Lessons From Game Of Thrones – The death of Princess Shireen…

Game of Thrones - Littlefinger - Chaos MonologueAs we approach the end of the 5th season of Game Of Thrones,  I always marvel at how fantasy like this manages to put the brightest and darkest aspects of our humanity in a perspective where we can actually see ourselves for what we really are.

Like all GOT fans, I found the terrible end met by Princess Shireen to be quite heartbreaking.  For those who don’t know the series, Shireen was a young princess who was sacrificed “for the greater good” as a sacrifice to the “Lord of Light” by being burned at the stake.  The person who gave the order to do this terrible act was her very own father (Stannis Baratheon) who was convinced by a Priestess that he was “destined” to rule the seven kingdoms of Westerous. But, in order to accomplish this  that “sacrifices” had to be made.

Yes, I know that it is only a TV show but like many other fans of GOT, most of us were very attached to her character because she was compassionate, kind, down-to-earth young girl who refused to be drawn into the cruelty and religious fanaticism that was the norm in her world.  Surrounded by her fanatical mother, father and the “Red Priestess” she rejected fanaticism in favor of  reason and compassion.

A metaphor for the dark side of humanity…

For me, the awful end to Shireen is a metaphor for the dark side of humanity.  Our history is steeped in such  atrocities.  For some it is a sincere belief that blots out reason.  For others, it is a cynical manipulation of the facts to suit an agenda.

Either way the flames of intolerance have been stoked for thousands of years as a result.  People have been persecuted, tortured and killed in the name of God more times than for probably any other reason.  Those of Christian descent  need only look to the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition to get of glimpse of the blood that was spilled in the name of their religion.  In more modern times the Nazi movement shows us that a compelling propaganda machine can can still create a group-think mentality that can set an entire nation on a path of genocide and self-destruction.  Americans who imagine that we are above and beyond all this don’t have to look too far to see that they are wrong.  Racial intolerance as well as religious extremism are alive and well in the United States. Add to that cauldron, a sprinkling of “the end justifies the means” and we have not moved all that far from burning people alive at the stake.

Shining  a light in dark places…

What keeps these darker tendencies alive?  When we look at the world of Westeros, we need look no further than the monologue of  Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) from season three.  He is the master of distortion and misinformation. Create enough chaos through smoke and mirrors and you can clear a pathway to power and riches.

In our own world, we need only look at our own power-players  to know who is stoking  those flames.  The propaganda machine which caters to fear, extremism and our most primitive instincts is controlled by the monied few.  They direct the flames of misinformation towards their advantage.  Today as in the past we need to shine a light on our darker side and summon our courage to push back against extremism and smoke screens those in power erect to divert us from the truth. Like Princess Shireen, we have to summon the best part of ourselves to keep tyranny at bay.

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