The morality of the queerrat rebellion in Shin Sekai Yori

January 4, 2014

It all started when @A_Libellule and I got into a Twitter discussion about this particular issue. In the course of the discussion I had a realization about my core moral position here:

If a group has to choose between living as slaves or committing genocide, picking the latter is morally legitimate.

It would certainly be nice if the queerrats (and interested Cantus humans) could find some solution short of genocide (genocide is ugly and invites counter-genocides and so on), but they are not obliged to do so and they are not obliged to remain slaves instead of committing genocide. The Cantus humans lost all moral standing to complain about it the moment that they started keeping queerrats as slaves (and, lest we forget, wiping out entire queerrat colonies when they felt like it), just as if you try to keep someone as a slave you lose the grounds to complain if they kill you to regain their freedom.

By the way all of this applies if a group is choosing between living as slaves or 'merely' killing some (significant) number of the people keeping them as slaves. I am just taking it all the way to genocide as an extreme case.

(Naturally this deeply colours my view of Squealer's rebellion and his fate and also my overall views on the Cantus humans.)

I could go on at greater length here but I suspect that this is the kind of thing where either you agree immediately or where you are not going to be convinced at all.

Note that you can make a functional argument over whether the queerrats were going to commit genocide or simply kill some number of humans and then stop. My personal view is that they were going to have to go all the way to genocide and they knew it; one surviving breeding pair of Cantus humans was potentially all that was necessary to take over the world again and destroy all queerrats, so none could really be allowed to survive.

Comments on this page:

By lesterf1020 at 2014-01-04 08:21:09:

I have never been a fan of binary options. I believe that false dilemmas have lead to a great many tragedies over human history. The Quearats had many other options beside slavery or genocide, the best of which was probably simply escaping. The show established that there wasn't a very high "human" population and that there were many areas that "humans" didn't live in or were even aware of. While the humans would probably have taken action if all of the quearats fled they would not have noticed if a colony or two disappeared. If the quearats engaged in a long distance migration I find it hard to believe that the humans would have hunted them just so they could have slaves they barely needed.

By cks at 2014-01-04 18:21:11:

Setting aside the philosophical for the practical, I think that it's far from established in the show that there is anywhere inhabitable outside of the grasp of the Cantus humans or that the Cantus humans consider the queerrats dispensable. Given how much work and attention the Cantus humans devote to controlling the queerrats, I think in fact that queerrat labour is probably quite important to the lifestyle of Cantus humans.

Written on 04 January 2014.
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Last modified: Sat Jan 4 00:59:28 2014
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