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Ilyrio Mopatis and slavery


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On 7/19/2022 at 10:34 AM, Lissasalayaya said:

Dany doesn't trust Illyrio. She's skeptical of his intentions and motivations. 

Tyrion doesn't trust Illyrio.

Tywin has contempt for Illyrio.

Illyrio is portrayed as a fat greedy slavedriving cheesmonger with greasy hands who was tempted to have sex with a thirteen year old Daenerys. 

Then in ADWD we learn about his backstory as a fighting slave, hear about his wife and see his affection for her memory, see his fatherly affection for Young Griff, and he strongly suggests that his motivations are ultimately deeply personal and more important to him than money. 

Illyrio is no saint, but the only way this arc makes sense is if it's moving toward the revelation that Illyrio is, in some way or another, the genuine artifact. Whatever the deepest desire of his heart turns out to really be, narratively it has to be aimed at the good. I suspect he's working against slavery. For example, there's a noteworthy contrast between Dany's thoughts in AGOT about Illyrio's servants being slaves in truth, versus Illyrio's servant cooks stepping onto the stage in ADWD hundreds of pounds overweight. The commentary is on Dany's and our filppant abuses of the word slave. 

Daenerys, Tyrion, and Tywin are three of the most intelligent people around. Illyrio is not trustworthy if they have come to that conclusion. He’s a Blackfyre backer.  His son was going to inherit from Viserys III because the king was most probably a sterile man. 

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Ilyrio is a Blackfyre and Varys is a Targaryen bastard.  They are extensions of the Targaryen family.  They want to put the family back on the throne.  They follow the Targaryen succession and that is why they were helping King Viserys III.  He was  already the king of Westeros because he had been coronated on Dragonstone. 

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On 7/22/2022 at 10:10 AM, Mourning Star said:

If discussing the moral themes of the story is moral exhibition then yes, obviously that's the entire point of the discussion.

Moral exhibition is when you proudly proclaim that slavery is bad as if anybody around you thinks otherwise. You accuse me of building strawmen, yet when you do this kind of nonsense you're literally the one building a strawman and then taking whacks at it. Here's a prime example in your very next line:

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Slave apologists are not closer to any truth, literally the point of what I'm saying.

You lob the term "slavery apologist" at me like a child who learned a new curse word. It's as if you're hoping that if you repeat it enough times you can drag the IQ of the conversation down to your level and conceal your moral exhibitionism.

To most readers, the story is clearly nurturing the slavery conversation in a space beyond good and evil. ASOIAF is a story in which the slaves themselves wait in line all day to spit in the face of their "mother" because she was more interested in winning victories over slavery as an abstraction than over slavery as a day-to-day reality for actual people. ASOIAF is a story in which tens of thousands of freed slaves die of starvation and sickness because they followed the person who freed them. I can cite examples like this for a solid hour, yet here you are like a pest doing everything in your power to drag the conversation back down to good versus evil.

Your unwillingness to understand the discussion or the story at a level of complexity greater than "Slavery Bad vs Slavery Good" does not indicate that the person you're speaking to is on the Slavery Good side, it indicates that you're too entrenched in your stance (and your terrible behavior such as this) to admit when you're wrong. 

Seeing as you're clearly capable of reintroducing complexity to the issue of slavery when you want to, it's obvious that your behavior derives from the simple fact that you lack the character development to admit when your concept of theme is wrong and when your behavior is bad.

"Slavery" is not a theme. A theme says something about the human experience. Slavery is merely a topic and a thing. A theme is something that sounds like this quote from Martin. "I think the line between good and evil runs down the middle of every human heart." Not to put the cart before the horse, but that's approximately the all-encompassing theme of ASOIAF. And what the story has to say about slavery certainly goes under that umbrella.

"Slavery is bad" says something about the human experience, so it could be a theme. But as a theme it is very simple, obvious and unnecessary for a western audience that despises slavery so much that, like you, we hardly even notice when the word is being substituted for namecalling curse words. 

As I continue responding to your post, I'm going to highlight your repeated attempts to drag the conversation down to the Good vs Evil (anti-theme) level of analysis to give myself and anybody reading this a thorough demonstration of just how malignant your kind of behavior is, as well as how destructive it can be to fruitful ASOIAF discourse. That way, when I encounter another Mourning Star in the future I can direct him or her here so that he can see what happens to people who try to dumb down the story by accusing the people who are trying to talk about it of being pro-slavery, racist, sexist, or any other of the moral exhibitionist's favorite boogymonsters. 

To sweeten the deal, and as a reward for anybody following along, at the end of this post I will share the right answer and explanation to the mystery of Mirri Maz Duur's prophecy about Khal Drogo's return. "Then he will be as he was, and not before." It will be a new answer that I haven't seen before in the fandom, and I won't go into great depth about it here, but it will be correct. 

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But, what I gather from the above is that you are in fact an unrepentant slavery apologist? 

Namecalling counter: Two.

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You are certainly the loudest and least knowledgeable person commenting here, I'll give you that.

How about we let the other readers be the judges of that.

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You are wrong.

I was trying to explaining morality to you, and how we see it as a major theme in ASoIaF.

 

Don't undersell yourself. You were trying to explain morality to EVERYONE, because somehow you have it in your head that some of us think SLAVERY is a good idea. It's nothing short of completely deranged and detached from reality. 

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Each of these examples are things that are inherently morally wrong, and we see highlighted in the story. Blaming one for the actions of another is an example, like slavery, of something inherently wrong. It being wrong is not dependent on how the blame is manifested, or how the slaves are treated. Nor are these dependent on culture.

I didn't understand what you were saying, here, until I realized that your phrase "how the blame is manifested" really means "logic and reasoning." 

I already noticed that your opinions about Illyrio's servants do not derive from logic and reason, but thank you for confessing it. They derive from your misguided sense that Illyrio's servants are your property who require your care and protection because they cannot decide for themselves which of their available options is best for them. 

But even now I give you more credit than you've earned, because in truth you haven't considered their available options at all: You haven't compared their lifestyle in Illyrio's manse to the lifestyle they're likely to have in the streets of Pentos; You haven't compared their lifestyle in Illyrio's manse to the lifestyle they're likely to have outside the walls of Pentos; You haven't considered what sort of travel they might realistically have to do, how far they might be able to get using the funds that are realistically available to them, how dangerous it is to travel, which men are going to guard them, how they're going to pay the guards, which destination is preferable to Pentos, whether they will have to learn a new language, adopt a new religion, adopt a new culture, make new friends, leave friends and family behind, how they are going to feed themselves along the way, or any of these sorts of things. Your consideration for the real world situations of Illyrio's servants extends no further than is necessary for you to exhibit your moral virtue across one simple thoughtless dimension: Slavery Bad versus Slavery Good.

Now we just have to find some real people on the Slavery Good side of the argument to justify your interpretation. And if we can't find anybody like that, we'll create the illusion that they exist by accusing everybody who dares to be more thoughtful about the issue than you of "defending slavery." That'll shut everybody up by making them fearful to say what they think. Then you get to sit up on your illusory moral high horse in perpetuity. Slow. Clap. 

You're a bully, and not a clever one at that. 

Your thoughtless interpretation of slavery in ASOIAF demands the existence of people who think slavery is a good idea in order to justify itself. Likewise, Dany's good-vs-evil approach to ameliorating slavery creates her opposition, too. For example, The Sons of the Harpy are the sons of the men she crucified. Crucifixion is a form of torture, and she did it in revenge. Need I rev up A Song of Ice and Fire's theme about justice vs revenge before you can get my meaning? 

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I choose this example because it is focused on in the story, the classic example of blaming children for the crimes of their parents.

Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?"
"For a start," said Ned, "I do not kill children.

 

I'm glad you chose this passage, because the fact that you think this passage is an example of Cersei blaming children for the crimes of their parents illustrates what attitude resides at the foundation of your interpretations of the story. Let's look at more of the context.

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“Honor,” she spat. “How dare you play the noble lord with me! What do you take me for? You’ve a bastard of your own, I’ve seen him. Who was the mother, I wonder? Some Dornish peasant you raped while her holdfast burned? A whore? Or was it the grieving sister, the Lady Ashara? She threw herself into the sea, I’m told. Why was that? For the brother you slew, or the child you stole? Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?”

“For a start,” said Ned, “I do not kill children.

 

Ned is referring to the time Cersei ordered the secret killings of Robert's bastard children. Before that, Cersei's criticisms of Ned crept dangerously into the sensitive topic of Jon Snow. Cersei is telling Ned that she knows a thing or two about his most sensitive secret, and she's highlighting to Ned that he himself was willing to lie in order to protect his family. So Cersei is pointing out that her secret killings of Robert's bastards were done because she needed to protect her family, too. So when it comes to wrongdoing in order to protect family, Cersei is making a valid point that she and Ned are alike. 

