedoms necessary to retake this country with words.

At least one Young Adult author is beginning to do just that.

Luke Stibbs | University of the Fraser Valley | Maple Ridge, British Columbia | @LukeStibbs