We recently read somewhere that an imagination of a dystopian future is more often a critique of the existing social conditions, and that holds very true for Black Knight. We call anything dystopian if it is set in the future and is framed in a system of great division and injustice. But if we take a look around, we find that it is already the case. The foundation of any injustice is an unequal power structure, and we already have that in the present as it is represented in the world of Black Knight. Therefore, the imagination of a dystopian future is based on humans’ inability to change as a society while continuing to make great advancements in science and technology. It is really amazing that human beings can uncover the wonders of nature with such dedication and yet use them against nature itself. It stems from the capitalist mindset of the world, where only a small percentage of the population is considered worthy of a good life. More often than not, if the poor and underprivileged were taken into account when dispensing any new technology for human use, their invention or discovery would be made sustainable by nature.
Why else is chemical waste dumped in water bodies? Because the people who can afford packaged mineral water don’t have to drink it. Why else are we not stricter about regulating air pollution? Because the people who can afford air conditioners and summer vacations in cooler places do not have to breathe the toxic air. It is a sad fact of life that capitalism has convinced us that basic rights like food, water, and clean air need to be earned. It is not the “fittest” who survive; it is the luckiest or the most privileged, which was the case with the world in Black Knight. The world had been divided into three districts, and the company, Cheonmyeong, that produced oxygen, the most critical resource, had a monopoly over literally everything, even a say in government matters. Because this company produced something that even the most powerful needed to survive, a lot of Cheonmyeong’s crimes were never investigated. When Ryu Seok murdered all those refugees in cold blood, the investigation was never carried out officially but through underhanded means, because there was literally no other way. Ryu Seok knew that he was one of the most powerful men in this new world, second only to his father, the Chairman. The president’s power seemed to be negligible, and she was overall very passive in regard to what was happening around her. It felt like it wouldn’t matter if she sided with the Chairman or with Ryu Seok; they would just do what they wanted to. Political power being dependent on the whims of industrialists is not a scary phenomenon of the future but the bleak reality of today.
The distribution of people in the three districts is similar to what it is today. There is the core district, where people breathe clean air and do not lack anything. Then there are Special Districts, which are akin to the middle class, which mostly struggles with their lives and is constantly caught between affordability and aspiration. Finally come the lower classes, as in the General Districts, who just want to get by. All they strive for is enough resources to be able to afford a dignified life. Finally, there are the refugees—people who exist on the fringes of society. These are the people who cannot afford concepts like dignity and justice because that would mean that they would have to go without oxygen or food.
We see in the series Black Knight that when Sa Wol sees some good food on the table, he wonders how the people who get to eat that every day are any different from the people who don’t. He is questioning the generational privilege of social class and wealth, and this is not a matter of the future but is just as relevant today. Remember how Ryu Seok polluted the air to keep the demand for oxygen constant, hence keeping Cheonmyeong in business? He was not polluting the air of the core district but that of the lower and middle classes. It is similar to society today, where it is often the poor and middle class who are the target customers for most products, whether needed or not, but they are the ones whose money lines the pockets of the rich. Yet they are the ones most at a disadvantage. But this is not the only similarity we noticed. Notice how the kidnapping of the mutants reminds one of illegal organ trafficking. Usually, it is people from the lower classes who get kidnapped, as most of their families do not have the resources to look for them, and even the media is not likely to pay attention. The recipients of these organs are usually people with resources and money who have just skipped the line.
There is a reason “hope” is such an oversold concept in the world. It is because the injustices of the great class divide leave us with no other choice. However, that is the catch: there shouldn’t be a requirement for hope to begin with. Why should things like education, food, water, or air be earned? They are the bare necessities of life. But then, eugenicists like Ryu Seok would even argue that not everyone has a right to life. He told his father that there wasn’t enough oxygen for the refugees if they were to be included in the relocation plans. But that did not seem to be true since there seemed to be enough to make up for the pollution that he himself was spreading. People like Ryu Seok, and if we may take the liberty to say so, people who believe that something like a “poverty mindset” exists without taking into account real societal and generational privileges, are not followers of hard logic. All the facts and research are out there, yet such people exist. That is because the fantasy of their own superiority suits them better than reality. Unfortunately, it is people like these who are in positions of power, and unless we as a society smarten up, nothing will ever change.