Every living bastard of Robert's poses a future threat to Cersei and her children. And every child of Robert's bastards poses a future threat to Cersei's children. And every child of a child of Robert's bastards poses a future threat to Cersei's grandchildren, and on into eternity. So the threats that bastards pose to ruling families are very real in Westerosi society, because the society is based on blood claims to inheritance. And sure enough, the history of Westeros has no shortage of families that were ruined or deposed because somebody in the family had a bastard. 

To suggest that the reason Cersei killed Robert's bastards was because Cersei blamed them for Robert's infidelity is to demonstrate that you missed Cersei's point entirely. Cersei killed them because she felt she had no choice. Left alive, any one of those bastards could have gained political support and opposed her children. Lo and behold, that's exactly what we see Stannis doing with Robert's bastard Edric Storm not long after this chapter. 

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-Stannis ACOK Davos I

"Edric Storm, they call him. He is said to be the very image of my brother. If men were to see him, and then look again at Joffrey and Tommen, they could not help but wonder, I would think.” 

 

The thing that's missing from your interpretation of this passage is the same thing that's missing from your interpretation of Illyrio's servants: Acceptance of the way the society is structured. 

This is not a particularly unusual or damning thing to be missing. Everybody alive and who has ever lived was less than completely happy with how their own society is structured. The problem with us not being able to accept the way the society is structured is how that unacceptance shapes our approach to improving the situations of the particular individuals who live in the society. 

If our prescription for the individual person is nothing short of starting a revolution, that is not a realistic solution for one person, and it is very likely to make that person's life worse than it already is.

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What I was doing was presenting to you how slavery is just one example of a moral wrong the story highlights.

Slavery is something that happens in the story, but it is not the moral wrong that the story is highlighting. As is always the case with stories, the moral wrong the story is fundamentally highlighting is within us the readers. It's our tendency to make peoples' lives worse by trying to change the world before we adequately understand it. 

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So when we look at Tyrion's quote, realize that it is hard to be moral, and to fight for morality, and there is no guaranteed reward.

You've shown me that it's really easy to fight for what's good. Especially if I'm willing to disregard the lived realities of the people and societies that I claim to be helping. 'With the right ends, any means are justifiable, even if it kills tens of thousands of people, slaves, children, former slaves, masters, former masters, or more. No life can be allowed to get in the way of the crusade against That Which I Have Named Evil.'

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That Ned ends up dead is not a condemnation of his morality, anymore than a slave choosing to live is a defense of slavery.

So we agree. When I point out that Illyrio's servants are choosing to remain in servitude to Illyrio because they know their realistic alternatives bring them closer to danger and death, I need not necessarily also be pro-slavery. How interesting that complexity has a way of poofing in and out of existence to suit your needs for evading your responsibility to admit when you're wrong and acting like a bully. 

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"He would do whatever was right," he said … ringingly, to make up for his hesitation. "No matter what."
"Then Lord Eddard is a man in ten thousand. Most of us are not so strong.

This passage is about love vs duty. I don't know why you quoted it. Jon clearly doesn't know what is "right" in the desertion dilemma that Aemon has asked Jon to solve for Ned. 

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We also see how he addressed slavery.

Jorah had his reasons for selling men into slavery. This doesn't make the action of enslaving them not bad.

 

I agree. What's the point of saying this? Because you have a strawman that needs building!

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You are making bold undefended claims about human nature.

I'm not making them, the story is making them. The issue of power and power struggle is a massive subject being explored in A Song of Ice and Fire. The subject of power struggle is in the titles of all five published books for crying out loud. Surely a fast way to discredit yourself is to plainly say the opposite of what I said. So go on and get it over with, and say for all to hear that human beings are not the type of creature that is tempted to abuse power over other human beings.

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What you are describing is Will to Power, the ethos of Nazi Germany.

I think that pretending will to power is the only driving force behind humanity's actions ignores the best parts of humanity, and is also is pretty sad. I think one ends up drawing entirely misguided opinions when one ignores the rest. 

 

No, that's how you describe my description. Will to power places power at the top of the value hierarchy. I haven't argued in favor of anything of the sort. I've argued the opposite by pointing out that your disregard for the flesh-and-blood consequences of your crusades against slavery and society is your self-serving will to power. You want to sit on the throne of virtue and you don't care who is harmed in your climb. Servant girls in Pentos, a respected tutor in Meereen, a formerly wealthy merchant from Qarth, a bricklayer and weaver and cobbler from Astapor and thousands others are among the characters in the story whose suffering must be justified for Your greater good. Certainly not theirs. 

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-ADWD Daenerys III

Xaro gave a languid shrug. "As it happens, when I came ashore in your sweet city, I chanced to see upon the riverbank a man who had once been a guest in my manse, a merchant who dealt in rare spices and choice wines. He was naked from the waist up, red and peeling, and seemed to be digging a hole."

"Not a hole. A ditch, to bring water from the river to the fields. We mean to plant beans. The beanfields must have water."

 

And I concur that this self-centered will to power is an ethos that the Nazi Party, officially the National SOCIALIST German Workers' Party, embraced closely.

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You are trying to paint morality as relative to culture, the point I made above that you didn't seem to understand, when you try to frame it as all about culture.

No, the story is painting morality as relative to culture, because morality is relative to culture. What you're doing is trying to pretend that I'm saying morality can be completely derived from culture, but that isn't what I'm saying at all. Your tendency to push my views toward an extreme when it suits you echoes your tendency to view the world in extreme terms like Slavery Good vs Slavery Bad and Good vs Evil. Stop radicalizing other people and the world. 

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You can discuss things like slavery without being an apologist.

Namecalling counter: Three.

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Part of examining these things is hearing the flawed and misguided viewpoints like the ones above.

Out of all the people you could have chosen to make an example of your virtuosity, your judgement is proving as sound as it promised to be after you ignored my warning. 

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Being an employee or even a servant is not the same as being a slave.

A wild COMPLEXITY appears!
COMPLEXITY uses Teleport!
COMPLEXITY got away!

You'll have to forgive me for skipping so far ahead, but to be honest, your post is long and repetitive and I am bored of responding to it. 

As promised, let's visit Mirri Maz Duur's prophecy for perhaps the final time.

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-AGOT Daenerys IX

“When will he be as he was?” Dany demanded.

“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”

 

Since Drogo died, it's hard to imagine how he will ever "return" or "be as he was." Some speculate he will be reborn as a wight. Some say a fire wight. Some say he never really died, or he was reborn as Drogon when he was cremated. There are as many ideas as there are conceivable interpretations of the words "return" and "be as he was." 

Well, as in a pattern you may notice in your adventures through Ice and Fire's mysteries, the solution to this prophecy is more grounded than it seemed like it needed to be. Let's add the two paragraphs before this passage to see what more is going on.

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“This is not life, for one who was as Drogo was. His life was laughter, and meat roasting over a firepit, and a horse between his legs. His life was an arakh in his hand and his bells ringing in his hair as he rode to meet an enemy. His life was his bloodriders, and me, and the son I was to give him.”

Mirri Maz Duur made no reply.

“When will he be as he was?” Dany demanded.

“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”

 

This is a classic case of... When you barrage a person with many questions, comments and criticisms, you give her the freedom to answer any one of them she wants, leaving you in the dark about which one she really answered. 

There are two subjects in Dany's first paragraph: "Drogo" and "the son". Mirri was responding to "the son" part rather than the Drogo part.

So the prophecy is about Rhaego, not Drogo.

Rhaego was stolen by the Dothraki at birth while they kept Dany drugged and unconscious. He's still alive and they still have him.

But probably not for much longer because Dany is on her way. And there is another interpretation of the word "bear" that does not mean childbirth. It means "hold."

Edited by Lissasalayaya
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Essos has the larger population to prey upon.  Westeros is sparsely populated.  The costs to round them up and carry them across the Narrow Sea is not good business from a wicked slaver's calculation. There are better reasons besides finding a source for slaves.  Illyrio is doing all of this because he has a belief and a want to see the Targaryens back in power.  Perhaps he's an elitists who believes the blood lineage of the Targaryens give them the right to rule Westeros.  He is not wrong in that because many think the same way.  The Targaryens started the kingdom and therefore they have a right to rule that kingdom.  Daenerys can also claim the parts of Essos which were ruled by the Valyrians as hers and many would support her.  

