Life Lessons From Game Of Thrones

In a nutshell: Life is unfair, and people suck.

We’ve been told people are inherently good and in fact have to be socialized to be evil, but Game Of Thrones has shown me nothing can be farther from the truth; in fact, since self-interest is the primary motivator for doing anything, it’s the opposite that should be true –or, if you prefer, ‘more’ true. In other words, rather than needing to be socialized to be evil, people need to be socialized to be good –cynical, I know, but it’s at least what squares with the available evidence. You leave your wallet on the street and people are likely to walk over it not because they feel its owner will be looking for it but because the thought of embarrassing themselves and looking like an arse by picking it up outweighs any potential profits to be had.

Man is the scariest monster. Dragons, witches, the undead, and all the other monsters the show conjures to impress fear in the audience pales in comparison to that which is the most frightening of all: the man who lusts over power.

In the show, if there’s any God at all for whom adoration is constantly given, it’s certainly not the paganistic deities they are seen to superficially propitiate, but the power of Kinghood itself, for which all the lies are told, all the sinister conspiring is made, and all the merciless cruelty is done. Couple this with the remarkable and uniquely human ability to contrive post-hoc rationalizations for any act and you get the scariest monster that’s made scarier still by the idea that it’s a case of art immitating life.

Honesty and loyalty scarcely gets you anywhere –at least, in the show. Ned Stark, the lord of Winterfeld, thought that doing the right thing would make things turn out for the better. He was dead wrong –literally, dead and wrong– as he took those delusions to the grave. His head, viciously torn from torso, frozen in a gaping expression of incredulity, was hung in display for all to see and be reminded of the utter folly in acting nobly.

Let’s be honest, really, it rarely pays to be the nice guy, it pays more to pretend to be the nice guy; nice guys don’t win, people who pretend to be nice guys do. One need only look toward Wall Street for examples of this. Or just look at Benny Hinn, the guy who conned his credulous followers into getting him a 36 Million dollar Jet that costs another 600 Thousand dollars a year to maintain. There seems to be a law at play here that creates diminishing returns for sincerely nice people; a law that makes it such that: nice guy, no jet, pretending to be nice guy, jet.

Money matters because people are largely whores. This should be obvious to anyone. Of course, we’ve been told time and time again that money isn’t all that matters, but let’s be real, it’s the avenue through which a lot of what matters can be had. The guy objecting with useless aphoristic cliches about money being unable to buy love should be drowned in his own naivety, because, actually, it can. We see this poignantly in Game Of Thrones: Peter Baelish, the master of coin in the king’s council, and owner of the esteemed whore house from where secrets are often traded, is himself a whore, trading loyalty for position at every opportunity. In short, the more money you have, the more people you can control, and happy-happy, joy-joy.

The lesson from all this –from the show, so far– is that life is a lice-infested arse because people, when left to their own devices, are, by default, horrible. They’re horrible. There are of course exceptions, but that’s exactly what they are: exceptions. And this ties in with the broader point I want to make about the ridiculous Steven Pinker-esque notion that we are all making huge upward strides on the slopes of moral progress, making the rabid secularists (of the Dawkinsian sort, and not to be confused with the garden variety Jeffersonian ones) therefore right about placing faith in the bovine waste that is the human heart.

It must be placed in something —on someone— else.

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Posted on July 10, 2012, in crap, funny and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Miguel. Allow me to share my opinion.

    I agree that people, when left to their own devices, are, by default, horrible – not only in the Game of Thrones or similar settings in actual history, but even up to today and in civilized societies. However, the difference between medieval times and modern civilized societies is that in the latter, people seldom find the opportunity to do horrible things and especially to get away with it and do more horrible things.

    • Hi Jong, You’re right; there’s now more disincentive to act horribly. But some of the people who are gathered around the campfire singing kumbaya will however be surprised just how Lord-Of-The-Flies-Style horrible people can be when the opportunity for it presents itself.

  2. Yes, people can still be horrible when the opportunity for it presents itself. And if by “moral progress” you mean something like a change in human heart, I agree with what you seem to be implying – that there is no such thing happening. All modern civilized societies do is to try to contain whatever evil (e.g., extreme lust for power that allows people to massacre entire communities) lies in a person’s and prevent it from translating into atrocious deeds of biblical proportions.

    • I don’t argue with you there; you’re largely right. I would, however, question Steven Pinker’s metric, since he argues more people are now good, but the corollary is that more people are now also bad –because there’s just ‘more’ people than there used to be.

      This was a point made by someone else, the name of whom I’m forgetting at the moment, who was able to flush out the errors in Pinker’s argument very well, of which my crude summation above probably botches. But that’s, I believe, the basic gist of it.

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