Bran: He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory. Sam: That’s what death is, isn’t it? Forgetting … being forgotten. If we forget where we’ve been and what we’ve done we’re not men anymore. Just animals. Your memories don’t come from books; your stories aren’t just stories.
– Episode 2, Season 8, Game of Thrones
And may the better storyteller win.
It can safely be said that the best storyteller won in the end and was appointed ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Not the better speaker, which would have been Tyrion Lannister, but the better keeper of secrets, the better memoirist. Listen in to what Tyrion had to say in the last episode of Game of Thrones: “What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”
Read it as a metaphor for our politics and what does it tell you about us? Donald Trump triumphed in the US because he understood the angst of the silent majority, those who felt their country had been taken from them. Narendra Modi won in 2014 because he could tap into the confidence and the anger of an emerging India, an India that no longer wanted to tolerate the past as it had been handed out to them. An India that scoffed at entitlement, elite education and privilege. An India that believed the prime minister was one of them, one who could articulate their deepest fears and darkest sentiments. And yes, their fondest hopes.
Leaders who win are able to show a mirror to society—warts and all. If society is ugly, so be it. If it is full of hatred, so be it. And if it is at war with itself, so be it again. Leaders who are certain of their destiny. When Tyrion asks Bran whether he will become the ruler, the paralysed but all-seeing Stark says quite simply: “Why do you think I came all this way?”
As Cersei Lannister said so famously once, power is power. If you don’t want it, like Jon Snow, you won’t get it. If you want it too much, like Daenerys, it will be denied to you, no matter how much you’ve sacrificed for it. You have to understand or at least seem to understand the real nature of power, to perform a public service, to give voice a desire that the people don’t know they have. It is not enough to have lineage. You have to earn your power, and as in a democracy, keep it as long as the will of the people allows.
And when there is a contest between love and duty, duty wins. Because love, as Jon Snow says, is the death of duty. And life is not a fairytale when aunt and nephew can live happily ever after, liberating the whole world.