Illyrio has more gold than he can ever use in his life.  He does this for something bigger and more noble than profit.  He wants to set things right by helping the Targaryens return to power.  

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21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Moral exhibition is when you proudly proclaim that slavery is bad as if anybody around you thinks otherwise. You accuse me of building strawmen, yet when you do this kind of nonsense you're literally the one building a strawman and then taking whacks at it. Here's a prime example in your very next line:

You lob the term "slavery apologist" at me like a child who learned a new curse word. It's as if you're hoping that if you repeat it enough times you can drag the IQ of the conversation down to your level and conceal your moral exhibitionism.

So just to be clear, you agree that slavery is inherently bad and not acceptable no matter how well the slaves are fed?

Because despite your seeming super offended by your own rhetoric, it still seems like by the end of this post you are back to saying that morality is relative and slavery isn't inherently immoral. Which is being a slavery apologist.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

To most readers, the story is clearly nurturing the slavery conversation in a space beyond good and evil. ASOIAF is a story in which the slaves themselves wait in line all day to spit in the face of their "mother" because she was more interested in winning victories over slavery as an abstraction than over slavery as a day-to-day reality for actual people. ASOIAF is a story in which tens of thousands of freed slaves die of starvation and sickness because they followed the person who freed them. I can cite examples like this for a solid hour, yet here you are like a pest doing everything in your power to drag the conversation back down to good versus evil.

When you use language like "beyond good and evil" you are (i have to expect intentionally) referring to Nietzsche.

I do not think you are accurately describing ASoIaF.

It is still about good versus evil, and how complicated this struggle is, that is the point. 

It is madness to throw out all morality because there are practical repercussions to actions. There has never been a promise of good practical results because one does good moral things.

Doing the right thing is hard and often comes at a very real world cost. If that cost is worth making the moral choice is a decision someone has to make for themselves. The real world is complicated, there are practical implications, conflicting moralities, unclear repercussions, but that doesn't mean morality is nonexistent.

You can be like Nietzsche, try and claim morality is entirely relative, and try to reframe issues as being about practical good vs bad instead of moral good vs evil, that's your choice. I think it's wrong and leads to madness, but you are your own person.

However, trying to claim that ASoIaF is espousing this philosophy is absurd.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Your unwillingness to understand the discussion or the story at a level of complexity greater than "Slavery Bad vs Slavery Good" does not indicate that the person you're speaking to is on the Slavery Good side, it indicates that you're too entrenched in your stance (and your terrible behavior such as this) to admit when you're wrong. 

I think you need to take a deep breath.

I have a degree in philosophy and political thought, and I've studied a lot of Nietzsche's writings.

What I'm saying to you is that the philosophy of Nietzsche, will to power, beyond good and evil, and master/slave morality does take the stance that slavery is not inherently wrong. 

You can try to side step this as much as you want, but this is a big deal, and I really don't think there is any way to square that philosophy with the story of ASoIaF.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Seeing as you're clearly capable of reintroducing complexity to the issue of slavery when you want to, it's obvious that your behavior derives from the simple fact that you lack the character development to admit when your concept of theme is wrong and when your behavior is bad.

I am comfortable with both my behavior and analysis of the story. 

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

"Slavery" is not a theme. A theme says something about the human experience. Slavery is merely a topic and a thing. A theme is something that sounds like this quote from Martin. "I think the line between good and evil runs down the middle of every human heart." Not to put the cart before the horse, but that's approximately the all-encompassing theme of ASOIAF. And what the story has to say about slavery certainly goes under that umbrella.

Morality is a theme, conflicting morality even more so.

Moral relativism could be a theme.

The existence of morality despite the complexities of our world, and exploring the internal conflicts that hard choices cause people, are, I believe, absolutely themes in ASoIaF.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

"Slavery is bad" says something about the human experience, so it could be a theme. But as a theme it is very simple, obvious and unnecessary for a western audience that despises slavery so much that, like you, we hardly even notice when the word is being substituted for namecalling curse words. 

It isn't standing alone. It is a fantastic example of an inherently immoral thing.

Again, you try to make things relative to culture, but I really don't think that is the case being made by this story.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

As I continue responding to your post, I'm going to highlight your repeated attempts to drag the conversation down to the Good vs Evil (anti-theme) level of analysis to give myself and anybody reading this a thorough demonstration of just how malignant your kind of behavior is, as well as how destructive it can be to fruitful ASOIAF discourse. That way, when I encounter another Mourning Star in the future I can direct him or her here so that he can see what happens to people who try to dumb down the story by accusing the people who are trying to talk about it of being pro-slavery, racist, sexist, or any other of the moral exhibitionist's favorite boogymonsters. 

Good and evil can still exist, and be the focus, without the world being black and white.

I think you sound angry and misguided. The Nazis and their philosophy are unfortunately far more real than a boogymonster, as are racism, sexism, and other real world evils.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Namecalling counter: Two.

I'm referring to the philosophy you are even now promoting. You are promoting the ethos of slave apologists and Nazis, I don't think accurate labeling is name calling, but if it is then in this case I can live with it.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Don't undersell yourself. You were trying to explain morality to EVERYONE, because somehow you have it in your head that some of us think SLAVERY is a good idea. It's nothing short of completely deranged and detached from reality. 

The point is the difference between admitting slavery is inherently immoral and refusing to do so.

Nietzsche wrote about master and slave morality. That he lauds the master really doesn't seem dethatched from this discussion at all.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

I didn't understand what you were saying, here, until I realized that your phrase "how the blame is manifested" really means "logic and reasoning." 

I'm gathering that you are having trouble understanding this in general.

Morality and practical results are not the same thing.

As we see with Ned in the cell talking to Varys, there is no expectation of good practical results from doing good moral actions. This does not mean morality doesn't exist.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

I already noticed that your opinions about Illyrio's servants do not derive from logic and reason, but thank you for confessing it. They derive from your misguided sense that Illyrio's servants are your property who require your care and protection because they cannot decide for themselves which of their available options is best for them.

I did not say anything like this. 

When you start telling someone what they think, but do it in a way intended to be derogatory and insulting, that's a good indication that you are using a strawman argument.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

But even now I give you more credit than you've earned, because in truth you haven't considered their available options at all: You haven't compared their lifestyle in Illyrio's manse to the lifestyle they're likely to have in the streets of Pentos; You haven't compared their lifestyle in Illyrio's manse to the lifestyle they're likely to have outside the walls of Pentos; You haven't considered what sort of travel they might realistically have to do, how far they might be able to get using the funds that are realistically available to them, how dangerous it is to travel, which men are going to guard them, how they're going to pay the guards, which destination is preferable to Pentos, whether they will have to learn a new language, adopt a new religion, adopt a new culture, make new friends, leave friends and family behind, how they are going to feed themselves along the way, or any of these sorts of things. Your consideration for the real world situations of Illyrio's servants extends no further than is necessary for you to exhibit your moral virtue across one simple thoughtless dimension: Slavery Bad versus Slavery Good.

The practical reality of a situation for a character can be interesting, but it is not the same thing as a discussion of morality.

I get that you think this is some slam dunk here, but it just reinforces that you seem to be missing the crux of the entire discussion.

Maybe if we approach from a different angle.

On one extreme is a viewpoint like Melisandre, the world is black and white, everything, including people, is good against evil and can be assigned a side. On the other extreme is Nietzsche (Tywin, for example in ASoIaF), where morality is completely relative and good and evil are concepts entirely devoid of inherent meaning, rather choices are made based on what is practically good or bad for the individual.

I'm saying there is a middle ground.

Life is complicated, but there is still morality, some things are inherently morally good and some things are inherently morally reprehensible. This does not remove the practicalities, or practical repercussions.

I think this is what ASoIaF tries to reflect.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Now we just have to find some real people on the Slavery Good side of the argument to justify your interpretation. And if we can't find anybody like that, we'll create the illusion that they exist by accusing everybody who dares to be more thoughtful about the issue than you of "defending slavery." That'll shut everybody up by making them fearful to say what they think. Then you get to sit up on your illusory moral high horse in perpetuity. Slow. Clap. 

Again you seem to miss the point.

Denying that slavery is bad is the point, thus slavery apologist. If there is no distinction here, it's all just shades of grey down into the abyss.

You don't have to say slavery is good to be espousing a morale relativistic point of view. Although Nietzsche basically gets there. 

What you see with Nietzsche and your line of argument, is that what follows from denying that inherent moral wrongs exist is a loss of all moral perspective, and the master becomes admirable just for being the master.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

You're a bully, and not a clever one at that. 

I can live with being aggressively anti Nazi thought process. 

