Psycho-Pass 07 – A Stress Free Society, Apparently

The idea that the Psycho-Pass system was a way of lowering stress levels in society is an intriguing notion, and while it doesn’t really stand up to the evidence that recent episodes has provided it is nevertheless fascinating. The reasoning within the series is that Psycho-Pass eliminates stress, and yet, as we have seen, the system itself doesn’t eliminate anything, but instead controls it though a series is tight checks and regulations. No system can truly eliminate stress within society, and anyone that claims otherwise probably doesn’t understand society or even the system. What the Psycho-Pass system does do is control society wide stress levels through a series of (arguably) arbitrary checks and levels in order to make it more manageable. This is rather similar to every society at the moment, with various different activities used to relieve stress so that you do not allow it to build up to exploding point.

The odd thing about this system and the series itself though is the reasons given by the antagonists as to why they are providing help for these numerous disturbed individuals. They appear to claim that a society without stress is dead, and that through the instigation of the Psycho-Pass system all meaningful activities have died out to the cost of society. Society has apparently become meaningless and without joy, with the important elements that made living fun being slowly eroded by technology. They seem to suggest that through the introduction of stress-reduction technologies and other supplements people are losing the will to live and eventually dying. But then we come to one of the main questions, if they truly want to change society, why do they give the tools to those disturbed few that carry out murders and general atrocities? The idea that murdering will somehow change society or demonstrate to everyone how flawed and destructive their current lifestyle is seems excessive and also misses the point entirely.

These characters claim lofty ideals and talk at considerable length about the philosophical nature of stress and society, but in the end they appear as disturbed and out of touch as those whom they help. The act of helping Rikako in her quest to carry on her fathers work seems to have less to do with demonstrating to society how foolish their current lifestyle is and more about pandering to the mad delusions of someone who has lost touch with reality. It is unclear as to why Rikako produces these extreme ‘works of art’, although it is suggested that she is somehow attempting to continue with her fathers work. Perhaps she blames society and the technology that surrounds the Psycho-Pass system for her father’s death, thus using her ‘works of art’ to signify the destructive nature of society. Curiously enough her various methods and presentation bares a striking resemblance to formaldehyde words of Damien Hurst (although a little more chopping up and sticking bits in different places).

But her use of other girls at her school as subjects, along with the clear pleasure that she feels during the dismemberment process points to something darker. Furthermore, by describing them as ‘pranks’ you get the feeling that Rikako views the entire process as some sort of joke or game, with the girls as the punch line. The notion that the Psycho-Pass system eliminates stress is therefore a falsehood perpetuated by out antagonists to justify their lofty goals and disturbed natures. They continue to preach about the necessity of stress to provide good health, thus justifying the dismemberment of bodies and the destruction of lives as a means with which they can somehow show society the ‘true meaning of life’. It is an excuse, one that is easy to use and disguises their destructive tendencies and flawed thinking.

Far from eliminating stress it is arguable that the Psycho-Pass system elevates stress levels, and the various stress-reduction technology is essential in a society where elevated stress can have a catastrophic effect on your career and life. The system forces a strict adherence to Psycho-Pass readings, with people forced to reduce their levels at every opportunity so as to avoid getting an adverse reading from various scanners linked to Sibyl. In doing so they are trying to maintain their current lifestyle and reduce the chances that they may be demoted to pushed into the realms of criminality. During an earlier episode Akane’s personal organizer (the jellyfish) advises her to take a stress reduction supplement due to elevated stress levels in a specific district. By being capable of knowing which areas of the city have elevated stress levels and thus taking supplements accordingly we see that far from eliminating stress, the Psycho-Pass system forcibly controls it. A more accurate description might be that the system forces society to control its own stress levels through the use of whatever technology is available to them at the time.

The system has already been shown to create adverse conditions for certain people, thus pushing them towards crime or merely backing them into a corner from which they cannot escape. The very first episode introduced a character that had kidnapped and subsequently raped a woman after being scanned by a drone and found to have elevated Psycho-Pass and by extension stress levels. His actions were partly born from fear of the consequences that having such a level can have on his life. The system itself, which includes the presence of Enforcers, was arguably the cause of his sudden psychotic and damaging behavior. His death was therefore not because he had done anything wrong (although kidnap and rape are clearly terrible) but rather the result of a system that doesn’t allow for stress to exist. Furthermore in the same sequence, the stress caused by being tortured, raped and then seeing her attacked reduced to a red puddle on the floor had an adverse effect on the victim. Her Psycho-Pass levels were judged to be at a dangerous level by the Sibyl system that contemned her to death for being the victim of rape.

