Thursday, May 8, 2014

       This year we have covered a very wide variety of topics. We’ve talked about ancient Roman gladiators, how the film adaptations of books are different from their original paper version, how culture can affect revolutions, and many others. While very different, each of these topics has one thing in common: they can all be related to The Hunger Games trilogy. We had many guest lectures, each from an expert in a certain field that can be related to the trilogy. We even watched Children of Men,  a dystopian film that featured an incredibly depressing world that had no children.
       Ultimately, I learned many things this semester. Coming in, I had no idea what to expect so far as how we were going to talk about The Hunger Games for an entire semester. I mean, they’re great books but I couldn’t see us finding things to discuss for that long. Little did I know we would find so many things to dissect and analyze from the books, and so many other subjects to compare the story to. I think my favorite section was our talks about the nature of evil. Dr. Baron’s lecture about how we define good was very interesting, to see how we as a society compartmentalize good deeds and what makes someone a good person. In addition to that, probably the most profound experience I’ve had here at McDaniel listening to the Holocaust Survivor talk. To hear first hand how evil some men can be, how totally the human life can be stripped down and made worthless was astounding. His talk was emotionally charged, and I sincerely enjoyed listening to him.

       All in all, I had a great experience this semester. My analytical skills were greatly improved, and I was able to look at a great story in so many different ways.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Evil has been present since the beginning of humanity, and will be present until the last humans walk the earth. The question is not whether evil exists, but rather what evil is and who is capable of it. When you ask people to think of someone evil, a large portion of them will give you examples like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. Rubin Szatajer can certainly testify to Hitler’s capacity for evil, having seen it first hand. He can also vouch for the evil of not just Hitler, but Hitler’s soldiers as well. Most people would consider those soldiers to be evil, and not normal human beings.
 What most people will also tell you is that it takes a certain type of person to be evil, that not everyone is able to do terrible things. What Dr. Baron showed us with the Milgram experiment is that almost anybody, when put in the right situation, is capable of terrible things.
       In the Milgram experiment, test subjects were willing to administer lethal doses of electricity to a fellow human being just because an authority figure instructed them to do so. Everyday, normal, good people listened to someone they didn’t know tell them to cause incredible pain to someone else. This idea is the same concept Hitler and others like him were able to use to get entire countries to think and act in evil ways. This fact is a testament to the human condition of submitting to an authority figure, when that authority figure pushes the right buttons.

       President Snow does the same thing in the Hunger Games. Do you think every Peacekeeper was just as evil as Snow? Of course not, but they fell trap to his charisma and coercive mind. This is part of what makes men like Snow and Hitler so dangerous, not just that they themselves are evil, but that they can get others who were previously good people to do terrible things in their name.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Some day the world will come to an end. Be it through a natural demise like the Sun expanding to devour it, or by the hand of the humans who occupy it, the fact that its days are numbered is undeniable. For nearly the entire life of the human race men have wondered and theorized about the end times. The Mayans predicted an exact day, the Christians an exact sequence of events, and in more recent years, cult leaders have again and again seen their prophecies about the rapture fail. I’d like to talk about the latter, cults, and some of the consequences of that Millennialism mentality.
       A family friend of mine was one of the many people tricked into following Harold Camping and his predictions of the End Times in May 2011. My friend was utterly convinced that Mr. Camping was telling the truth, up to the point where he was willing to sell everything he had (which wasn’t much) and take his children on a cruise a few weeks before he thought the world was going to end. He believed he might as well spend all his money, since after May 2011 the world would be gone anyways. Thankfully, he was persuaded to not throw away his life savings based on Mr. Camping’s “prediction”. However, I was able to see first hand some of the consequences of Millennialism. Here was a man, with a family to provide for, willing to risk their whole future because he was tricked by Camping. While he was fortunate enough to not lose everything, others were not so lucky.
       The fact that Mr. Camping was able to gain so many followers is a testament to his charisma. He was able to persuade thousands of sane, otherwise intelligent people to follow him, a remarkable feat.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Unfortunately I had to miss class on the day Dr. Mazeroff came to speak to the class, but I was able to look through the power point that went along with his talk and get a good idea of what he talked about. What I want to do here is go through a few of the steps in the Hero’s Journey and compare them to Katniss’s experience.

The first thing I want to look at is the Departure stage, specifically the annihilation of self idea. By volunteering as tribute in the Hunger Games, Katniss essentially commits a delayed version of suicide. Then there is the initiation phase, which to me was when Katniss learned the culture of the Capitol, or at least tried to. The power point mentions that part of this stage is dying to oneself, which in a sense would be what Katniss has to do, putting aside her own feelings of contempt and disgust at the people in the Capitol in order to win over sponsors. However, as we know, she pretty much fails to do so, shooting an arrow through a pig’s mouth in an act of angst. Even when the people do fall in love with her, its not so much because she tried to win them over so much as it is they are fascinated by her blunt personality.

Finally, I want to consider Katniss’s return, which in Dr. Mazeroff’s presentation said that the trick was to “retain wisdom…and share it with the rest of the world”. To me, Katniss doesn’t follow this path, which is not necessarily her fault. What she “learned” by participating in the Hunger Games is not really something she can come home and share with her District. When she does take on a position of leadership in the rebellion, it’s definitely more reluctant that perhaps the more stereotypical hero’s return.
The movie Children of Men was profound. Its portrayal of a world bereft of the joy of children was almost chilling. It was really cool to see how the world would look in such a scenario, especially given the realistic chances of something like that happening.

One scene that I liked was when Theo and the woman travelling with the girl were standing in Sid’s house looking out at the old playground, and how she talked about how still the world had become without the sound of children. That was a very interesting scene, to see the deeper effects of fertility loss on humanity. Children are something most people take for granted, and the darkness of the movie illustrated how important kids are to the brightness of life.

The movie connected to the Hunger Games in a couple of ways that stood out to me. One was obviously the gloomy feel to life in London. It felt like there was nothing to be happy about, that people were just carrying on their lives and going through the motions. Another way was the oppressive nature of the government. Although not quite on the level of President’s Snows atrocities, the imprisoning and abuse of non-British certainly was a parallel to the culture of fear that existed in Panem. Finally, I also noticed how the main rebels in the movie were violent and at times extremely cruel. This reminded me of how sometimes the people rebelling aren’t necessarily going to be more righteous leaders than the people they’re trying to overthrow. Although I don’t think they were on the same level as Coin, their willingness to do absolutely whatever it took to get what they wanted was definitely an interesting connection to the Hunger Games.