Mar. 12th, 2017

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To the illustrious President Snow:

We’ve been following Katniss Everdeen’s tour through Panem with interest and concern. Concern because you don’t seem to have followed our advice to present her as a lunatic - did our letter not arrive in time? - but interest, also, because the tour has given us a fascinating view of the political organization of Panem. We hadn’t realized that each district was in charge of one industry or that the districts had so little contact with each other. What an excellent system for sowing distrust between districts! Pity you haven’t done more with it.

In our last letter, we urged you to try to convince people to blame themselves for their malcontent. This is fine advice as far as it goes, but let’s face it, self-blame only goes so far. Few people are such delusional depressives that they can blame themselves for all their ills when not only they but everyone else they know is slowly succumbing to malnutrition despite working twelve hour days. They need an outside force to blame, and the Victory Tour has made it clear that they’ve picked you.

This is unfortunate, but never fear! All is not lost. You simply need to provide them with a new target at which to direct their blame, and the district system provides an excellent opportunity. You simply need to convince your subjects to direct their fear and anger and hatred at people in the other districts, rather than the Capitol.

Admittedly, you face an uphill battle. Currently, the residents of the districts seem to feel a deplorable level of empathy toward each other. They may hate the districts that field Career tributes to the Hunger Games, but their hearts clearly bleed for the families in non-Career districts who have had their children torn away from them by this bloody spectacle.

But there’s an easy fix, President Snow. All your tributes need to become Careers.

Once the tributes are no longer innocents but highly trained warriors who chose this life for personal advancement, their suffering will cease to bridge chasms between districts. Instead, each district will loathe the tributes of all other districts, and through that loathing, learn to loathe the other districts as well. You simply need to reframe the Games so that your people see them not as a punishment, but as their one and only providential chance for their children to escape this life of drudgery.

You shouldn’t have to pick the tributes by lottery. Parents should be lining up to send their children to the Games! Every district ought to follow Districts 1, 2, and 4 in having a tribute training program. You’re already spending money on schools - a sterling example of your general benevolence, by the way. Perhaps a little too much benevolence? Literacy only stirs up trouble.

But, as you’ve already set up the schools, you might as well spend just a little bit extra so each district can have a training program, too.

Moreover, district training programs offer a beautiful opportunity to expand the bread-and-circuses side of your reign. How should a program pick which of its highly trained students wins the honor of representing their district in the Hunger Games? You’ll need some kind of exam. And what exam could be better than a Hunger Game in miniature?

Of course, the candidates shouldn’t actually kill each other in the Mini Games. Actual killing should be preserved for the Hunger Games proper to give them a special level of excitement. Moreover, these highly trained children are an excellent resource that shouldn’t be wasted. The losers of the Mini Games can be easily drafted as district Peacekeepers.

(As a side note, we hear you’re currently getting all your Peacekeepers from the Capitol. No wonder they’re all a bunch of incompetents; with all the opportunities the Capitol affords, only the very dregs must be signing up to slog their lives away out in the districts. The districts, on the other hand, offer no other method of social advancement, and therefore will send you the cream of their youth.)

Winning the opportunity to be the district tribute through the Mini Games will only enhance the honor and prestige of this position.

Not only will the Mini Games enhance the honor of being chosen as tribute, but they will provide an important lesser holiday during the slow season between Hunger Games. (Initial selection for the training program may provide another such occasion.)

Moreover, the Mini Games will offer a golden opportunity to carve deep community rifts. Encourage betting. Stoke up the animosity between different segments of the community as they root for their own candidates. With luck, some of these rivalries will last for decades after the chosen tribute went off and died in the Games proper. Such petty grudges provide people a safe outlet for anger they might otherwise direct at the Capitol.

When parents start fighting each other to place their children in the training program, willing to risk their children’s lives for the slim hope that their children might better their social status - well, when that moment comes, you can rest secure in the strength of your system. There are few chains as strong as hope.

Once your districts take proper pride in their own tributes, then a commensurate loathing of other districts’ tributes – and with it, the other districts themselves – will naturally follow. When they hear of suffering in another district, their response will not be sympathy, but contempt and pleasure: this misfortune will only make it easier for their own tribute to triumph in the next Games.

Moreover, true animosity between districts can only make future Hunger Games more exciting. If there’s a food shortage, say, nothing would be more natural than a few jocular comments from Caesar Flickerman about appropriate ways to dispatch the District 11 tributes in punishment for their district’s crimes. Disemboweling seems like an appropriate response, don’t you think?

Yours,
The Society for Improved Dictatorship

***

Next week's installment is currently entitled "Do You Want to Build an Empire?" but the focus has changed somewhat from purely empire to relations with outside powers in general, so I may have to come up with a new title.

And that will be the last week, although I have a few ideas for supplementary materials, if anyone donates $10+ to the ACLU. Possibilities include:

Food as a Tool for Empire
The Smart Dictator's Reading List
Sex and the Single Dictator (President Snow isn't married, is he? I guess that's a strike against the idea that the Presidency of Panem might be heritable: you'd think he'd be a bit more concerned about providing an heir.)

And, for something a bit different, an article/advertisement for the course, presumably published in Dictators Today. Possibly with testimonials for other dictators, fictional and factual.

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