I have clever moments and stupid moments, like most people.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Your thoughtless interpretation of slavery in ASOIAF demands the existence of people who think slavery is a good idea in order to justify itself. Likewise, Dany's good-vs-evil approach to ameliorating slavery creates her opposition, too. For example, The Sons of the Harpy are the sons of the men she crucified. Crucifixion is a form of torture, and she did it in revenge. Need I rev up A Song of Ice and Fire's theme about justice vs revenge before you can get my meaning?

Again, what you are saying is not accurate and misses the point.

There do not need to be pro slavery characters in ASoIaF, although there certainly are many.

My issue with the philosophy you are espousing is that it denies that slavery is morally wrong, and amounts to being a slavery apologist.

Torture is also morally wrong, and the difference between revenge and justice is absolutely an entire theme itself in the series.

These things existing does not somehow make slavery irrelevant or not immoral.

Life is complicated.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

I'm glad you chose this passage, because the fact that you think this passage is an example of Cersei blaming children for the crimes of their parents illustrates what attitude resides at the foundation of your interpretations of the story. Let's look at more of the context.

Ned is referring to the time Cersei ordered the secret killings of Robert's bastard children. Before that, Cersei's criticisms of Ned crept dangerously into the sensitive topic of Jon Snow. Cersei is telling Ned that she knows a thing or two about his most sensitive secret, and she's highlighting to Ned that he himself was willing to lie in order to protect his family. So Cersei is pointing out that her secret killings of Robert's bastards were done because she needed to protect her family, too. So when it comes to wrongdoing in order to protect family, Cersei is making a valid point that she and Ned are alike. 

First, killing children is not equivalent to lying about a child's parentage.

Wanting to protect your family is an understandable motivation. lying to protect your family is not the same as killing innocent children to protect your family.

As I've said life is complicated and these characters, like people, are faced with internal conflict over important issues, the "heart in conflict with itself".

For example, Ned refuses to say Joff is the king to save his own life, but is willing to do it to save Sansa's life. His honor may be worth more than his own life, but he'll give it up to save his child. These are hard choices.

Lying is still wrong in both cases. Ned's choice does not determine the morality of that, what his choices do is define who he is as a character.

But, what Ned does not do is kill children.

He objects to it even when there are practical reasons for doing so that would benefit him, be it the children of Aerys or Robert or Cersei.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Every living bastard of Robert's poses a future threat to Cersei and her children. And every child of Robert's bastards poses a future threat to Cersei's children. And every child of a child of Robert's bastards poses a future threat to Cersei's grandchildren, and on into eternity. So the threats that bastards pose to ruling families are very real in Westerosi society, because the society is based on blood claims to inheritance. And sure enough, the history of Westeros has no shortage of families that were ruined or deposed because somebody in the family had a bastard.

Are you apologizing for child killing now?

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

To suggest that the reason Cersei killed Robert's bastards was because Cersei blamed them for Robert's infidelity is to demonstrate that you missed Cersei's point entirely. Cersei killed them because she felt she had no choice. Left alive, any one of those bastards could have gained political support and opposed her children. Lo and behold, that's exactly what we see Stannis doing with Robert's bastard Edric Storm not long after this chapter.

Whatever you think she blames them for (I'd suggest there is no reason she can't be threatened by their existence, and feel anger for the infidelity they represent at the same time), it was something the children themselves clearly had no control over. 

You can make a case that the practical realities on the ground make the babies a threat to Cersei, sure. You could make the case that having Jon in Winterfell was a threat to Ned as well.

But, this does not make it less morally wrong to kill innocent children.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

The thing that's missing from your interpretation of this passage is the same thing that's missing from your interpretation of Illyrio's servants: Acceptance of the way the society is structured.

The point is that there are some things that are morally wrong no matter the society, and are not morally relative to the culture or social structure.

Slavery, and killing a child, are examples.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

This is not a particularly unusual or damning thing to be missing. Everybody alive and who has ever lived was less than completely happy with how their own society is structured. The problem with us not being able to accept the way the society is structured is how that unacceptance shapes our approach to improving the situations of the particular individuals who live in the society.

Again, the practical reality and the moral questions are separate.

Often doing the right thing, and doing what is good for the individual, are not the same thing.

Again, people have to make their own choices and life is complicated.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

If our prescription for the individual person is nothing short of starting a revolution, that is not a realistic solution for one person, and it is very likely to make that person's life worse than it already is.

People have to make there own choices. I don't think anyone is morally perfect.

But yes, very often morality and practical results are at odds, as I've tried to point out repeatedly.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Slavery is something that happens in the story, but it is not the moral wrong that the story is highlighting. As is always the case with stories, the moral wrong the story is fundamentally highlighting is within us the readers. It's our tendency to make peoples' lives worse by trying to change the world before we adequately understand it.

It's one of them.

I do not think that the point of the story is that people make things worse by trying to do the right thing.

It's one possibility, and it certainly can happen, but I think you are terribly mistaken if you think that's the major lesson here.

Trying to do the right thing is hard, it might have negative and unforeseen consequences, but I honestly think you have missed the forest for the trees if you think this is a tale trying to promote moral relativism. 

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

You've shown me that it's really easy to fight for what's good. Especially if I'm willing to disregard the lived realities of the people and societies that I claim to be helping. 'With the right ends, any means are justifiable, even if it kills tens of thousands of people, slaves, children, former slaves, masters, former masters, or more. No life can be allowed to get in the way of the crusade against That Which I Have Named Evil.'

I do not think it's easy. Nor have I ever espoused an 'ends justify the means' approach.

Admitting that slavery is wrong does not remove the practical implications of ones choices, life is complicated.

But the idea that slavery is not inherently immoral, and is just another cultural construct as acceptable as any other, is far more dangerous a mentality.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

So we agree. When I point out that Illyrio's servants are choosing to remain in servitude to Illyrio because they know their realistic alternatives bring them closer to danger and death, I need not necessarily also be pro-slavery. How interesting that complexity has a way of poofing in and out of existence to suit your needs for evading your responsibility to admit when you're wrong and acting like a bully.

Not being pro slavery, and being anti-slavery are not the same thing.

One can admit slavery is wrong without blaming the slaves.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

This passage is about love vs duty. I don't know why you quoted it. Jon clearly doesn't know what is "right" in the desertion dilemma that Aemon has asked Jon to solve for Ned.

The heart in conflict with itself.

There can be moral truths in conflict with each other.

It can be moral to keep a vow, and it can be moral to help one's family. These motives can conflict. Life is complicated. We have to make our own choices, and these choices define us. This does not mean morality is relative or nonexistent.

The example Aemon gives is Ned choosing between honor on one hand and those he loves on the other.

We see Ned make this choice in the Black Cells, he chooses those he loves, even when he would give up his own life before his honor.

Jon is asking himself about his own situation, thinking himself as Ned's bastard. But, I think most readers realize that this is another example of Ned choosing those he loves over his honor. And the implication is that this is the right choice.

Aemon goes on assuming that doing what was right meant choosing duty, even though this is clearly not the case for Ned in the story.

The choosing is hard, life is complicated, and it's rare to find someone who chooses what is right even when it's hard. 

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

I agree. What's the point of saying this? Because you have a strawman that needs building!

I don't think you understand what a strawman is.

A strawman is an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

I gave the example of Ned punishing Jorah for slavery because it supports my point, and is directly relevant to the subject at hand.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

I'm not making them, the story is making them. The issue of power and power struggle is a massive subject being explored in A Song of Ice and Fire. The subject of power struggle is in the titles of all five published books for crying out loud. Surely a fast way to discredit yourself is to plainly say the opposite of what I said. So go on and get it over with, and say for all to hear that human beings are not the type of creature that is tempted to abuse power over other human beings.

The story is certainly trying to reflect on human nature.

People are tempted by power, they are also tempted by love, loyalty, greed, friendship, hate, and more.

The problem is focusing on the temptations of power to the exclusion of all else.

The "game of thrones" is no game, it impacts real lives, the titles of a storm of swords, clash of kings, feast for crows, and dance of dragons, all reflect the horrible ramifications of power politics. I do not think these are meant to be positive reflections of a will to power or that portion of human nature.

It would seem to me that you have missed the entire point, and direction of the story, if you think the author here is defending power politics as admirable.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

No, that's how you describe my description. Will to power places power at the top of the value hierarchy. I haven't argued in favor of anything of the sort. I've argued the opposite by pointing out that your disregard for the flesh-and-blood consequences of your crusades against slavery and society is your self-serving will to power. You want to sit on the throne of virtue and you don't care who is harmed in your climb. Servant girls in Pentos, a respected tutor in Meereen, a formerly wealthy merchant from Qarth, a bricklayer and weaver and cobbler from Astapor and thousands others are among the characters in the story whose suffering must be justified for Your greater good. Certainly not theirs.

