At the end of The Hunger Games trilogy, the question is posed as to whether a final televised bloodthirsty Hunger Games contest should be staged; this time, the Capitol’s children would be forced to participate while the Districts watched and the Capitol could get a taste of its own medicine. The question is asked of the seven remaining survivors (I would hardly call them victors) of the previous Hunger Gameses, since they are the only ones who know firsthand what such a competition is like. From this limited pool of seven people, some are vehemently opposed to the idea of holding another contest (even a “contest to end all contests”), while others are out for revenge. (It is further implied that even if the seven had all voted against holding another Hunger Games, the new president would have overruled them anyhow.) Those who are vengeful are more intrigued at the possibility of watching Capitol children kill each other than actually getting revenge.
Rewatching this scene in the last film recently, I was reminded that this type of question is not limited to the world of The Hunger Games. How to approach “righting the wrongs” of history is a common dilemma, both in teaching about events of the past and in attempting to live with the results of said events. Too often, instead of working toward fixing inequalities, societies’ responses have been of vengeance or of flipping existing inequalities. Furthermore, there are attempts to erase uncomfortable pasts, rather than acknowledging what has happened and changing the present.
To return to the story, the concept of the Hunger Games was a bad idea to begin with – no matter who was competing against whom, and no matter the intentions behind them. Likewise, persecution, racism, and systematic injustice are not good ideas, no matter who is involved and their intentions. Sure, they may have positive outcomes for certain peoples lucky to be in a privileged position, but there is no doubt that these are bad ideas. While those accustomed to privilege may see any loss of it as oppression and thus react badly to change in the status quo, if the scales are tipped the other way and they lose their power and privilege entirely, the same actions would indeed be oppression. The Capitol’s children being forced to be slaughtered in the killing game that they had passively watched the Districts’ children participate in is an example of an extreme version of a loss of privilege, but it is not impossible.
It was obviously intended of an example of a loss of privilege being taken too far. After the war ends in Mockingjay, the Capitol citizens have already lost their privileged positions in Panem. Things are back at zero, and the killing needed to stop. Yes, some might not be satisfied and it is arguably true that the Capitol citizens had not suffered as badly or for as long as their counterparts, but murder of children is still morally wrong. Or else, the whole war was pointless.
Current trends in North America are still farm from the extremes of The Hunger Games. We have a system that is unequal on many fronts. There was a lot of killing (intended or not) and oppression in the past. All of the bloodshed in the universe cannot bring any of the dead back to life, let alone cancel he domino effect that one death causes. For every lost soul there are further losses – possible descendants, contributions to society, art, inventions, discoveries… Imagining a world without the slave trade or without the loss of 95% of indigenous North Americans is mind-boggling. And also simply imaginary.
Righting the wrongs of history cannot mean to forget or simply apologise. It also does not mean that there is an easy solution that will please everyone and satisfy all grievances. Simply renaming can bring up a host of problems, let alone addressing inequalities.
What is most difficult about moving forward into the future is that no matter how much we want to fix the past, it is gone, and no matter what has happened, what, who, and where we have now are what we have to work with.