Examining Shin Sekai Yori – Equality

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In an earlier post, I discussed how eugenics has been used in Shin Sekai Yori to maintain peace, but also how it is crippling Saki’s society. A view that Saki’s society holds that may do even more harm is that of equality. To the people of Saki’s village, humans (specifically those who have passed their eugenics program) have no equals. They hold absolute power and judgement over all things and consider themselves gods. Is this view legitimate or do other people or species like the bakenezumi deserve to be treated like equals?

Note: this post contains spoilers up to episode 18.

To be equals, two sides should have the same ability to do something. The bakenezumi are first shown to be primitive creatures not much more advanced than the mole rats they descended from. The difference is that they have language and use tools, making them excellent slaves for humanity. When you think of human evolution though, those two differences are what helped set us apart from other creatures, giving the bakenezumi the potential to become equal to humans.

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Before the bakenezumi could challenge human authority, they first had to gain freedom from the chains of their own hierarchy. Under authoritarian rule, the bakenezumi thought the queen was all-powerful. It wasn’t until Squealer met Saki and Satoru that things began to change. He witnessed his queen, the absolute authority, bow down to Saki’s command, and later discovered that he could manipulate Satoru to defeat his enemies. Logic would naturally lead Squealer to see that if he could in a way “command” a god, which in turn had power over his queen, that neither of them was actually superior. In fact, if Squealer could manipulate Satoru so easily, it would only make sense that he was actually superior to Satoru and the queen. With this kind of thinking, it’s no surprise that Squealer established a democracy since all of the non-queen bakenezumi would be just like him.

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The funny thing about democracy and equality is that everyone suddenly thinks that they are entitled to whatever everyone else has. When Yakomaru’s group applied to take on more tasks for the humans and were rejected in favour of Kiroumaru’s group, it was a clear sign that the humans viewed Kiroumaru’s group was more trustworthy and thereby superior. That would not have sat well with bakenezumi that believed they were entitled to the same things. Another tendency of democracies is that they wipe out people or groups established to be superior in order to create equality, which explains why Yakomaru’s group decided to wipe out Kiroumaru’s group.

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With the queens overthrown and Kiroumaru’s group destroyed, the only ones standing above Yakomaru and the bakenezumi were the humans. The bakenezumi treated the humans like gods in the past because humans had the ability to wipe out entire colonies while bakenezumi had no way of fighting back. However, the bakenezumi have long known that they are capable of killing humans because they were tasked with doing so after boy K’s incident. Now that Yakomaru is in charge, there is nothing stopping the bakenezumi from challenging human authority. Both sides are capable of destroying the other – both sides are equal. This realization manifested itself in an abrupt attack on the human village and was epitomized in a short caption on the screen which read “Hello”.

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The bakenezumi have proven that they can stand on equal footing with the humans and deserve to be treated like equals; there is nothing that the humans as a group can do that the bakenezumi can’t. It’ll be interesting to see if the humans will follow Tomiko and attempt to eliminate the bakenezumi or if they will realize that the bakenezumi are not lower creatures and enter into negotiations. I think Saki’s disgust towards mole rats and her bewilderment as to why ancient humans decided to breed them in episode 17 speaks volumes about what humans think of them so I doubt they will ever treat the bakenezumi as equals. On the flip side, I wonder if the bakenezumi would be satisfied with establishing that they’re equal to humans, or if they’ll strive to prove that they are superior. Hopefully we’ll learn more as the series reaches its conclusion.

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  1. Well, in the latest episodes the bakenezumi developed very quickly, but for me they weren’t exactly on the same level. They had the advantage for a short time because they ambushed the humans at the festival. As being discovered they were all crushed like insects.

    Well, now that they have a very powerful cantus user among them, this group might become a real problem for the humans. Their arrogance of judging about their own and other creatures will most likely be the downfall of this human society.
    Wieselhead recently posted..Yoshii Hotori by Native

    • Saki will survive, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else does. I bet there’s going to be a lot of damage and maybe a handful of people survive the carnage.

  2. Nice points there, especially the explanation regarding Yakomaru’s views about democracy and equality. I don’t think the Queerats (bakenezumi) treat humans as gods simply because they have cantus. The Queerats were in fact born due to human-orchestrated selective-breeding so the humans are literaly those which created them. Additionally, while the Queerats have developed a way to communicate with each other it is a far cry from human speech – a fact we are reminded of each time a low-breed Queerat tries to speak in human language. The ability to communicate with others by speech is what defines humans from animals. Until all the Queerats can muster human language they will remain sub-par to humans from the humans’ perspective.

    I still don’t see how the Queerats can overthrow the humans – they are attacking only one village. Surely the other villages in the region know what is happening and will not allow this uprising to spread to the outside world.
    nadav recently posted..Speculating On A New English-Dubbed Fate/Zero Blu-ray

    • Just because the bakenezumi have difficulty communicating in a human language doesn’t mean that their language between themselves is not as developed. On several occasions they are seen speaking to each other in their own language.

  3. Yes. They have spoken among themselves in their own language several times. However, We’ve also seen that some types of Bakenezumi struggle very hard in order to speak in the human language. This strongly hints that some Bakenezumi tribes may still not have developed human-like vocal folds. If they have not reached the evolutionary level at which they can speak like humans it makes sense that the humans belittle them and treat them as inferior. It’s also worth mentioning that the humans, just like the Bakenezumi, have lived under this hierarchical system for many years and have grown accustomed to it. I’m sure Saki and her fellow townsfolk were reluctant to believe the Bakenezumi would attempt to rebel against them mostly because it was thought as an unthinkable, world-breaking, deed.
    nadav recently posted..The Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society Blu-ray Review Is Now Available

    • Just because their grasp of human language isn’t very strong doesn’t mean that their own language is inferior though. That’s like saying someone from Japan is inferior to someone from America because the American can speak better English, which is the unofficial international language. Then again, you’re probably right about the humans seeing them as inferior because of the language barrier.

  4. Pingback: Shin Sekai Yori Review | Nopy's Blog