I think you are confused, I'm not a character in the story.

It is how Nietzsche uses "will to power", "master and slave morality", and "beyond good and evil".

As I've said, my issue is the rhetoric which you are using and trying to ascribe to ASoIaF.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

And I concur that this self-centered will to power is an ethos that the Nazi Party, officially the National SOCIALIST German Workers' Party, embraced closely.

The Nazis were fascists.

The use of the word socialist in the name of the Nazi party is a common talking point for American conservatives who either don't understand the topic at hand or are intentionally trying to mislead others.

I don't know if your comment here stems from ignorance or plain old dishonesty.

But, in case you really didn't know, here is some history. https://www.britannica.com/story/were-the-nazis-socialists

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

No, the story is painting morality as relative to culture, because morality is relative to culture.

I think you are wrong. Both about reality and the story.

21 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

What you're doing is trying to pretend that I'm saying morality can be completely derived from culture, but that isn't what I'm saying at all. Your tendency to push my views toward an extreme when it suits you echoes your tendency to view the world in extreme terms like Slavery Good vs Slavery Bad and Good vs Evil. Stop radicalizing other people and the world.

You are the one pushing the rhetoric. Extremely dangerous rhetoric I might add.

I really don't think being anti-slavery is radical, nor should be described as such.

You are entitled to hold whatever view of the world you'd like, but I think you are wrong to claim that ASoIaF is promoting the philosophy you've described here.

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On 7/19/2022 at 1:58 PM, Lissasalayaya said:

Illyrio's cooks, servants and whores would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the gate if you made them leave. I don't suppose you really think the old woman in Dany's first chapter in AGOT would rather be on the Dothraki sea than serving at Illyrio's mance. Have you see how Illyrio and the people who serve him live? They sleep on featherbeds and never miss a meal. Have you seen how the Dothraki live? Most of them spend their entire lives outdoors, poorly clothed, living short lifespans and uncertain about where their next meal is going to come from. From a young age girls follow behind the khalasar and rip bloody arrows out of dead bodies so that the men can reuse them, because if they don't the men in their khalasar might lose the next battle and then the small semblance of stability these children have will fracture with the khalasar.

What's being premiered in A Song of Ice and Fire is the severe disconnect between the audience's sensibility and the poor's reality, and the many ways in which the most vulnerable groups of people in the world are harmed when their stability is destroyed to appease the feelings of observers who have so much stability that they do not even care to differentiate between the conditions of the Unsullied and the conditions of the servants in Illyrio's mance. For the characters who face these realities, the differences are heaven and hell. But for the readers who mostly want the next story beat of their favorite princes and princesses, the differences can be reduced to anti- or pro- slavery.

For an author who wants to hide the answers to his story's secrets, what better way could you imagine to do it than to co-opt the audience's moral exhibitionism and let them do the work for you by tacitly accusing people who dare bring nuance to public consciousness of being pro-slavery. 

So you're saying you're pro slavery, huh

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Ilyrio is a Blackfyre or a Brightfire or another mad Targaryen exile descendant. His goal is to put his son on the IT.

Slavery or feudalism is the same for him. And honestly, it's close. When you are forced to take vows under threat of death. And your wows bound you and your descendants for eternity. Slaves, children of slaves. Salve until your death. Good master or bad lord. What is the worst?

 

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2 hours ago, BalerionTheCat said:

Ilyrio is a Blackfyre or a Brightfire or another mad Targaryen exile descendant. His goal is to put his son on the IT.

Slavery or feudalism is the same for him. And honestly, it's close. When you are forced to take vows under threat of death. And your wows bound you and your descendants for eternity. Slaves, children of slaves. Salve until your death. Good master or bad lord. What is the worst?

 

Not really. Slave has no rights, peasant under feudalism had many. And while serfs were not technically free, there was little - beyond familial ties - that could prevent them from running away. This meant that landowners were well advised to not be too oppressive. Also, oftentimes, land was not actually serf's, but common - that of a village. Other times, it was family that was tied to the land, not the person (in fact, I believe that was usually the case) which means that even if some members of family wanted to leave, that was fine.

Feudalism is nowhere close to slavery.

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7 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Not really. Slave has no rights, peasant under feudalism had many. And while serfs were not technically free, there was little - beyond familial ties - that could prevent them from running away. This meant that landowners were well advised to not be too oppressive. Also, oftentimes, land was not actually serf's, but common - that of a village. Other times, it was family that was tied to the land, not the person (in fact, I believe that was usually the case) which means that even if some members of family wanted to leave, that was fine.

Feudalism is nowhere close to slavery.

I was referring to Westeros and forced oaths. Not European feudalism. Not that it seems it was much more brilliant.

Would running away make it right? The Starks abandoning Winterfell for some place beyond the Wall? Or some remote place north of Essos? And the commoners? What guarantee another place will be safe in their children time?

The Night Watch? Jon had committed no crime. He should have left when he wanted. Anyone sent unjustly to the Wall should go to the Starks and ask for fair justice. But Ned was just waiting for them with Ice.

Some rights? Not much before most knights and lords.

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I strongly doubt that Illyrio would try to bring or gain slaves in the Seven Kingdoms. 

The man certainely knows that slavery is forbidden and taboo in the Seven Kingdoms, and I doubt he's unaware of the fact that it was selling slaves that got Jorah Mormont disgraced and exiled.

And the Iron Throne had several people from the Free Cities at high positions of power at the Small Council, none tried their luck with slavery in Westeros. 

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Anyway the situation will likely never be stable enough for him to develop some kind of business, whatever, in Westeros.

I wonder if he intends to remain the Essos's cheesemonger. Or to declare his relationship with the Targaryens and Aegon. To boast he finally got this fucking throne.

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22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

So just to be clear, you agree that slavery is inherently bad and not acceptable no matter how well the slaves are fed?

Take a good look at Mourning Star's question above. Read it over and think about it. Now compare it to his comment from earlier:

Quote

Being an employee or even a servant is not the same as being a slave.

So, being a servant is not the same as being a slave? Is that what you're saying? As in, there is a distinction between slavery and servanthood? That's odd. Because in the question above, you tried to get me to say that the situations of Illyrio's servants are the same thing as slavery. 

Hmm. So Mourning Star is contradicting himself from one breath to the next. He seems rather confused. What could explain his behavior?

Oh, because he knows he's wrong and he simply doesn't have the humility to admit it. So instead, he's moving between a Good vs Evil stance and a Beyond Good vs Evil stance to avoid having to confess to the obvious contradictions in what he's saying. And he's trying to get me and you and everyone else who wants to talk about the story's moral complexity to BEND THE KNEE to his brain-dead Good vs Evil mode of interpretation by demanding that I utter the words "Slavery is bad" under the threat of the accusation that I'm pro-slavery. 

When you do this, Mourning Star, you're being nothing less than a THUG.

Quote

So you're saying you're pro slavery, huh

And Aejon the Conqueroo is your first THUG henchman. 

If there are any more self-righteous thugs who have a mind to step forward and place their jackboots upon my throat, please join Mourning Star and Aejon the Conqeroo in the Good vs Evil circle. I would prefer to embarrass the enemies of A Song of Ice and Fire's themes all at the same time so that I and these other folks who understand the story can talk about its deeper meanings without being accused at every turn of sympathizing with the most horrendous things human beings have ever done to each other.

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

Because despite your seeming super offended by your own rhetoric, it still seems like by the end of this post you are back to saying that morality is relative and slavery isn't inherently immoral. Which is being a slavery apologist.

Yes, I'm aware that's what it seems like to you. And as I explained to you before, the only reason it seems that way to you is because you haven't swallowed the pill about what human beings are really like.

The instinct for power-abuse resides at the foundation of human nature. That is not a value statement. That is not a statement about the way things ought to be. It's a statement about what IS. Power-abuse is simply the unmoving fact of the human creature. And if you can't look within yourself and find your own instinct to abuse power over other people, allow me to help you out.

Every time you try to accuse me or anyone else of being pro-slavery, when you imply, suggest and outright say it, you are abusing your power to coopt other peoples' good-vs-evil psychology and turn them against somebody you disagree with.

That behavior shows that you began our whole interaction with the assumption that there can be nothing to learn from people you disagree with. It is a superiority-inferiority mindset, and it's the same mindset that is so often found in the slavemasters who practiced slavery — the object of your good-vs-evil crusade.

