by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Game of Thrones ends where it began: The mad monarch has been assassinated; the king-slayer, who had vowed to defend that mad monarch with his life, takes on the sins of the polity as a holy, royal scapegoat, simultaneously prince and pariah; a pair of siblings, whose main claim to power is that they already have power, endeavor to rule a disunited and unstable continent; dragons and magic fade into the background; a potential Targaryen heir to the throne has been dispatched to the celibate warrior-monks of the Night’s Watch; a king with little interest in the day-to-day government of the kingdom entrusts his affairs to a council whose members cannot decide whether to prioritize feeding the hungry, building up the navy, or constructing new brothels; the common people molder in common graves. …
… Lenin had no time for “small mercies” and was frank and remorseless in his embrace of terror in the service of achieving his paradise. The Mad Queen, too. These monsters may have seemed delusional to those around them — and to us — but in a sense they are the ones who are free from delusions about power. Delusions, as it turns out, are what make politics humane, to the extent that it is humane. The delusion that peace can be had through terror, that charity can be cultivated at the point of a bayonet, that brutality is the means to justice sometimes has the effect of causing those with power to limit themselves rather than to pursue their visions to their logical, merciless conclusions. The belief in “small mercies” often is the only thing keeping unified political power in check.