Lessons From Game Of Thrones – Living in the shadow of oligarchy…

Oligarchy - Lessons from Game of ThronesLike many fans of Game Of Thrones, I am often surprised at how the show forces us to look at ourselves in the mirror and contemplate our own relentless march towards oligarchy.  For those who don’t watch the show, the “Game Of Thrones”  is literally a game played by a few great families at the expense of all below them.  They don’t govern, they rule and to the victor belongs the spoils of both power and wealth.

Our constitution is not a shield against tyranny…

There was a time, not long ago, when most Americans would have arrogantly assumed that we had risen beyond such  stark differences between the haves and have nots.  Cloaked in the protections of our constitution middle and working class Americans felt safe from the exploitation that dominates feudal societies like the ones seen  in GOT.   Trade unions supported the middle and working classes and the “one man, one vote” concept of our republic would  ensured that the very structure of our government would prevent any backsliding  towards oligarchic rule.

What we forgot was the lessons of history.  That power and money has a relentless propensity for concentrating itself in the hands of a very few.   We forgot that  if left to its own devices, without checks, balances and constant vigilance,  any capitalistic economy would always push relentlessly toward plutocracy.  Unfortunately, with our eyes off the ball, we took a 30-year political nap and woke up to a nightmare.

The Powerful Prey on the Powerless…

In the first episode of season 5 Tyrion and Varys have a conversation about power and justice.

Tyrion: What is it that you want exactly?
Varys:  Peace. Prosperity. A land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless.
Tyrion: Where the castles are made of gingerbread an the moats are filled with blackberry wine.  The powerful have always preyed on the powerless.  That’s how they became powerful in the first place.
Varys:  Perhaps.  And perhaps we’ve grown so used to the horror we assume there’s no other way.

Moral Relativism leads to a lack of real choices:

Through that lens we can readily see ourselves.  Are we not having that same debate today?  I hear similar arguments all the time.  “The wealthy will always win.”  “That’s just the way it is and you can’t do anything about it.”  Why do we feel this way when just 30 years ago we had a thriving middle class?  Isn’t it still a matter of one man, one vote. Sadly no.  At this time we are a democracy in name only.

The difficulty is that when “We the People” vote today, we  don’t have any real choices.  I for one am sick of the false options between the totally insane and the absolutely spineless.

It has taken a long time for even me to recognize the hard reality.  There is little to no difference between the major parties when it comes  to vital economic issues.   When I placed my vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, I was not voting for Bush Lite.  Yet that’s what I got.  In 2008 I was casting a vote for substantive change on basic bread and butter issues.  In 2012 I was casting a vote for the person I thought would do the least damage.  Granted we have made great progress in areas like gay marriage, but that in a way has become  a side-show that masks the choke-hold that Wall Street and big banks have over our government officials. For those bread and butter issues, we can vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee.

As Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times, the American public is “weary of (moral) relativity” where we vote for the candidate who is “less bad” then their opponent.  The hard truth is that the democrats and republicans are feeding from the same trough.  They have abandoned  the average citizen in favor of the rich and powerful. Right now we really have no viable options that can push back on our relentless march towards a plutocratic autocracy.

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