Despite your mindset being similar to the mindset of slavemasters, and despite that your behavior toward me deserves retaliation in kind, I'm not so reprehensible a person to accuse you or anyone else I disagree with of actually being pro-slavery. What an assinine thing to say, suggest and imply. Get a grip. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

When you use language like "beyond good and evil" you are (i have to expect intentionally) referring to Nietzsche.

I don't particularly have anything against Nietzsche or his book, but to be clear, I'm not referencing them when I use that term. Beyond good and evil is a useful term to set one kind of analysis apart from another kind. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

I do not think you are accurately describing ASoIaF.

I know you don't, but if you continue whacking at the strawman you're building of me you're going to learn that you're wrong over and over again in ways that everybody except you will appreciate. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

It is still about good versus evil, and how complicated this struggle is, that is the point. 

I agree that A Song of Ice and Fire is about good and evil. All fantasy is about good and evil. Mostly what ASOIAF has to say about good and evil is that looking at the world in terms of good and evil is problematic, to say the least. Good and evil has the advantage of binding a group of people together against a common enemy, but it comes with the disadvantage of blinding people to the sympathetic viewpoint of those they've labeled evil.

It's the reason Robb feels like a jerk after greeting Tyrion at Winterfell with a sword across his lap. It's the reason many of the men in the Night's Watch can't stomach making common cause with the Wildlings — a group of "evil" people the fight against which has binded the Night's Watch together for centuries. And it's the reason Dany can't reconcile her indiscriminate killings of slavemasters with her feelings of betrayal when slaves come begging her to allow them to sell themselves back into slavery.

The psychology of good-and-evil is the reason that, when I challenge you to lay out a real in-story alternative place for Illyrio's servants to move to so they may escape their "slavery" (servanthood) that would be an improvement by their own defintions, you can't do it. Because the fact that Illyrio's servants wouldn't leave Illyrio's manse even if you paid them a knight's ransom to leave is one among many realities for the servants that you're blinded to for as long as you're stuck in a good vs evil crusade against Slavery The Abstraction rather than slavery the everpresent reality of power-abuse among and within human beings. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

It is madness to throw out all morality because there are practical repercussions to actions. There has never been a promise of good practical results because one does good moral things.

Doing the right thing is hard and often comes at a very real world cost. If that cost is worth making the moral choice is a decision someone has to make for themselves. The real world is complicated, there are practical implications, conflicting moralities, unclear repercussions, but that doesn't mean morality is nonexistent.

I'll repeat it as many times as I need to before you get it through your head. I am not saying and have never said, suggested or implied that morality is nonexistent, that morality doesn't matter, that morality is completely relative to culture, or anything of the sort. On the contrary, your inabilty to absorb this point is among the strongest demonstrable evidence there could be that morality (meaning a good-vs-evil way of looking at the world) is among the most real things about the human condition that exists. We all have a natural tendency to slide into good-vs-evil thinking, because that mode of thinking was so important for our ancestors' survival throughout history. 

When I point out that power abuse among human beings is a fundamental feature of human nature, I'm describing the way reality is, not the way it ought to be. Just like when I say the sun rises in the east, I'm describing the way reality is, not the way it ought to be. The ought is a completely separate issue that cannot be fruitfully discussed until everybody in the discussion has come to grips with the fact that abuses of power including slavery do not inherently demand the existence of any extreme evil or evildoer. Slavery is in fact the given situation of our species, as is plainly seen across all of human history, everywhere in the world, for every millennium, before the western tradition arose. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

You can be like Nietzsche, try and claim morality is entirely relative, and try to reframe issues as being about practical good vs bad instead of moral good vs evil, that's your choice. I think it's wrong and leads to madness, but you are your own person.

However, trying to claim that ASoIaF is espousing this philosophy is absurd.

I think you need to take a deep breath.

I have a degree in philosophy and political thought, and I've studied a lot of Nietzsche's writings.

What I'm saying to you is that the philosophy of Nietzsche, will to power, beyond good and evil, and master/slave morality does take the stance that slavery is not inherently wrong. 

You can try to side step this as much as you want, but this is a big deal, and I really don't think there is any way to square that philosophy with the story of ASoIaF.

You need to go back and study Nietzsche again, because you didn't understand what you read. And that is not much of a criticism of you, because Nietzsche was an extremely subtle writer. He makes the same point I made above: That the will to power is the given condition of life; That the only viable paths toward structuring society in a way so that it is not fundamentally characterized by power-struggle are ones that begin with that acknowlegement.

And that's why our western societies are structured the way they are, because the founders who designed them began with that acknowledgement and used it as the foundation from which to build. IE: Checks and balances: 'If people can be relied upon to abuse their power over other people, the constitution should divide power evenly across opposed branches of government so the branches will keep one anothers' power in check.' 

Quote

“Suppose we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one basic form of the will. One would then have gained the right to determine all efficient force univocally as will to power.” —F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §36 (edited excerpt).

This is one of Nietzsche's commonly misrepresented "will to power" quotes. It's usually presented as though he's proposing the will to power as an ought — the right way to be. But he's proposing the opposite — the will to power is the wrong way to be. He's pointing out that when you try to reduce the human experience down to one single will (power), you simultaneously invent the justification for power abuse. Because, if life is fundamentally only about power, then you remove any reason why we all shouldn't abuse our power over one another at every opportunity.

So by highlighting this, Nietzsche's injunction is: Don't Do That. Don't reduce life down to power. Moreover, Nietzsche believed that everything unconditional is pathological (sick). And reducing life down to one thing is an unconditional view of life, so it's pathological. And that's actually true no matter what you reduce it to, whether that's power, food, love or whatever.

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

The existence of morality despite the complexities of our world, and exploring the internal conflicts that hard choices cause people, are, I believe, absolutely themes in ASoIaF.

Okay, those are not themes. Those are topics. Themes say something about life. "Exploring the internal conflicts that hard choices cause people" does not say anything about life. It's just a thing that we do. "Conflicts can be internal" says something about life. So that could be a theme. It would be a much more interesting and useful theme than "Slavery is bad." 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

Again, you try to make things relative to culture, but I really don't think that is the case being made by this story.

The question of right vs wrong is self-evidently relative to culture. For example, in some cultures in the world it's wrong to belch after dinner, and in some cultures it's right. In some cultures it's right to tip a waitress, and in some cultures it's wrong. Gosh, you can even see this happening without needing to travel very far from home. When I cross a state line, carrying a firearm in public goes from right to wrong, and then it goes from wrong to right again on the return trip. The fact that right-and-wrong is relative to culture is so obvious to most of us that your attempts to categorically deny it expose the pathology driving your interpretation: 'I must not allow myself to appear wrong.'

Without a doubt, morality's relationship to culture is a key feature of many of A Song of Ice and Fire's dilemmas. For example, there's a question about why Jorah chose to live among the Dothraki rather than any other place in the world he could have gone. By the time the reader learns about Jorah's sad and evil backstory, it's easy to see that the reason Jorah chose the Dothraki sea was because he was nihilistic and he wanted to fight and fuck his way into an early grave. What better place to do that than in a society of men who always want to fight and women who want to be spontaneously bred by the strongest men?

So Jorah's intentions disgust us. Why? Millions of men and women on the Dothraki sea live this lifestyle already. So why are we more disgusted when Jorah does it than when they do it?

The reason is because we know Jorah was not born and raised in this culture. He comes from Westeros where he was instilled with chivalrous values. Those involve monogamy, marriage, lifetime commitment, the protection of women, and the sanctification of female sexual selection. So we know that Jorah is deriving an evil sort of pleasure from this lifestyle that the Dothraki people are not, and that's why we're more disgusted with Jorah than with the Dothraki, who are only guilty of not being born somewhere better. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

On one extreme is a viewpoint like Melisandre, the world is black and white, everything, including people, is good against evil and can be assigned a side. On the other extreme is Nietzsche (Tywin, for example in ASoIaF), where morality is completely relative and good and evil are concepts entirely devoid of inherent meaning, rather choices are made based on what is practically good or bad for the individual.

I'm saying there is a middle ground.

Aside from your misapprehension of Nietzsche and Tywin, we're in complete agreement that right-and-wrong cannot be treated as entirely rigid or entirely relative. The middle ground is the place to be.

So why is it that every time I give credence to the relativity side of the issue, you try everything in your power to shove me into an extreme version of it? The behavior gives the lie to your posturing for moral superiority, such as every time you fling words like "slavery apologist" and "nazi" at me. How interesting that when you're exposed you suddenly find a new appreciation for the middle ground between your stance and what you insist was my stance. 

