You win or you die
If I could get “Our Allies” in both the political and Episcopal worlds to get *one political principle* it would be this one. The continued naive cluelessness from conservatives in our country and in various smaller organizations [like TEC] being eaten alive by revisionist parasite ideas continues to astound me. Most of us simply do not have discernment, and we continue to act “as if” something is not true that is true. That thing is well-described in this political theory article I’ve linked to over at RedState and from which the below is excerpted. Time after time after time, Our Allies act as if our opponents are one way, when in fact they are the other way entirely. You can’t act or think or write or discern effectively when you’ve completely and totally misunderstood the nature of your opponent or his future actions and responses. It’s fine to be beaten. It’s fine to be bloodied. It’s fine to lose. It’s fine to be triumphed over by winning opponents and completely humiliated. It’s even fine [or less awful, anyway] to give up and say “we lose, we will go to our caves now.” But for God’s sake, please don’t be a stupid idiot about the nature of your opponent while you are being beaten to a pulp. If you are going to “get killed” in today’s America, please don’t die saying “but I don’t understand why he’s being so mean to me—I thought the game was a different one than the one I am presently enduring.” You can even say “I surrender and abase myself before you as the victor” but please do not say “what? I thought you were a tolerant and loving person. Why are you hitting and kicking me? I thought we all agreed to play by the rules of a civilized society.”
This article’s explanation of this principle is so important that I won’t be posting a single thing beyond it today.
Those who can accept the horror of the Red Wedding might appreciate the point it makes about the dangers of blind idealism in a brutal world where cosmic justice is not swiftly meted out to villains. (There are a lot of absolute S.O.B.s still waiting for a comeuppance, several thousand pages into the “Game of Thrones” novels, plus one S.O.B. who seems to be in the process of growing a conscience, and might therefore be best equipped to conquer the world.) Robb’s downfall involved putting personal satisfaction ahead of his clear duty. He wanted to seize the throne in a desperate rebellion, but he thought he could bypass some unpleasant realities of the office he assumed.
In a Disney movie, it would all have worked out fine. The story would have been filled with sympathetic characters who shared the modern audience’s disdain for the instruments of feudal authority, including arranged marriages. These characters would have been the clear heroes of the story, and they would have prevailed. Love and tolerance would have conquered all.
Not to overstretch the themes Martin expounds in his books, but there is something for the student of modern politics to glean from the way one character sums up the overall conflict: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” We don’t literally die when we lose power struggles in the more civilized modern West, and our families are not slaughtered beside us. Our political culture admires idealism, or at least claims to, and just about every politician presents himself or herself as a deeply principled idealist.
But still… the game has high stakes, and the quest for power has rules – unfair rules, administered differently for the two major American political parties, and every third party that seeks a place on the national stage. Good intentions do not suspend these rules. Kind and decent people get chewed up and spit out by the system. Look at what happened to all those energetic outsider candidates who ran in the 2012 presidential election. It’s just not enough to be an enthusiastic outsider with some bright ideas. It is necessary to run a tight race, attend to the ground game, and avoid self-destructive mistakes.
In other words, the requirements of power must still be obeyed. Those who believe their good intentions or persuasive charisma can change the game tend to suffer for their hubris, even when they are decent people with fine ideas. It’s even worse when they convince themselves there are some depths their opponents would never sink to, some rules they would never, ever break – the way Robb Stark never dreamed his host would violate the rules of hospitality at a noble wedding. There’s nothing sadder than the sight of a bewildered candidate standing on the sidelines, waiting for the election “referees” to throw a penalty flag that never comes.
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