This notion of preemptive crime prevention that the Psycho-Pass system supposedly enables is tricky and incredibly flawed. The system is arguably unethical due to its claim that you can determine who will be a criminal based upon their thought process and way they act. The notion that criminality is somehow hardwired into the human psyche is erroneous and creates criminals where there shouldn’t be any. Furthermore, through the use of this technology society in Psycho-Pass appears to have become fragmentary and highly stratified. By suggesting that criminality is hardwired into the human psyche, along with the creation of stringent checks further reduces human choice. The creation of strict divisions in society through the use of aptitude tests may already exist in some cases with entrance examinations and other tests, but not quite on this level. Akane is a character that could choose any job she wished, with the score needed to work with any governmental agency or organization. Her aptitude tests therefore give her the sort of choice that the majority of society lacks as her friends have already told her.

But, she is one of a few who are capable of such a choice, with everyone else forced into their specific role in society as prescribed to them by their aptitude tests and by extension the Sibyl system. There are even those on the bottom of the social hierarchy who have been forced into a highly stressful job because of their aptitude scores with no chance of changing. During episode three for example the murders in the drone factory were the product of a system that can be manipulated in order to maintain a constant Psycho-Pass reading for everyone in the factory. By choosing one person to be the target of bullying, this governmental institution ensures that the rest of its workers are free from stress and can continue with their job. He may have murdered several other people, but in many respects this character was the victim of a system that puts the reduction of stress above all else.

When we look at such a system, the lofty ideals of the antagonists seem even more out of touch than they already sound. These characters are supposedly rebelling against a system that as they see it eliminates stress and by extension eliminates the meaning of life. But, they way they go about achieving this goal is to provide the tools to those who have a goal in mind, often involving death and dismemberment. There appears to be no real aim in the creation of Rikako’s ‘works of art’, and neither was there any real goal in the accumulation of the virtual avatars by Masatake a couple of weeks ago. They are crimes without sense, without ideals, without goals pertaining to the recreation of society. These incidents are all isolated, and far from demonstrating the fragmentary and destructive nature of society, as Makashima seems to suggest, simply produce a series of grizzly murders that shock people. The installations by Rikako are particularly meaningless with regards to these ideals, although the first one does appear to parody the Public safety Bureaus emblem.

The notion that these murders and crimes are supposed to be spreading a message is laughable, especially when you think that even the police force cant seem to understand any hidden message in them. They are more likely the work of certain misunderstood or psychotic individuals who have an axe to grind with the state, but no real message or intent to send to anyone. They are isolated incidents, and while they do point out the inherent weaknesses and flaws within a system that supposedly covers everyone, they lack a common ‘message’. What we have however learned is that the system can be easily misused and manipulated by those who can see the loopholes and cracks. The presence of a school separated from the wider net and Psycho-Pass system, along with the changes in blueprints due to a refit further demonstrates that this system does not cover everyone. The problem is that these loopholes and flaws seem to go nowhere, with the Public Safety Bureau seemingly stepping over them or more accurately never seeing them in the first place. Thus making their ability to truly police society and enforce the will of Sibyl lever more questionable.

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

One Response to Psycho-Pass 07 – A Stress Free Society, Apparently

  1. s2012k1993 says:

    I’m not going to argue your central thesis about Makishima’s claim about the Psycho Pass system because I think many of your premises are flawed. Here are six I thought were misleading.

    (1) “No system can truly eliminate stress within society.” What do you mean by stress? Do you mean the feeling of anxiety that one always lives with or do you mean stress in the PP sense (crossing a certain calculated number)?

    (2) “Society has apparently become meaningless and without joy.” Yes, I see people that don’t seem happy (actually that offline party seemed pretty fun), but what evidence does that give that live is meaningless? Rather, the point, I think, is that the PP system takes away one’s responsibility for the projects they undertake. For example, one is assigned a job and can conclude that if one fails at it, it’s the system’s fault, not one’s own.

    (3) “Rikako views the entire process as some sort of joke or game, with the girls as the punchline.” Yes, she does say that we, children, play with the toys adults create. But, that’s just a metaphor for the affirmation of self. She “plays” because she believes that it is something that only she can do: To show the world the juxtoposition of the gruesomeness and the aesthetic nature of humans.

    (4) “People forced to reduce their levels at every opportunity.” No, the robots attend to people only after they cross a certain threshold. Yes, the girls at the academy have their hues checked regularly, but that is just a particular extreme aimed at a certain group.

    (5) “…result of a system that doesn’t allow for stress to exist.” Again, the same problem as with the first and four premise.

    (6) “System is unethical due to its claim that you can determine who will be a criminal.” Is your argument that the system is flawed or the reasoning behind it is flawed. Just because the application is flawed doesn’t imply the reasoning must also be flawed. Also, people aren’t necessarily hard-wired to become criminals. Their environments play a major role.

    Lastly, I think you have some misconceptions about choice. Is having the choice to do anything really freedom? I won’t go into the arguments but a great number of people, Camus in particular, have thought otherwise. I think it would be helpful if you don’t cover all the topics PP is talking about and instead focus deeply on a few.

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