No, my stance was the middle ground from the beginning. You were simply more interested in winning points against the strawman rather than the steel. Like I said before, you're obviously not stupid, you just lack the character development to admit when you're wrong and when your behavior is bad. But I'm going to do us both and everyone else a favor and let the rest of your numerous "Nazi"s, strawmans, and weasely maneuverings flow under the bridge. Let's get back to Ice and Fire. 

22 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

The example Aemon gives is Ned choosing between honor on one hand and those he loves on the other.

We see Ned make this choice in the Black Cells, he chooses those he loves, even when he would give up his own life before his honor.

Jon is asking himself about his own situation, thinking himself as Ned's bastard. But, I think most readers realize that this is another example of Ned choosing those he loves over his honor. And the implication is that this is the right choice.

I can see a lot of validity in that reading, but my reading is that the implication is that this is the only choice. Or rather, choice hardly enters into the matter, if it enters at all.

Ned is among the half-dozen most honorable people in the world. So the story is showing that the man who would not dishonor himself even to save the lives of his own children is a man who does not really exist. If even Ned would dishonor himself and the truth to save those he loves most, the value of honor and truth themselves are thematically challenged in the most profound way they could be challenged.

It's a challenge that drives right to the heart of my point that Illyrio's servants being fat, obedient and docile in their supposed captivity is the most reliable indication of how comparatively bad their real alternatives are. The only thing we have to do to arrive at that recognition is to approach the situation with the assumption that these women are not our property. They are not pets in need of our care nor of the care of clumsy revolutionaries. These women are capable of judging what's best for themselves better than we can. And the reason they're always going to be better at making that judgement better than we can make it for them is as simple as this: They have skin in the game, and we don't. 

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I do think that Illyrio and Varys want the Blackfyres (aka non-magical Targaryens) back in power but for their own reasons.,

For Varys, I think he is either a female Blackfyre masquerading as a storied Lyseni eunuch or a gelded male Blackfyre that also happens to believe that anyone can be a king. To him, divine right to rule by way of heritage, superpowers and connections is nonsense, lies people tell each other to make one king more righteous and worthy than the other. That was the whole point of the "power belongs where people think it belongs." He essentially believes that putting lipstick and jewelry on a pig makes a beautiful woman.

For Illyrio, I think it's partly a simple matter of affection for Aegon, Varys and Serra. He loves them dearly so he is wiling to do whatever he can to ensure that they are happy and honored with positions and privilege. However, I do think that Illyrio also has political and economic motivations that go beyond the Iron Throne: I think Illyrio wants to either bring slavery to Westeros or bring Westeros into slavery. Destroying or enslaving Braavos is probably part of that agenda or masterplan. Maybe he wants a global slave-based economy where he always gets the first cut and the final say.

 

I think at the end, Illyrio is going to get exposed and Varys is going to be proven wrong. You can't make kings.

Kings -- as far as GRRM is concerned -- make themselves or they are made by the gods...or both. I think that the point that GRRM is making that the ultimate king/queen is a uniquely powerful person with an organic history of overcoming or enduring hardship, intellectual excellence and good connections who maintains balance and pursues justice while ensuring prosperity. The magical powers of Dany and the Starks is one of the main things that makes them truly different from other noblemen and the likes of other kings...it's what makes them truly royal.

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On 7/21/2022 at 12:38 AM, Lissasalayaya said:

On the topic of extremely distasteful rhetoric, let's talk about your horrendous attitude that me or anyone else around here might be pro-slavery. In all my years in the fandom I've never once come across somebody who thinks slavery is a good idea. The notion that pro-slavery people actually exist in any amount greater than an infinitesimally small decimal is so absurd as to highlight the ignorance driving your concept of theme.

You seem to think slavery is an evil that wouldn't exist if there weren't any evil people around to perpetrate it, and that's why you agree with characters who think the remedy for slavery is to kill the evil people. But it's a remedy that sticks out like a sore thumb in a story so heavily critical of black vs white depictions of good and evil. Because when you or a character sets out to 'kill the evil people' you're revealing that you've painted those people a moral shade of "grey" that uses all black paint and no white. More importantly, it's opposite to the real history of slavery.

In reality, slavery was present everywhere in the world for all of human history before the western ethos of individual sovereignty became globally dominant. The ugly truth is that in the same way the ethos of kill-or-be-killed characterizes the default relationship between animals in nature, enslave-or-be-enslaved characterizes the default relationship between human beings. So any attempt to transcend a society above slavery needs to be grounded in the recognition that slavery is the normative and given condition of mankind's nature before one can hope to actually improve the situation.

It is freedom, not slavery, which requires an extreme explanation, because our situation in the modern world is so unusual and miraculous in the context of human history. That suggests that freedom is fragile and fleeting. So that's why western storytellers like Martin go to so much effort to write stories like this one from which we might learn by honing our moral dilemma solving abilities while the lives that hang in the balance are made of ink and paper rather than flesh and blood.
 

Yes and no. It's an idea that can be and was used to defend the practice of slavery, but it also contains some important truths about human beings that are uncomfortable to look at and inconvenient for your Slavery-Is-Bad concept of theme. Slavery is obviously bad, and that's certainly depicted in the story, but it is absolutely not a theme. It's far too obvious to be a theme. And the implicit notion that the audience doesn't already know that slavery is bad zooms past silliness and toward insulting. There are literal pages and chapters of text in ASOIAF exploring the uncomfortable truths that you're ignoring. 

For instance, Tyrion's time as a slave of Yezzan is, among other things, meant to show us to the psychology of people who have no concept of the ethos of freedom that we have in the modern western world. Slaves who belong to rich and powerful masters are proud of their slavery.

They flaunt their ownership and brag about it to other slaves. The reason is because in a slave society there is no upward social mobility for the common class. But social advancements still happen to them on rare occassions. If you're a slave in a slave society, social advancements happen to you when people around you fail. If your job is more difficult than another slave's job, you may "advance" to his job when he gets sold, injured or killed.

This is extremely opposite to the way we tend to look at each other in the western world. Our societies are structured the way they are to incentivize us to raise each other up rather than put each other down. So that's why it's extra challenging for us to put ourselves in the shoes of eastern characters and find the sympathetic angle for them, because their way of looking at the world is inverse to ours.
 

This is a good example of the ways the most vulnerable people in the world are harmed by observers who are more interested in exhibiting their moral virtues than in producing actual improvements to the lives of real people. Or, in this case, to the lives of fictional people who we're supposed to treat as though they're real for the purposes of the dilemmas. 

Illyrio's servants do not know that they're characters in a story. They know that they live in Pentos. They know that when they step outside of the walls of Illyrio's mance, they're exposed to the dangers of the city. And they know that when they step outside the walls of Pentos, they're exposed to the dangers of the Dothraki sea. So my comparison of Illyrio's mance to the Dothraki sea makes more sense than anything else you could suggest, which is of course why you neglected to suggest anything else. 

Illyrio's servants might be able to find safe passage to a different city, find service to another billionaire political leader in it, or find safe passage to another continent, but they know that their position in Illyrio's manse is so incredibly safe, comfortable and unlikely compared to every alternative imaginable that the self-evident truth of the situation is that the reason Illyrio's servants show no sign of wanting to leave is not because they're forced to stay, but because they very much do not want to leave. Their willingness to have sex with the likes of Illyrio or his unpleasant guests like Tyrion despite his cruelty proves just how much these women prefer serving in Illyrio's manse to their realistic alternatives. But of course, it only proves that to those of us who treat the slaves, servants, smallfolk and underprivileged characters in the story less like property in our care and more like people who are capable of thinking for themselves, making their own decisions and making them well. 

 

I have no reason to believe that Illyrio’s servants are especially well-treated, merely because some of them are fat.  They have to provide their master and his guests with sex, regardless of their own wishes.  The maid servant has no redress when Tyrion threatens to strangle her.  I doubt if the young girl lookalike for Dany had any option but to service Illyrio.  Tyrion himself is sceptical of the idea that his servants “love him well.”  

You’re overlooking what happens to slaves who try to escape their masters.  There would be no need for brutal punishments if people were willing to be slaves.  Anyone who tried to escape from Illyrio's manse would have their back whipped raw, at the very least., if they were recaptured.

I’d say Martin lays it on pretty thick about how awful chattel slavery is for its victims.  They get raped, castrated, fed to beasts, tortured, murdered, worked to death, and subject to institutional terror, necessary to keep 85% of the population subordinate to 15%.  There’s no nuance there.  If readers see this system as purely evil, it’s because the author presents it as purely evil.  There’s no floor of awful to the institution in the books, as in real life. Nobody actually wants to go back to being a chattel, even if a few household slaves and overseers were relatively privileged.  The Volantene slaves are eager to be free;  slaves seize the opportunity for freedom, at Astapor and Meereen, when it's presented to them.  Thousands of Meereenese freedmen volunteer to fight the slaver coalition.  None of them are fighting for it.

