Democracy, Responsibility, and Samwell Tarly

Samwell Tarly: Why just us? We represent all the great houses, but whoever we choose, he won't just rule over lords and ladies. Maybe the decision about what's best for everyone should be left to ... well ... everyone.

The war in Westeros is over. King’s Landing has been wrested from the hands of House Lannister. As Game of Thrones wound down toward its end and a council is assembled to choose a new king or queen, perhaps the saddest part of this forward-thinking comment by Maester Tarly is the reaction from the rest of the council: it was laughed off by some of the others as though it were the most absurd possibility conceivable. It is particularly interesting to note in the light of the late Daenerys Targaryen’s desire to “liberate” all the enslaved peoples of the world which contains Westeros. One wonders if one can enjoy liberty without having the means to exercise said liberty to choose who rules over them.

In a milieu such as that of Westeros, democracy might well be regarded as a less than likely choice for a government. One essential facet of a healthy, working democracy is an informed electorate, where the common people know both the issues and the people meant to address and prosecute them, where they are educated in the mechanisms and principles of the government under which they live. Nowhere in that particular reality is any such educational system either available or even hinted at. The “lords and ladies” of the great houses can afford such enlightenment; the common people have no such access, and it is likely that the aristocracy prefers matters that way. Democracy in Westeros would represent a massive paradigm change to the entire society.

Theoretically, we in the United States are supposed to be a lot better off. We have the education systems and the news media to inform us of the occurrences locally and around the world, the doings of those officials we have put into their offices and the responsibilities represented by those offices, so that we can observe and adjudge and decide whether our needs and desires are being properly handled. If so, no action needed, though perhaps an occasional note to that particular officer, thanking him or her for duties well attended. If not, missives of a more critical and correcting nature might be dispatched, along with thoughts of the next election and the possible need for a change in personnel in that post. The people put their proxies in these positions; they can just as facilely remove them.

That is, IF they care to be involved or informed. Thomas Jefferson once declared: “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate. Lyn Nofziger commented further: “A better educated electorate might change the reasons many people vote.” Yet the sources people could employ to gain information regarding issues and candidates vary widely from National Public Radio, CBS, and the New York Times to Breitbart, Fox News and Info Wars. The latter choices have been frequently questionable regarding journalistic integrity, but then those who frequent them treat them as though they were the ONLY means to reliable political data. Too often these days, “education” consists less of gaining salient information on a topic than it does reinforcing one’s already held biases.

This isn’t the worst of this matter, though. We frequently have elections where less than 50 percent of eligible voters actually participate. There are those who either don’t care to or can’t be bothered to exercise their franchise, their right to vote. Either they figure there are enough others who represent their point of view to cover for them, or they are discouraged by the choice of candidates that voting for the lesser of two evils is a waste of time, or some other excuse. These are people who wish to benefit from the products of representative government, but have no interest in the responsibilities entailed in maintaining that government. I would refer such people to another statement by the gentleman mentioned above:

Freedom is our most precious commodity, and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away. Individual freedom demands individual responsibility.
-- Lyn Nofziger

The tools of public education, mass communication, data collection and dissemination and news reporting were completely unknown to Samwell Tarly. It’s dubious that his world even knew what a printing press was, yet all those mechanisms and many more are ours to use, IF we can be bothered to do so. We DO have those means and a government bequeathed to us which depends on their use, and because of that, the weight is on us. We can either accept that obligation and benefit or reject it and later wonder what happened to our privileges and freedoms.

We … even we here … hold the power and bear the responsibility.
-- Abraham Lincoln

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Comment by Loren Miller on June 18, 2019 at 5:32am

I haven't been able to find any recent news about Arizona, but the Virginia redistricting case was pretty interesting, in that the court found the current arrangement unconstitutional.  What makes this a genuine case of "strange bedfellows" is that Thomas and Gorsuch voted with the distaff side of the court!

[As for the line-break formatting on your text, Tom, you will probably have to use the html editor and do it by hand.]

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 18, 2019 at 2:32am

Wouldn’t you know it, SCOTUS’ “infamous four” - Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia - voted to let the Arizona legislature continue to gerrymander the state.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 18, 2019 at 2:15am

Though I prefer to read the SCOTUS decision text, Wikipedia has the story at

Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

This dialog box let me select all to shrink the above font size and remove the above bolding and italics but won’t let me shrink the above line spacing. I tried twice to shrink this ‘graph’s font.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 18, 2019 at 1:29am

Loren, to get those on the sidelines into the game, the two factions of America’s Wall Street Party have to take down the walls.

How many walls are there? You are activist enough to know some of them.

Eighteen states have taken down the highest wall. Their voters use the direct initiative, referendum and recall (DIR&R) to play the game without their legislators.

Arizona’s voters recently used the DI to take districting away from their legislator/predators. The legislature went to court to get districting back, and the courts tossed their attempt. I found the story last year at www.ballotpedia.org

In the states without the DIR&R, voters become the prey of the people they elect.

Craig, Yeats was wrong. A few of America’s best were on Mueller’s committee. Many more have read or are reading Mueller’s report. Yeats let his powerlessness become cynicism.

Comment by Loren Miller on June 17, 2019 at 8:14pm

Entirely too true, Craig. I STILL want to know what it will take to get those on the sidelines into the game.

Comment by Craigart14 on June 17, 2019 at 8:05pm

As Yeats put it in "The Second Coming":  

"The best lack all conviction while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity."

'Twas ever thus.

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on June 7, 2019 at 12:03am

Loren, am I correct in concluding that you are, at great length, saying;

1) democracy is failing in the USA, and

2) people who don’t vote are responsible?

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