Some words on Shin Sekai Yori's Squealer

April 15, 2013

It turns out that I have more to say about Shin Sekai Yori than I've already written. Today is some things about Squealer (aka Yakomaru).

(There are spoilers here for SSY's final arc.)

In some of the commentary I've read it's popular to say that Squealer deserved to die for what he did (but not necessarily die in the way that he did). My strong opinion is that to say this is to misread Shin Sekai Yori's message. To put it one way, no one in SSY is coming to the table with clean hands. If Squealer deserves to die for what he did and tried to do to the Cantus humans, then a bunch of Cantus humans deserve to die for what they repeatedly did to queerat colonies. To talk only about what Squealer deserves is to fall straight into some degree of the anti-queerat prejudices that the show rubs our faces in and is especially striking after the final revelation about queerat origins. Justice against Squealer but no justice against anyone else is not really justice, it is the selective exercise of the master's power against the uppity slaves.

(I find it especially striking that one of the charges against Squealer is that he sent soldiers off to die. Here's a newsflash: that's part of what commanders do in wars. One of a commander's jobs is to send people off to die if necessary. There is no evidence that Squealer sent soldiers off to die for no purpose and little evidence that the queerat goals could have been achieved with lesser measures. Sadly this is the kind of thing that you have to resort to when you're fighting a vastly superior foe, especially with the life of your people on the line.)

I've also seen commentary that the village's memorial museum for the war is a hopeful sign. I am less optimistic; especially considering that the centerpiece of the memorial was Squealer's tortured remains, the memorial strikes me as far more of a 'never forget what the queerats tried to do to us' thing than anything else. As long as the memorial stands and people tour it and so on, I doubt anyone in the village is going to consider queerats harmless or safe in the way that they did in Saki's era before the attack.

(The likely consequences of this attitude are left as an exercise for the reader because they depress me.)

Sidebar: did Squealer have to go to war?

My answer is yes. His choices (and the choices of the Robber Fly colony and the queerats as a whole) were to remain an oppressed, backwards, and limited existence or to revolt. Although the Cantus humans were complacent about the technological and other development of the Robber Fly colony, I'm pretty sure that this would have limits; at a certain point they would either stop the development or more likely decide that it had gone too far and wipe the colony out wholesale.

Let us be honest and straightforward here: the queerats were slaves of the Cantus humans. The villages were never going to allow the queerats to escape that and live truly free, even if the queerats left the Cantus humans alone. Cantus humans simply do not tolerate things that they consider to be potential threats.

(Remember that the very first time we saw queerats, they were doing maintenance work around the village area.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2013-04-15 14:59:56:

I actually found Shin Sekai Yori's ending to be a little painful for the very reason that Squealer died without accomplishing anything significant to his goal. He might have affected the way Saki sees things a little, which is important since she's Tomiko's replacement, but all that does is leave some vague hope that one day things might get better.

I agree that his actions were justified. Violence is bad, etc. but there was obviously no hope for anything to change for the queerrats through peaceful measures. The fact that they were transformed and enslaved in the first place just shows how little empathy those in power had for them. Even Kiroumaru, benevolent and loyal as he was to the humans, admitted he would have done the same if he thought he could succeed.


Written on 15 April 2013.
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