Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Panem on Fire

In the typology of fiction, science fiction goes under a broader umbrella of speculative fiction, and rightly so. It speculates – predicts, imagines, gambles with the possibilities of the future. Suzanne Collins’ sequel to The Hunger Games was followed by Catching Fire – again, like the first, was visualized into a film. Is it science fiction? Futuristic settings and technology, check; a dystopian society, check; a different world order, check. However, the quality that highlights its genre is the work’s capacity to convince viewers that the human condition is worth examining through the technology and society present. 

Reflecting this timelessness of the human condition – past, present, and future – is speculative fiction’s most essential quality. In this recent visit to Panem, Katniss Everdeen, the spark of the rebellion, suddenly is catching fire. Although we see her being repressed by the government, drawn to the Quarter Quell and fated to die in it; there was a rebellion that was growing silently behind her back, because of her, without her even realizing it. In the same way in Philippine History, Jose Rizal was the spark of the flame – his ideas, which the government repressed, reached the Filipinos at the time and set forth the independence movement, without his knowledge of it. We also see the Panem government that is tight on surveillance, with every inch of each district being placed under their watch. Surprisingly, this concern regarding surveillance and privacy is also very well into our present, with the post-9/11 paranoia boiling in the background, the US government mostly in its center. Lastly, although the best we can do is speculate about the future human society, it is not a far cry from the trend we are following now. Weak social control and revolutions are beginning to destabilize previously intact authoritarian (or even democratic) governments, with political activists, such as Gene Sharp, stirring the phenomenon.

From the perspective of the government, science and technology in their hands have failed. Considering that they do have a clear abundance and control of it, they were not able to monopolize it because the citizens still were able to access and take advantage of it. On the other side of the coin, though, it is almost a victory for the rebels – first, that Katniss and Wiress outsmarted the Quarter Quell, and second, because the supposedly obsolete District 13 was successfully kept hidden and preserved all these years for that very moment of revolution. All in all, though, society fails to uphold order, but in that light, it is also successful in creating much needed social upheaval.

Christine Joy L. Galunan

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