「あとは、沈黙」 (Ato wa, Chinmoku)
“The Rest, Is Silence”
While this series is set in a fascinating dystopian society just begging to be explored, it is also populated with equally fascinating psychopathic inhabitants who deserve just as much focus, if not more. Much can be learned about a society from the people who are most affected by it.
Currently, there is not yet a clear physiological abnormality or set of abnormalities of the brain that we can point at as being the cause of psychopathy. Without any physiological basis, the term psychopath is presently nothing more than a label for a personality disorder that is used to describe people who do not fit society’s norms in one way or another. While there is a modern definition of psychopathy, in the past it has also encompassed behaviors that are considered perfectly normal today but thought of as anti-social behaviors back then. Basically, the definition of a psychopath is inextricably intertwined with societal norms.
Given this ever-changing definition, at first a system like Sibyl – that is somehow able to perform brain scans assessing crime coefficients – can seem like a major medical advancement when it is used purely as a diagnostic tool. The only way it can do this is if there is an actual neurological marker for psychopathy that can be scanned for, just like we scan for brain tumors today. On the surface, there’s nothing that appears overtly dystopian about this. It’s merely an extremely advanced fMRI or PET scan that can quickly correlate abnormal brain activity or structure with certain behaviors or proclivities. However, Sibyl’s neurological assessments are merely a means to an end. Someone has to interpret its results and flag which behaviors are considered to be antisocial and psychopathic. So even with the most powerful methods of correlating personality traits to a physiological basis in the brain, the definition of a psychopath still cannot be decoupled from societal norms.
Nowhere is this idea more evident than when Kougami and Tsunemori visit the poorly named Tokorozawa Correction and Rehabilitation Center (there’s absolutely no ‘correction’ or ‘rehabilitation’ going inside). The four ‘psychopaths’ seen are essentially sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole, just because their crime coefficients are all over 300. Yet according to our own society, it’s doubtful any of these people could be considered even remotely psychopathic – it’s a stretch even to label their behavior as antisocial. There is a man who loves porcelain dolls, maybe a little too much, but what differentiates him from a person who loves dakimakuras and figures to the same extent? Then we have a man smoking a hookah, which would mean that millions of Persians and Indians would have to give up their daily habit lest they be labeled as psychopaths. Even a harmless bookworm is somehow considered to be a psychopath – guess librarians do not exist in this society. Finally, the last psychopath seen is nothing more than a knowledgeable connoisseur of art, whose only crime seems to be that he uses his own body as a canvas.
What about these people makes them psychopaths? They have higher coefficients than even Masaoka, who was considered to have an extremely high number already. Is it because they seek entertainment in forms that are considered to be antisocial? Or is it because they’re too ‘addicted’ to their unusual interests? None of them seem to pose any physical danger to society; they’re probably not going to hurt anyone or anything. Yet for one reason or another, Sibyl (and society) has labeled them as too abnormal, too psychopathic, and above all, too dangerous to be allowed go about as they please. So while these people have completely lost all their freedoms despite likely never having any intentions of hurting another soul, truly dangerous people like Rikako (crime coefficient of over 472!) and Makishima walk free.
For these two antagonists, even if they have not yet been labeled by society and by Sibyl as psychopaths, according to our modern day definition they are most assuredly fit to be called as such. Rikako and Makishima share some key similarities to the incarcerated psychopaths; their lives for the most part are defined by their choice of entertainment and the extent to which they procure their entertainment. Yet while the others have entertainment choices that are harmless to society, the same cannot be said of them. Rikako is a fairly easy personality to understand as it is basically spelled out during the past few episodes. Like her father, she also has a message to convey through her art pieces, but she differs from him in that she also derives a great deal of entertainment from the macabre methods she employs in creating her “art” and also from the attention her work attracts when they are exhibited in public. On the other hand, Makishima’s personality is still very much an enigma, as it ought to be at this point in the series. He derives his entertainment from placing the tools of murder into the hands of individuals and then watching how they choose to wield them, but it remains to be seen if he has also has a message or theme to send to society, or if he is more like one who “just wants to watch the world burn”.
An interesting question to ponder in regards to Rikako and Makishima is whether their behavior is innate or if it is the result of living in such a dystopian society. The definition of a psychopath is set by societal norms, but does that also mean that these norms can force people to become psychopaths? Or in other words, can a dystopian society like the one in PSYCHO-PASS create psychopaths out of people who in any other society would not exhibit these behaviors? Whether it is by chance or by design, in essence Sibyl is shaping society towards its norms and its averages. Any deviation, any abnormality is no longer allowed to exist. People considered as such are sent away for treatment, segregated, or locked away for life. And in the end, what remains is a society that is sadly devoid of much creativity and thus, a diverse selection of entertainment options. One of the characters even remarked that he was surprised that there was an artist who created art for art’s sake rather than for wealth and fame.
With a society lacking in entertainment that can provide much needed mental stimulation to individuals with all tastes, even those with unusual tastes, perhaps this deficit has forced Rikako and Makishima to create their own twisted forms of entertainment. That said, it is difficult to determine is whether their psychopathic behavior is something that is innate or if it is a product of society – the classic nature vs. nurture debate. Would Rikako be a normal person in a non-dystopian society, or is she really just a serial killer inside waiting to come out, no matter her environment? Most likely, it is a mixture of both. People probably have an innate and latent inclination or proclivity for these behaviors, but certain environmental conditions found in society are required to provide the tools for these behaviors to come to fruition.
So far, PSYCHO-PASS has presented a fascinating and thought-provoking look at both parts of the psychopath equation: the dystopian society, and the personalities that are born or shaped by it. It might not appeal to everyone, but on the other hand, that’s probably a good thing as well…