If you haven’t seen any episode of the international hit television series Game of Thrones which is based on the best-selling novels, well I suggest you better start watching them now because what you are about to read contains spoilers. Yes, I don’t mind if you read this article after you’ve seen the series or read the books because you will have a better understanding of my points once you get to know all the characters involved.
Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin is not just an excellent storyteller; he is also a keen observer of people’s behavior. Okay, so his advanced age gives him an advantage over us but still, we have to thank him for sharing his wisdom and imagination.
Some folks probably watch the show just for the sex scenes and violence but others watch it for the witty one-liners their favorite characters throw at each other. In other words, viewers like me bring more than the image of John Snow or Robb Stark to bed. We also absorb the subtle lessons Martin wants to impart through the failures and successes of his characters.
So the following are the facts of life according to the world of Game of Thrones:
1. Sex and Violence sells.
Well, yeah. I thought I would start with the obvious. We cringe but somehow we can’t look away. It’s partly because we are all unconsciously drawn to other people’s suffering and partly because we want to see if justice will be served.
Before there was order in the universe, there was a lot of sex and violence. Unfortunately, men initiated most of the sex and violence. Author Martin shows us that women, even those with royal blood like Cersei Lannister were treated like commodities. We can’t even say that women are treated better now because we still hear of news in some parts of the globe of women being stoned to death or being gang raped and murdered afterwards. Barbarians existed then and they still exist now.
Having said that, Martin also showed that women are also capable of violence. Cersei Lannister is a fine example of someone who will not hesitate to kill her own brother just because she doesn’t like the way he looks.
2. Kill or be killed.
There are many instances in the story where this is demonstrated. Tyrion’s decision to kill his father is one.
The first thing Tyrion Lannister did after his brother Jaime helped him escape his dingy jail cell was to kill his former lover Shae and father Tywin Lannister. Tyrion didn’t even think twice about doing it after he realized that his father conspired with a whore to seduce him and consequently serve as witness against him during his murder trial for the death of his nephew, King Joffrey. I guess even if Tyrion managed to escape, his father would have hunted him down if he hadn’t killed him.
Let’s not forget that Ned Stark lost his head because he actually believed a psychopathic king like Joffrey Baratheon would let him live. If Ned weren’t too trusting of the Lannisters, he would still be alive to rule the North. His son Robb suffered the same fate. He lost his head too after he trusted the very same man he betrayed.
What about Oberyn? He managed to wound and bring down an opponent twice his size with his spear but because he couldn’t stop talking and congratulating himself, didn’t see it coming when his opponent tripped him over, poked his eyes and smash his head in.
The lesson here is to not hesitate in killing your opponent and make sure he is dead before declaring yourself a winner.
3. Do not underestimate the size of your enemy.
It was too late when Tywin Lannister, Ned Stark, and The Hound realized this. Tywin was killed by his dwarf son Tyrion. Ned sentenced to death by a teenage King Joffrey. The Hound beaten to a pulp by a female knight Brienne of Tarth and left for dead by the child Arya Stark.
4. It’s all about appearances and perception.
Apparently if you make people believe that you are worthy of the throne, they may actually believe you. This is true in the case of the Lannisters. Because the people are beholden to anyone with royal blood, they will show deference to the next heir to the throne in the event of the King’s death. After Robert Baratheon’s death, his obvious successor was his first-born son Joffrey. Only the viewers are privy to the well-known secret that Joffrey is actually the result of Cersei’s incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime. But as long as the masses do not know this, they can continue to keep their hold on the throne.
While the masses think that the Lannisters possess a lot of gold, they are actually deeply in debt to the Iron Bank. The cost of winning the war against Stannis Barratheon in Blackwater and bribing men to conspire against Robb Stark, the King of the North has taken a toll on their balance sheet. But as long as the masses do not know this, they are safe to keep their hold on the throne.
Mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen had to build her reputation as a fearless leader from the ground up. Being a woman and her half-naked appearance didn’t help her cause. If not for her dragons, she wouldn’t get any respect at all.
The lesson here is to make people believe that you have power over them.
5. Most people do not know what to do with their freedom.
How many times have we seen this manifested in real life? It has to be countless of times throughout human history. Most people are clueless about what’s good for them, which is precisely the reason why it is easy for others to order them around like slaves.
Mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen thought she was doing the slaves a favor by giving them their freedom but she was shocked to find out that some folks are happy enough to work for their master because that’s all they know. Some loyal subjects felt a sudden sense of loss of direction once they gained their freedom.
This makes me wonder what the North Korean folks would do if ever they become free from the clutches of their dear leader. In the Middle East, chaos followed after the people became free of their dictators. In the Philippines, 30 years after gaining democracy, most Filipinos still don’t know what to do with their freedom. They still vote for the same type of bozos who treat the country like their personal fiefdom.
6. Masses and peasants do not really matter to the people in power.
The people in power have their own agenda. They will try to use their influence over their opponents using diplomacy. If that doesn’t work, they will use a broker or a third party to make people see it their way. And if that still doesn’t work, they will use bribery and violence to get their way. That was the case then and it is still the case now. When war breaks, the masses become casualty. The rulers of Westeros show us how this is done to an art form.
* * *
A lot of viewers think that what happens in the television series cannot or doesn’t happen in real life but they are wrong. It has happened in the past and it is still happening now. The violence may not be as much in civilized society but it doesn’t mean that those in power in “civilized” society do not manipulate situations in some backward country. It may be through arming the rebels or supporting puppet regimes. Either way, the general public do not really matter much in the scheme of things.
So truth be told, atrocities committed by a few powerful men and women will not likely stop until the masses realize their power over these people. And, unfortunately, that will never happen.
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