Mar. 5th, 2017

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To the illustrious President Snow:

Thank you for laying out your Katniss Everdeen problem for us in your last letter. Annoying though she sounds, we see no reason for alarm; her upcoming appearances on her Hunger Games victory tour should give you ample opportunity to discredit her. Simply convince the populace that she’s tragically insane, and they may very well realize that their rebellious rumblings are unhinged as well without any more effort on your part.

Given her family history, it might be tempting to present her illness as depression, but we advise against it. Depression has some unfortunate positive folkloric connotations among the uneducated masses: artistic talent, deep emotional sensitivity, even leadership qualities, if they’ve spent too much time imbibing Abraham Lincoln biographies. At very least, the people may latch on to the idea that “She’s miserable, and we are too,” which will only strengthen their sense of identification with her.

No, if you’re going to discredit her, you’d better fake a full psychotic break. Start a whisper campaign: the girl sees things, she’s got voices in her head. For extra verisimilitude, pretend to try to stamp out the rumors: that will make them spread like wildfire.

Then all you’ll need from Miss Everdeen is bizarre behavior at a couple of public appearances, and that can be induced easily enough with drugs. Perhaps she could claw Claudius Templesmith’s face on live television? She’s got an impulsive streak that can be easily turned to your advantage here.

Oh, but for maximum impact, it ought to be Peeta’s face that she claws on camera. Think what a beautiful addition this would be to their love story! The saintly Peeta, his cheek still bleeding from her attack, cradles a weeping Katniss in his arms as she sobs out disjointed words that only make her insanity tragically obvious. Oh, we’re wiping away a tear just imagining the propaganda coup. There won’t be a dry eye in Panem when you broadcast it.

This will solve your current problem. But this is only the beginning of what greater mental health awareness can do for your reign! We urge you to commit to an extensive effort to educate your people about the dangers of Rebellious Emotive Disorder (RED). This disease has been recognized as far back as antiquity. In the antebellum American south, where RED was recognized under the name drapetomania, they considered the sovereign treatment whipping and hard labor. It wasn’t until Soviet times that RED came under the proper care of psychiatry.

Sufferers may exhibit sullenness, lethargy, a distrust of authority, an aversion to work (often coupled with the fatalistic belief that hard work will not improve their lot in life), and dissatisfaction with the current state of society. Their hallmark delusion is that it is society’s flaws, not their own defective brain chemistry, that causes their unhappiness. People who suffer from RED later in life often display a tendency toward the disorder even in early childhood, when they are drawn to legends about “heroic” outlaws and pirates. Robin Hood is an oft-mentioned favorite.

As the disease grows more severe, sufferers begin to experience suicide ideation, particularly in the form of a suicidal desire to fight the government. They may believe that going out dramatically in their paranoid fight against the government would be preferable to living a quiet, orderly life.

In the most severe cases, sufferers act on their impulses. Because RED is highly contagious, this can result not merely in lone suicidal terrorist attacks, but full-scale rebellion.

RED requires prompt and extensive treatment if there is to be any hope for remission. Although some sufferers prove incurable and must be kept in permanent quarantine, many can be treated successfully and sent back to their districts to live useful lives if their illness is identified soon enough. All your subjects should be encouraged to help their friends and loved ones by telling a trusted authority figure as soon as soon as they notice signs of RED.

Ideally, however, this kindly intervention should prove unnecessary. Once mental health awareness has really taken root, your patients will start presenting themselves for treatment as soon as they recognize symptoms of their own mental disintegration. It is so much easier to help patients who already accept their own insanity: they are far more amenable to replacing their bad thoughts (“I’m unhappy because society is so unfair; only revolution can make me happy”) with good ones (“I’m unhappy because my brain chemistry is broken; I know this must be true because only a person with a defective brain could be unhappy in a society as wonderful as the one I live in. Only submitting completely to treatment will make me happy”).

But resistance is the hallmark symptom of RED, and therefore most patients do prove resistant to treatment. The infectious nature of the disease often proves the practitioners’ friend in this regard: once RED patients fully understand that their loved ones may be infected, which would force the authorities to bring them in for treatment as well, they often become much more cooperative. The power of love is truly impressive.

However, for a serious mental health disorder like RED, one can’t depend on love alone for the solution. We urge you to consider transporting the most severe RED cases to the Capitol so they can receive top of the line treatment. The mere glimpse of the Capitol’s wealth, splendor, and vast, glittering military parades is often enough to lift the clouds of rebellion from all but the sickest of sufferers. It may be tempting to terminate treatment then, but it’s important to continue treatment to completion. Early termination often leads to relapse.

There will doubtless be some grumbling among your subjects that the regimen used to combat this disease turns patients into zombies, even heightens the risk of suicide. This is simply a sign that your subjects are deeply prejudiced against mental illness and would prefer for their mentally ill brethren to suffer indefinitely rather than receive the help they need. More education should set them straight. If it does not, their persistent grumblings may very well indicate that they themselves suffer from RED, and deserve prompt, compassionate, and comprehensive treatment.

Besides, suicide (as distinct from suicidal terrorist attacks) is far from the worst outcome in cases of RED. Better dead than RED, as they say.

And that’s another way to deal with the Katniss Everdeen problem, if worst comes to worst. If she won’t commit suicide for you, once you’ve set up convincing evidence of her instability, you can always fake it. Perhaps a double suicide with Peeta, even? He finds her dead body and kills himself in despair. There’s nothing more romantic than the excesses of young love.

Your friends,
The Society for Improved Dictatorship

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