I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Our experiences in politics may differ from time to time. For some, it may be a democracy where parties debate over ideology and best practices. Others are layered with meritocracy and professionalism.
However, one common experience, at least for those in developing countries, is the sense that we are trapped in our flawed, easily corrupted political systems. In some nations, there is a particular kind of politics experienced by the common people, where they are mostly left out of the process. The common folk may be able to give feedback in a democratic state but at times, the impact is not felt when their leaders do not hold themselves accountable to the people. In fact, there are some cases where the people should be accountable to their leaders.
In this article, I want to relate the experience of a Game of Thrones character who fundamentally represents being existentially caged. He may not represent fatalism in the sense that he accepts what has been given to him. Rather, we see how he festers the woundedness and hatred felt from the shattering of his dreams, ideals and his own self.
Jaime Lannister: A Hateful Man
No other character is carefully presented to have self-depreciating, self-critical and hopeless depression and incredible anger at the world than Jaime Lannister. While none of the extremes apply to many of us, I can say without a doubt there is a lot we could learn from such an intricately-woven character like him.
The bath scene in Season 3 remains one of the highest points in the Game of Thrones TV show. This moment reveals the true Jaime Lannister. The amount of loathing in his voice is palpable. Notice how smug and obnoxious he was in Season 1? The way he carried himself arrogantly, proudly displaying his "Prince Charming" looks and shining armor, were a facade to the corrupted, vile and twisted individual that threw a child off a tower for accidentally finding out about their incest. After Season 3, I look back and feel that he was constantly bitter and angry about himself. His conversations with Jon Snow and particularly Ned Stark showed a level of contempt for the concept of honor that appeared to be the most important value in the world of Thrones. He was the epitome of shame in the world, the Kingslayer. As a Kingsguard, he was bound to protect his King, Aerys Targaryen, but he killed him to prevent millions from burning in Wildfire at the hands of the Mad King. This was the moment he lost all his ideals and would go on to be constantly fed by an existential frustration. He hated the gods. He hated the world. He hated the values he once held. He hated Ned Stark. He hated himself, above all, because he could have just enjoyed the dream of chivalry, honor and admiration.
His incestuous relationship with Cersei may have stemmed from their connection and lust formed from neglect and isolation from the world but after being called Kingslayer for the death of the Mad King. In a way, he hated life itself for being such an awful reality to live in because he spent much of his life in a dream of bliss. Defending his sister-lover, the queen. Raising himself to legend, akin to his father's immortality project for the dynasty. Above all, he saw the value and meaning through the fights he excelled in. When he lost his hand, it was like a second awakening and a second death. For me, even that frustration and anger was like a dream unto itself. He saw the world and remained lull to the inevitability of the evil and cruelty going on around him. When he lost the one thing that validated his worth to others, he realizes he was a miserable existence, dedicating himself to nothing. Even his love for Cersei was not a meaningful bond. It was twinged with lust, hatred, secrecy, lies, confusion, uncertainty, domination-submission and toxicity, maybe the most toxic of the relationships in the entire canon of the series.
So when he poured out his flood of frustration and misery, he might have realized that in the Pandora's Box that was Jaime Lannister, he released his honesty. He was honest and open and vulnerable and in pain to someone for the very first time in his life, a life that felt so much like an actual death sentence. It took one woman reaching out to him and he earned...his name back. Someone called him Jaime. Someone who was not Cersei, who held him as the only other for her. Someone who was not Tywin, who held him as a failed dream. Someone who was not Tyrion, whom he would have gained an eternal friendship and sincere bond with but could not due to his actions and sense of being trapped in the cruel world. It was a woman he wronged, Brienne, a woman who was not a woman in the world of Thrones, who brought down the mighty Lion from his throne of misery.
How Do We Face Being Caged In The System
Jaime's story reveals the reality we face: that the world does not conform to our values and we can only surrender to our base impulses to feel more honest about ourselves. Much like the Hound, Sandor Clegane, he accepted that the world could never change for him or the higher beliefs he once held. However, what both learned gradually was that they could not remain trapped for long.
In his moment of vulnerability and sincerity to another person, Jaime's wounded pride and soul displayed a hint of an answer to the problem of being trapped in the system. It may sound cliche but there is solace in knowing we are never truly alone. By finding the right people who accept us for who we are, we can share that pain and recover our sense of meaning. The struggle to act in defiance of systemic exploitation and disenfrachisement begins with solidarity for the less fortunate. It is when people exit the bubble of privilege do they see the realities on the ground.
While the key players of Game of Thrones mostly sits within the bubble, their experiences shape their worldviews. This is best seen with Jon Snow and his life among the Night's Watch. With Jaime Lannister, a man who fought solely for his family, it took the loss of his right hand to wake him up to the horrors he was long desensitized to. Feeling numb over the certainty of the world's cruelty, he found no hope for change, even in himself, and only sought to maintain the comfort of his misery. Through Brienne's compassion, he found another chance to rekindle his honor. He gave Brienne a blade forged from Ned Stark's Valyrian Steel sword and asked her to fulfill his own promise to Catelyn Stark to rescue her daughters Arya and Sansa. Even if he could not carry out the fight due to his weakness and turmoil, he could at least entrust a sliver of hope to someone who can.
We can battle our own hopelessness and find comfort in knowing that the right people can bring us up when we fall down.
© 2020 Mar Louie Vincent Reyes