What Persona 5 teaches us about injustice (and how it applies to today’s reality)

Ryuji on injustice

So, I need to preface this post with two things. Firstly, I am so sorry for not uploading the update on the weekend. I have been very sick, but I am going to upload it on Tuesday instead! Secondly, I might come across as a little angry in this post. That’s because I am. Not at my lovely readers, of course, but at society in general.

I have seen way too many Persona 5 fan pages saying that they do not agree with ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards, ‘bastards’ coming from the word ‘bastardise’ which means corrupt) or BLM (Black Lives Matter) because all lives should matter. They don’t agree with the protests because that never goes anywhere, and they don’t agree with the riots because “they’re taking it too far”. I find it difficult to express my anger with words, but I’m going to try to explain why I am so angry.

Persona 5 is a game that constantly mentions how the characters have been a victim of injustice. It’s like, basically the entire game. Even in Royal (which I won’t mention too much so don’t worry about spoilers), the whole point of the last palace is to do with injustice. So, please can someone explain to me how people can not support the Black Lives Matter movement after playing this game? How people who have played this game are saying “I don’t see why they can’t just follow the law”?

I’m expressing this through Persona 5 because this is my language, if you get what I mean. This game is how I understand a society that is difficult to understand. If I don’t understand what someone is saying, I ask them to put it in Persona 5 terms. That’s how I’ve lived my life for the past… over a year. And I get that not everyone is like that. Heck, I get that I’m probably the only person like this. But regardless of that, if you have played Persona 5 and still decide that you should just comply with society and the laws, even when they’re wrong, then you clearly have learnt nothing from the game and I recommend that you give it another go because you have clearly missed something.

Makoto is almost as angry as I am when I hear that people who have played this game are supporting the corrupt and unjust system and society that we live in.

The dictionary definition of ‘injustice’ is “lack of fairness or justice”. You see injustice happen throughout the entirety of Persona 5. Firstly, the treatment of the protagonist. The whole point of that is that he didn’t commit the crime that he was accused of and was therefore punished unfairly. It was unjust. Therefore, the game starts pointing out the unjust society that we live in. You go through the game and each Phantom Thief has been treated with a “lack of fairness or justice”. Every single one of them.

But for this post, I want to be more general, mainly because pin-pointing parts of the game will only lead to people saying that I’ve interpreted it wrong and I am not down for that. So, let’s look in a bit more detail at the Phantom Thieves.

It’s easy to be supportive of the Phantom Thieves as a player, because you’re playing as their leader. But one thing is made clear throughout most of the game and that is that the Phantom Thieves are going against the law. Now, does that make the player not want to continue doing Phantom Thieves stuff? Of course not! And why, you may ask? Because the player knows that the Phantom Thieves are heroic. The player knows that the Phantom Thieves are trying to help people. The player knows that the Phantom Thieves are morally right.

Now, what does it mean to be morally right? The definition of morality is “normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons”. This implies that, if the Phantom Thieves were morally right, most of society would agree with what they were doing. And do they? Heck no. Society spends the majority of the game disliking the Phantom Thieves or questioning their existence.

Martin Luther King Jr said “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress”. And we see this in Persona 5. Society is almost stood at a holt because the corrupt police officers and judiciary system. We see it through the system itself, through the head of the special investigations unit being in ties with Shido (a corrupt right-wing official), him basically threatening Principal Kobayakawa and even the fact that Principal Kobayakawa being murdered before he was going to tell the police what was going on. We see it at the start with Kamoshida, we see it with Madarame. We see it over, and over, and over again. This is what happens it real life. If people just comply and go along with injustice, it continues to happen and we cannot move past it. People will forever get unfair treatment for reasons that just aren’t worth the unfair treatment.

I should not be here, writing this, telling you all that injustice is bad. I shouldn’t have to do this, especially if you’ve played Persona 5 and especially if you have a fan account. How can you like something so much and not understand that injustice is bad? Like, it literally makes no sense when it was a key part of the game.

Yes, some of the protests are turning into riots. I wholeheartedly believe that this is going to turn into a worldwide revolution. Because that is what the world needs to be able to make room for equality. The peaceful protests are great, but in some places, they’re just not working. It’s as simple as that. Because people do not listen until it gets violent. Take the Suffragettes, for example. No one paid attention to them until things got violent. They needed to get violent to be noticed, and that is what is happening here.

I was not going to write this post. I mean, I was always going to write this post, but not like this. I do not want this to come across as me hopping on a trend, or using the Black Lives Matter Movement to get views. Quite frankly, I don’t care about views at this point. What I do care about, however, is that people are dying. Children are getting tear gassed. And people are still not understanding that injustice is bad after playing a game that lasts over 100 hours about how injustice is bad.

Arguably the most shocking parts of Persona 5 are when people die. No one can argue that. However, people are dying in real life. There are Okumuras and Kobayakawas and Akechis in the real world but no one cares because of their skin colour. I’ve heard so many excuses and I’m not down for it because we all know if these people were fictional characters, everyone would be heartbroken. If these protests and riots and the whole movement in general happened in a video game, everyone would be loving it. People are dying and there’s people not getting involved because they don’t realise how important this movement is. Why should people not riot? Is the destruction of property more important than the loss of a life? Of many lives?

Let’s look back to Persona 5, to the part where Mementos merges with the real world. So many people didn’t even notice. They just go along with their lives when the world is changing around them, getting destroyed, essentially. To them, nothing is wrong. It’s like they have special glasses that take away all the bad in the world (think ‘We Happy Few’). That is exactly what is happening now, and if you’re not supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, you’re one of those people. Those people were too privileged to see the bad around them. That doesn’t mean that it is not going on; it just means that they are lucky enough not to be the Phantom Thieves, essentially. It is in the same way that white privilege does not mean that your life isn’t bad, it just means that you are lucky enough for it not to be made worse by the colour of the skin you were born with.

Persona 5 teaches so many amazing lessons about society, and honestly, if you’ve played it and haven’t gotten these lessons, you need to play it again.

Akechi being as awkward as I feel ending this post because I know most people don’t need it explained in Persona 5 terms but clearly they need something and this is all I’m good at.

P.S: Don’t forget to donate, sign petitions (they do work when it’s this important), go to protests if you can (wear goggles in case you get tear gassed and try to social distance), email the person in charge of your area and hold people in charge responsible. All lives don’t matter until Black Lives Matter.

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