I certainly have no sense, reading these books, that we’re meant to see shades of grey, when it comes to chattel slavery.  Very much the reverse.  

I think the whole idea that there are no truly good or bad characters in the series is not in fact true.  Men like Craster, the Boltons, the Bloody Mummers, Baelish, Tywin, Ser Gregor, Walder Frey, etc. are completely vile, like their counterparts in Essos. The masters themselves are portrayed as gluttonous, perverted, lazy, sadistic, and degenerate.  They are given few redeeming features, if any.  The “nicest” is the Yellow Whale, who’s actually pretty monstrous.  

That’s not to say everything is sweetness and light when masters get overthrown.  That they have to be overthrown, however, is pretty plain.  The author is not arguing “always keep a hold of nurse, for fear of getting something worse.”

Edited by SeanF
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3 hours ago, SeanF said:

I certainly have no sense, reading these books, that we’re meant to see shades of grey, when it comes to chattel slavery.

I think I do. Have a sense of shades of grey - slavery is slavery, but it can be aggravated by additional cruelties.

I've been thinking about @Mourning Star's posts, (and now yours) - and I see that there something of case nowadays for casting a taboo on allowing any nuances in discussion of slavery, simply because it may encourage modern slavers to give the comfort defence for their actions i.e. I took these people from the gutter, I feed them, I clothe them, I house them, I give them purposeful work - they are better off with me than they were before. (All this is a great shame to the society that did none of those things.) Allowing this defence to stand would break the development of a welfare state that actually does work and respects human rights too.

GRRM's world is rather different. Democracy is hardly imaginable. Human rights and state support are in short supply. This is not to say that slavery is not an evil, but it is one evil among many, competing with war and poverty most notably (and btw, I think George is very much aligned with his readers in being passionately against slavery, war and poverty.)

Dany, with the best intentions, took Astapor out of the frying pan of slavery and threw it in the fire of war. She saw Astapor's society as purely evil and tore it down, leaving it weak and open to aggressors. In Meereen, she looted the city and crucified the Masters in revenge for the crucified children. Again, she sowed the seeds of war. Whether this or any generation of Meereenese will be better off for her actions (in combined terms of freedom, safety, prosperity) is unknown. Whether there was a better way is unknown. It is a moral dilemma, and GRRM likes his moral dilemmas.

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3 hours ago, Springwatch said:

I think I do. Have a sense of shades of grey - slavery is slavery, but it can be aggravated by additional cruelties.

I've been thinking about @Mourning Star's posts, (and now yours) - and I see that there something of case nowadays for casting a taboo on allowing any nuances in discussion of slavery, simply because it may encourage modern slavers to give the comfort defence for their actions i.e. I took these people from the gutter, I feed them, I clothe them, I house them, I give them purposeful work - they are better off with me than they were before. (All this is a great shame to the society that did none of those things.) Allowing this defence to stand would break the development of a welfare state that actually does work and respects human rights too.

GRRM's world is rather different. Democracy is hardly imaginable. Human rights and state support are in short supply. This is not to say that slavery is not an evil, but it is one evil among many, competing with war and poverty most notably (and btw, I think George is very much aligned with his readers in being passionately against slavery, war and poverty.)

Dany, with the best intentions, took Astapor out of the frying pan of slavery and threw it in the fire of war. She saw Astapor's society as purely evil and tore it down, leaving it weak and open to aggressors. In Meereen, she looted the city and crucified the Masters in revenge for the crucified children. Again, she sowed the seeds of war. Whether this or any generation of Meereenese will be better off for her actions (in combined terms of freedom, safety, prosperity) is unknown. Whether there was a better way is unknown. It is a moral dilemma, and GRRM likes his moral dilemmas.

Well, even by the standards of slavers, the Ghiscari masters are vile.  Westerosi peasants may have it bad, but the lords recognise that Ramsay is an animal.  As a slaver or overseer in Meereen, he’d be thought a most entertaining fellow.  People would love his hunts and games.

The masters did not become cruel in response to Daenerys.  They’ve been practising atrocities for centuries.  And they are the ones responsible for war across Essos.  Their demand for slaves prompts the Dothraki to raid, and pirates to infest the seas.

I think why this is such a touchy and live  issue is because “they’re better off being slaves”, is basically the argument used by the Confederates and modern supporters of The Lost Cause.  “They were treated just like family.” (for the avoidance of doubt, I'm not accusing anyone on this thread of holding such opinions).

Dany made two big errors.  Underestimating the freed slaves’ desire for revenge;  and underestimating the savagery with the masters would attempt to carry out their counter-revolution.

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3 hours ago, Springwatch said:

GRRM's world is rather different. Democracy is hardly imaginable. Human rights and state support are in short supply. This is not to say that slavery is not an evil, but it is one evil among many, competing with war and poverty most notably (and btw, I think George is very much aligned with his readers in being passionately against slavery, war and poverty.)

 

I am not so sure. Greek democracy for example would have been outright impossible without slavery, as you needed to have a class of more-or-less jobless free people who could spend time and effort to physically come to the agora and debate things. So if democracy were to develop somewhere in Westeros, Iron Islands would be the most likely place.

In premodern times, if you want freedom, monarchy was usually your best bet.

3 hours ago, Springwatch said:

Dany, with the best intentions, took Astapor out of the frying pan of slavery and threw it in the fire of war. She saw Astapor's society as purely evil and tore it down, leaving it weak and open to aggressors. In Meereen, she looted the city and crucified the Masters in revenge for the crucified children. Again, she sowed the seeds of war. Whether this or any generation of Meereenese will be better off for her actions (in combined terms of freedom, safety, prosperity) is unknown. Whether there was a better way is unknown. It is a moral dilemma, and GRRM likes his moral dilemmas.

I think Daenerys is a case study in why so many revolutions fail: they see problems with the current system, they imagine they can solve these problems, but reality is that they have no clue what they are doing and so very often end up causing even worse problems.

See: literally every implementation of socialism ever.

3 hours ago, SeanF said:

Well, even by the standards of slavers, the Ghiscari masters are vile.  Westerosi peasants may have it bad, but the lords recognise that Ramsay is an animal.  As a slaver or overseer in Meereen, he’d be thought a most entertaining fellow.  People would love his hunts and games.

 

Westerosi aren't slavers though. This has very significant implications in that feudalism, for all its flaws, actually recognized the inherent dignity of every individual. In a slave system, slave is basically an object, with no inherent worth. Sure, a slave could be (and often was - even, perhaps, typically so for a household slave) treated well, but that was more akin to you or me making sure not to damage a good book. In feudalism, even a serf has rights stemming from his nature as a human being.

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10 minutes ago, Aldarion said:

I am not so sure. Greek democracy for example would have been outright impossible without slavery, as you needed to have a class of more-or-less jobless free people who could spend time and effort to physically come to the agora and debate things. So if democracy were to develop somewhere in Westeros, Iron Islands would be the most likely place.

In premodern times, if you want freedom, monarchy was usually your best bet.

I think Daenerys is a case study in why so many revolutions fail: they see problems with the current system, they imagine they can solve these problems, but reality is that they have no clue what they are doing and so very often end up causing even worse problems.

See: literally every implementation of socialism ever.

Westerosi aren't slavers though. This has very significant implications in that feudalism, for all its flaws, actually recognized the inherent dignity of every individual. In a slave system, slave is basically an object, with no inherent worth. Sure, a slave could be (and often was - even, perhaps, typically so for a household slave) treated well, but that was more akin to you or me making sure not to damage a good book. In feudalism, even a serf has rights stemming from his nature as a human being.

Even revolutions that fail serve a useful purpose.  They warn those in charge of brutal systems what will happen to them if they fail to reform.

The Peasants Revolt of 1381, and the Jamaican Revolt of 1831 failed, on the face of it, but the one hastened the end of serfdom, the other, the end of slavery.

One can argue if the French Revolution succeeded or failed, but I think it did a lot to make reform achievable in the 19th century.

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15 hours ago, Lissasalayaya said:

And Aejon the Conqueroo is your first THUG henchman. 

Aw shucks, I've never been called first of anything.  I liked your post and largely agree with it. 'Slavery Bad' is hardly worthy of the work and time the author has spent writing and researching his story. I thought my comment would be received a little differently but deadpanning in writing doesn't always come across as intended.

 

 

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