lauantai 10. elokuuta 2013

Day 287: Ramblings on justice and leadership


I watched the two final episodes of the third season of the TV series Game of Thrones, and I started to think about various themes that were presented. I noticed myself reacting very strongly to two scenarios (spoiler alert):

  • I was shocked when a group of characters that represented honor, integrity, justice, and honesty were betrayed and murdered
  • I was moved when a character releasing slaves by killing their masters was embraced by the slaves she had just freed

During the first reaction I asked: Why is it that the characters that represent all these good qualities, the constructive kind of leadership, everything I see to be worth fighting for, why is it that they always lose? Why is it that we don't see them winning? Why is it that they are the ones to suffer? What kind of a world is it where cruelty and dishonesty prevail? Am I naive to believe in humanity? Am I stupid to try and be a better person when the world we live in leads to outcomes like this? Am I digging my own grave by having faith in people?

But then again I have to look at the context of these fictitious yet realistic events. Even this group of people who represented everything that is honorable in warfare were fighting a war. They were in search of vengeance and power, even if not power over all but power to govern themselves. No matter how righteous, they too spilled blood. In that context it is no wonder their actions came back a thousandfold. So what I need to look at is my idea of “righteousness”, because if I see these characters to be “righteous” despite them being in war, there's something twisted in how I look at it.

With the second scenario I found myself thinking about leadership. I thought about this character and how I admired how she had managed to grow herself an army – and not just that, but a nation, a people – by freeing slaves and giving them a chance to follow her if they so wanted out of their own will. The people loved her for what she had done. But she, too, is in the search for power, although at this point of the storyline we do not know exactly why. She is seeking to rule all of the known kingdoms. She has had masses of people killed so that the majority of population could have their lives as their own. Is it right to kill a few to spare the many? Are actions like this justified? Is she a good leader, a righteous leader, a just leader? What does it even mean to lead? Is it just group manipulation? Isn't she really just abusing people who don't know any better?

I am thinking about all this because I am thinking about why I am doing what I'm doing. Why am I trying to be righteous? Why am I committing myself to becoming a better person? Why am I choosing the path I am now walking? What exactly am I trying to achieve? If I was a leader, where would I be leading people, how and why?

I do not want to be fighting blindly for an ideology. So far what I have seen of ideologies is that they are obsessed, fixated and unable to develop and progress – and that they justify their existence with themselves. I would rather be working for that which is unmistakably, commonsensically real. A heartbeat is real – it can be seen, felt and measured to exist by everyone equally – and thus every living creature with a beating heart (or the equivalent of it) is real, as are their needs. Suffering is real; try to deny pain when you're the one going through it. Sunlight, rain and the ground below us are real, as all of our nourished bodies testify. This is common sense: that which is commonly known by all, if not fully understood. This is what I will stand up to protect and preserve: that which is common, that which is ours, that which is shared.

But to kill, to torture, to yearn for revenge? To wish for death upon others so that your own kind would have more? These characters speak of justice with no idea what it means. To me there's no justice without mercy. The need for vengeance is born out of one's own anger and spite – not out of common sense. If a man has done wrong, death will not teach him to do right. As long as a man has a beating heart, that heart may choose to use the life it's got left to bring about a world with a little less suffering – it may choose to make amends through actual contribution to the world. Those heartbeats have immense value, because once life has been taken away it cannot be given back – and only those who live have influence on the world of the living.

So I continue to question.

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