There are spoilers here, so if you’re not caught up on Game of Thrones, go away.
“They don’t get to choose.”
Those were some of the last words of Daenerys Targaryen, the “breaker of chains” who sought to “break the wheel” only to, in the end, become the wheel herself.
I’m still deciding how I feel about the ending. It’s no easy task to bring something as big and complicated and weighty as this story was to a satisfying resolution.
Hell, George R.R. Martin is still trying to write the books.
But as we all digest the finale, it sure seems like some of the turns at the end have angered our friends on the left.
I’m not surprised.
In his column today National Review’s Jim Geraghty writes not about the Game of Thrones finale but rather about the elections in Australia where the Conservative party won big. As Geraghty notes, it is the latest victory for populist, right-of-center politics over more internationalist left wing opponents.
“Observers compared it to the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s victory in 2016,” he writes. “They might also notice other right-of-center leaders who were generally opposed by most of their country’s political and cultural elites and who won anyway: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, the leaders of Poland’s Law and Justice Party. Now there’s talk that Conservative Boris Johnson may become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”
He goes on to note the brand of global leftism is on the decline: “Whatever term you think best applies to the kinds of leaders warmly welcomed and celebrated at the World Economic Forum in Davos — cosmopolitan, internationalist, corporatist, ‘globalist,’ ‘Establishment’ — that’s the brand and image that is having a tougher time in country after country.”
Setting aside the whole rides-a-dragon thing, it’s hard not to see the parallels between Daenerys Targaryen and the aforementioned left-of-center political movements.
Or, at least, their ideologies.
Daenerys knows what’s right for everyone else in the world, and she’s willing to impose it on them.
Jon Snow asks her, what about everyone else who thinks they also know what’s right?
“They don’t get to choose.”
That’s exactly the attitude of certain political movements of the ilk Geraghty describes when they take up the causes like environmentalism or abortion or human rights.
They know what’s right for all of us. There’s no room for debate or compromise or moderation.
We don’t get to choose.
The arc for the Daenerys character is instructive too. She’s a young woman who survives the abuse of males (notably her brother). She becomes a fiercely independent leader in what is, for the most part, a man’s world. That all fits in with a lot of left wing political messaging these days about how more women need to wrest control of the reins of power from crusty old white men.
It’s identity politics catnip.
Only in the end it turns out Daenerys – for all her good intentions, and despite her politically correct gender – is every bit as capable of tyranny and brutality as the men are.
The lesson is that good intentions aren’t enough. That there is danger is believing too fervently in your own righteousness.
That, in the end, perhaps we’re better accepting that we’ll live in a world where some people do and say things we don’t like than trying to impose what we view as the right way of things on everyone else.
I’m a conservative because I generally support smaller government, the power of which is distributed across an expansive network of governing entities from the White House and Congress down to city hall. I find it very difficult to support Democratic (and even many Republican) political leaders because they support consolidating political power in pursuit of their various goals.
Because they know what’s best, and to achieve what’s best, the rest of us must have fewer choices.
I think we all spend a little too much time interpreting social and political events through the lens of pop culture. Sometimes songs are just songs. Stories are just stories. Also, I’m a conservative. That’s how I see the world. I recognize that this story had many themes which could just as easily be seen as critical of right-of-center political movements. I’m not trying to paint the Game of Thrones as some conservative manifesto. It wasn’t. But some of the themes of the last season were appealing from a conservative perspective.