The lives of individuals are meaningless before the greater cause.
In the twenty-first episode of From the New World we are treated to the continuation of what is likely the series’ denouement. We are also informed of the central tenet of the queerat rebellion; a belief that not only motivates the queerats to take up arms against the human villages, but also the resolve to sacrifice both themselves and one another.
To paraphrase a queerat infantryman, they no longer wish to be ruled by tyrannic false gods.
Although bestowed with a god-like power, the humans of From the New World are most certainly not gods. To add to this, and whilst we do not know if they originally claimed godhood or not, we do know that they do not discourage the queerats in thinking them so. Ergo, we can comfortably agree with the charge of false godhood.
What then of the other charge, that of tyranny? Again, we find plentiful evidence that the humans are absolute rulers from a queerat perspective. The humans created and have since bred queerats; they use them for manual labour, they administer the lives and trials of the queerat populous, and they are happy to dispose of the occasional troublesome queerat colony, or indeed colonies, when deemed necessary.
Through modern eyes, tyranny is a bad thing – an outmoded form of governance to be eradicated at every opportunity. Should we, therefore, succumb to the very modern urge and support the queerat rebellion irrespective of how ominously it is painted by the series?
I would argue otherwise.
Within the series, it is indeed the case that one cannot simply excuse all problems present within the humans’ post-apocalyptic society. Yet neither can one wholly support a rebellion which, if successful, will likely lead to much worse conditions. One may build a barricade, but it does not always mean that one holds the high ground.
The primary cause for concern is the once humble Squealer; to be frank, and please do excuse my momentary rudeness, but the queerat Squealer is a devious piece of lettuce who dearly needs to be eradicated in the most painful way possible.
Once bestowed the name Yakomaru, and now queerat messiah, Squealer is very clever. He has managed to weasel his way into power through deception, cunning, and the ability to take advantage of myriad situations. He is a most exemplary politician. But surely, I hear the proverbial peanut gallery cry, he is doing this for the betterment of his species, and that not all problems can be resolved through discussion between political parties. This is arguably true; history teaches us that rebellions have a tendency to be most effective when blood is shed. Yet, the man is without scruple.
He is capable of not only killing his queen, which is not necessarily the best idea in a eusocial society, but destroying her mind and inflicting far worse a fate on her, than she could ever inflict on her own colony. He is willing to capture, manipulate, and effectively destroy children to achieve his revenge. Worse still, he is perfectly happy to send countless of his own species, his own subjects, to their ignoble deaths. Can we really trust a queerat such as he to lead a society without fundamental problems?
Onwards to the second cause for concern: the queerat as human allegory. When I made the assertion that Squealer is without scruple, I chose to describe him as ‘man.’ It might be argued, perhaps even successfully, that the queerats are representative of humankind. They are relatively simple, warmongering, and ambitious; we can see much of us in them. How, then, can one be comfortable with the conclusion that the grass is inherently greener beyond the barricade?
Finally, I am concerned with the knowledge gained by the queerats. As has been explicitly stated in the series, the queerats have likely found a repository of human knowledge – a False Minoshiro. Knowledge is commonly a destabilising force in society; especially knowledge that either goes against current teaching, or a lot of knowledge quickly gained. Fiction – from Stargate, through Lord of Light, to By the Waters of Babylon – has often shown that a lot of information, dispensed in an accelerated fashion, has the capability of radically changing society, and not usually for the better.
Let us assume then, that Squealer’s revolution should not succeed. Does that mean things shouldn’t change?
Not really. The queerats are sentient creatures, and they have discovered a False Minoshiro, so they should perhaps be treated akin to surly adolescents – with respect, but also watched like a hawk.
Of course, this leads to the question of how a more advanced society should act towards a less advanced society and species. Borrowing terminology from the excellent Lord of Light, should the advanced species adopt policies that promote non-interference, or should they adopt an accelerationist attitude and actively advance the lesser species?
The latter is dangerous for reasons akin to those surrounding the False Minoshiro. More so, perhaps, in From the New World, where the humans and queerats must live together, in the same world. Any destabilising of one society will likely bear repercussions on the other.
Yet if one were to assume the former, one must wonder if this is even possible. Total non-interference, such as that enacted by the ascended Ancients (or Alterans if you prefer) is surely impossible once the lesser species knows of the existence of the higher species. Indeed, in From the New World both sides are well known to each other; one having created the other, and both species living in the same world. Perhaps then, the humans should act as overseers to the queerats – keeping watchful eye over their wayward creation, but abstaining from direct input for the most part.
In summary, neither side in their current state is flawless or without crimes. The humans see and treat the queerats as nothing more than beasts, whereas the queerats decide the best method to gain some modicum of equality is genocide.
Tyranny can be useful; it can be benevolent as well as malevolent; it can ensure the survival of an entire race or species. Yet it also has a time and place. Perhaps in From the New World’s setting it’s time that tyranny, and the dynasty of the false gods, should be laid to rest, and a new relationship be formed between human and queerat. A relationship, I stress, that is not headed by members of either species blinded by foolhardy ideas of revenge or resentment, but developed through thoughtful discussion from leaders who remember their duty to those they rule.
8 responses to “From the New World Episode Twenty-One: on False Gods and Tyranny”
A well thought out post but just one thing I am pretty sure this was never actually stated in the series.
