Game of Thrones: The Ultimate Defense of Politics?
“In Westeros and the real world alike, disagreement and conflict are interminable features of human coexistence.”
But along the way, Daenerys has a number of transformative learning experiences which have the effect of tempering her initial ideological zeal. She meets a former slave who wishes to return to his former master, and learns that a former master she crucified fought to have slavery abolished. Slowly, Daenerys’s simple friend/enemy dualism begins to break down, and she learns to be more political. She learns to tolerate the cultural traditions of the ancient cities she liberated, and conciliate the interests of those she formerly regarded as enemies. She ends up marrying a former master as a symbolic gesture to the people of Meereen, and then bends to the wishes of the people by reopening the fighting pits.
We are yet to learn the fate of Daenerys and her newly acquired taste for politics. She has been joined by two of the best political minds in all of the Seven Kingdoms—Lord Tyrion and Varys, who are doing their best to keep the peace across the Narrow Sea and to mitigate some of the damage that Daenerys has done in that region. Yet, despite their collective political wisdom, Tyrion and Varys are clearly struggling. The Wise Masters of Yunkai have just laid siege to Meereen. It is therefore worth concluding with a word of caution.
While in Westeros and the real world alike, the fate of characters and their aspirations tends to be commensurate with their capacity to think and act politically, rulers should always be judged with reference to the context they find themselves in. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. And those measures may not always be political.
The Tyrells are the ultimate career politicians. They demonstrate foresight, prudence, self-restraint and good judgment. They watch out for traps. They negotiate, compromise, bargain and build alliances. And they know how to say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. Yet they lack an X factor, which becomes increasingly apparent in their inability to respond to the various crises unfolding around them. At least at the time of writing this, they are powerless against the High Sparrow and his band of religious fanatics who have taken control of King’s Landing (even though they are right to point out that it was Cersei’s lack of good judgment and foresight which put them there in the first place). And one has the sense that their impotence would be even more pronounced in dealing with the looming White Walker threat.
It may turn out that Daenerys’s ideological zeal, combined with her three weapons of mass destruction (dragons), are precisely what Westeros needs: someone to cut through the Gordian Knot. However—and this is a big however—presuming Daenerys does end up saving the day and vanquishing the White Walkers, she will need to rely on far more than her dragons if she is to keep the peace and remain in power after the war is won.
Luke Hennessy is a PhD Candidate in political science at the Australian National University (ANU). Prior to resuming studies in 2012, he worked in the Australian Public Service.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/The White House