Sticking to what you think is right is hardly the best way to survive when you're alone against the world.
On the other hand, some people do think there are values worth dying for, and find themselves able to summon the needed moral courage when the moment comes. ASOIAF acknowledges that selfishness and greed are major human motivations, but despite the grittiness of the series, I don't think that GRRM portrays them as something to be embraced and celebrated. When someone like Ned or Davos is willing to risk much to save the life of a child, I do believe GRRM presents it as a moral act. Ned was surrounded by aggressively amoral power grabbers, so it didn't work out for him. Davos dealt with a better man, so he kept his life and
saved the innocent. Despite the different consequences of these acts, both characters showed great moral courage. Since I'm not ready to abandon the idea of individual moral acts as hopeless and worthless, I respect Ned and Davos.
Wow, when did Jaime inspire loyalty?Apart from the W5K, did we ever see Jaime leading men into battle? No, you'll have to tone this done and give Ned some justice. He was plainer than Brandon, a lesser swordsman, more reserved, yes. But he was no less a war commander and a strategist than these other dudes. Rhaegar, Robb and Robert may have been more charismatic but that doesn't mean that they inspired more loyalty than Ned, to their men.
What do we see in ADWD? Men ready to die to save the Ned's little girl. Ned may not have inspired loyalty as a glamorous, heroic warrior, but especially after ADWD, I think it's clear that he inspired a different kind of loyalty: the result of years of just rule and the respect he showed for his people and his duty. It's not a short-term strategy like the Red Wedding or Tywin's campaigns of terror, but something with long-term benefits. It's the legacy he left his children, and I believe it'll lead to one of them ruling the North in the end. So you might say that Ned lost as an individual, but his House will be able to survive a terrible defeat in part because of the way he lived his life.
And I think Ned wanting to spare the Lannister children is the most badass act in the series. Not badass in the sense of "wow, awesome" duels like Oberyn vs the Mountain, Jaime's fighting prowess, Tyrion's clever quips, or a general tough attitude. But badass as something impressively exceptional, especially in the vicious world of ASOIAF, in its display of humanity and compassion, the refusal to surrender to the ease of selfishness and creation of justifications for brutality. The parents of these children tried to murder his own little boy, crippled him for life, in order to hide their treason. Yet Ned ignores the opportunity for personal revenge or even for washing his hands and letting the children meet their fate: instead he actively tries to prevent any harm coming to innocents. What a contrast to how the Lannister adults had treated Ned's children before and would treat them in the future, responding to this act of mercy by delivering Ned's children to murder, betrayal, violent abuse (physical, and sexual as well if some of them had gotten their way), and the usurpation of their inheritance.
Ned's honour wasn't a matter of empty forms; that's Jaime's newfound "honour" when he rules-lawyers his way into feeling pride and self-satisfaction over how he kept the letter of his oath to Cat... when delivering Riverrun to the rule of her murderers and ensuring they got their reward for the violation of guestright. Ned's honour is modern because it does include the element of compassion, the sense of his moral duty towards other people as a lord and as an individual, not simply his rights. In the end, responsibility and compassion govern him far more than the concept of stubborn "rules and appearances only" honour that many of the other characters embrace.
Edited by Miryana, 23 November 2011 - 04:39 PM.