“The humans created and have since bred queerats;”
Yeah, PK Users never actually “bred” queerats , but perhaps Adam is referring to the idea that the Subconscious Cantus played a part in mutating the non-PK Users to become queerats (which is also not directly stated, but very much largely hinted). And if not that, they play a huge role in their lives, using them as slave labor for basic work.
An interesting post! The conflict between the queerats and the PK users has been nagging me ever since this war started in the show, and your argument is quite valid.
I think the issue, however, is a little more complicated because of two specific reasons:
1.) We are placed in the eyes and bodies of the privileged; that is to say, that we have only witnessed the side of the PK users, and rarely the queerats.
2.) Shinsekai seems to speak about the innate conflict of survival instincts versus social norms.
With Issue #1, I think it’s important to realize that Squealer’s cause for tyranny is completely valid. His kind has been treated like slaves for centuries, when they obviously deserve better – they are sentient creatures, like you said, not mindless minions who are like livestock. This war proves how capable they can be and that they are not to be underestimated. But I also think the question is this: does Squealer really support the idea of ‘tyranny’ or does he just wish to wipe out the Cantus user race for abusing him and his kind?
And even then – we have only seen the brutalized, scheming Squealer in action. In war, we are all monsters; I think Shin Sekai has done more than enough to prove this, by showing how the PK users so arrogantly and nonchalantly remove children from existence. But we have never seen Squealer’s own version of the story, or what his true intents are. We have only seen his soldiers praise him as a god – which is not uncommon, if we look at history. Does this make his methods “right?” I think that’s hard to say considering that the customs and world of the queerats is far more different than ours (they based their culture around a hive colony; from that perspective I don’t think it’s despicable that Squealer does sacrifice his men so easily, when that’s the general idea behind a hive colony formation) . That said, I don’t think Squealer’s methods are right at all – genocide, and reversing the roles of the Cantus users by making their children slaves instead is not the answer to oppression. But we have to understand that it’s because we’ve seen the story through Saki’s eyes that we think Squealer’s actions are despicable (which they are, but for – in my opinion – a very good reason). So we’re bound to side with our protagonists as a result.
I think the question lies deeper than just oppression or tyranny though. That brings me to Issue #2, which is the fact that Shinsekai since Episode 1, has spoken about the notion of “kill or be killed.” Living in such a dangerous, apocalyptic world has forced both humans and non-humans to use desperate measures to keep a sense of security and stability of living intact. We must survive at all costs, but we must also have a comfortable style of living. But what are we willing to sacrifice for that quality? Neither the queerats’ society or the PK users’ society is right; the queerats lobotomize their queen and strip her of her own rights, and the PK users kill their own children. I don’t think there is something called true peace in this world because we’re so afraid, and so paranoid, but so desperate, that we become monsters to pave a better life for ourselves and others. Does Squealer realize this? I think so. Tomiko-san did as well, and it didn’t stop her from fulfilling her duty. In the end, I think this complicates Squealer’s pursuit for revenge and domination, because there IS no other way to live. In order to survive, you have to be ruthless and at the top of the food chain. (Though Saki’s own existence proves otherwise, and I think her strength and way of tackling these issues is Shinsekai’s real answer to this dilemma).
TLDR; I think your end idea of equality is right, but I also think that Squealer’s cause for tyranny is very valid despite being achieved through immoral (and yet necessary) ways.
The queerats may be used to organizing themselves as hive colonies… but wait a second, wasn’t Squealer so proud to say that they now live in democracy without the queen? That every individual is respected? Bullshit, that’s just hypocrisy. I really don’t think Squealer can be redeemed at this point, he’s clearly manipulating the queerats for his own benefit.
So, anyway, the queerats’ cause may be valid, but I sure as hell don’t wish that Squealer wins this fight.
I don’t know. Like I said, we haven’t seen things from Squealer’s point of view, so I can’t say the reason why he’s fighting this war is just for ‘world domination’. (If he is going for world domination, I don’t support that, but once again, his motivationWe’ve seen leaders like this in the past, who are so inspiring that people die for them. And this happens every day, in democracy, communism – any sort of government. I don’t support Squealer’s methods, nor do I really want him to win, but I think the idea that he shouldn’t be creating an uprise against the PK users is wrong and I think it’s important to understand that the actual situation is much more grey and complex here.
(Also, from what I remember, I think Squealer never said that he respected individual rights? He merely said that they released themselves from the tyranny of their queen, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)
My bad, he didn’t really say that, but justified the actions against the queen by showing how she was tyrannical and they didn’t want to be simply discarded whenever she felt like it. With Squealer in command, they are still discarded as tools, though one could argue that it’s better to be sacrificed for a supposedly greater goal than in a meaningless way (at least, by their mindset).
So yeah, I suppose some clarification on Squealer as an individual must be done before a definitive judgement. The queerats’ motivations as a whole are indeed legitimate, but it’s still quite hard to give the benefit of doubt to a cunning guy such as Squealer… Well, let’s see how this turns out.
*Ugh, phone problems – (If he’s going for world domination, I don’t support that at all, but once again, his motivation for doing so to me is very legitimate)
Pingback: Twelve Days: Eight Maids-a-Milking | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega