“I’m not going to swear an oath I can’t uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”
– Jon Snow
Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7
The Dragon and the Wolf
Shame. Shame. Shame.
How ironic and unfortunate that while we cheer the man currently embarked on what seems to many as a righteous journey undertaken by the current King in the North, and while we constantly implore the old gods and the new for Jon Snow to be armored with good fate and favorable fortune because we approve the good values this fictional character represents, somehow, we in the real world find it very easy and very convenient to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, and a cold shoulder to the one thing the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch embodies: word of honor.
Of all the things we see in the very popular television adaptation of a best-selling novel that seems to mirror today’s life and society – betrayal, conspiracy, exploitation, mindless violence, chaos and disorder, the power of money, manipulation through influence, etc. – the one thing that strongly resonates as the TV show concludes its seventh season is the resulting introspection among those who experienced a realization regarding how we have dishonored, devalued, and trampled the worth and merit of the promises we made. We trivialized the value of the words we say and consequently, what it meant as well to the person we gave our word to.
We promote the idea that Game of Thrones has its parallelisms with things that are larger than the individual being – political manipulation, religious exploitation, calculated extermination, racial preservation, social stratification, etc. – but the truth is, we are taken aback by our apprehensions that stem from what we know is true since Season 1, Episode 1: Game of Thrones, despite its degree of fantasy, is a commentary on the most basic frailties of the human being. We allow ourselves to be devoured by inaction caused by our apprehension because we refuse to be burdened by the responsibility to change as a response to this glaring reminder of a long-existing impetus. We find it convenient and preferable to defer this responsibility, this moral task, to the collective that represents us politically, morally, spiritually, etc., and that has always been the case ever since, even before Game of Thrones: we want leaders who are not corrupt but the electorate fuels the vicious cycle of graft and corruption when people exploit their political connections through favors; we want dynamic, open-minded, forward thinking leaders to champion our religion but it is us who think highly of ourselves as morally upright, easy to judge others, and quick to justify our denial of compassion.
We want political families to stop scheming. We want leaders to stop exploiting ordinary people for their own ends. We want rich people to stop sidetracking the welfare of the less-privileged.
But what change do we want for us on an individual level?
For Jon Snow, the world is simple. Even with the most complex of schemes and even with the grandest justifications and moral imperatives, behind the promise that comes with the noblest of sacrifices and the ecstasy of salvation, the only thing we should not afford a barter, never endanger, and in no way compromise is the honor that comes with every promise, every oath, and every word. Despite the presence of an excuse and an exit, remain bereft of any complicity in reneging on a promise that would repudiate the honor now lost with every broken promise, every broken oath, every broken word.
Saying the words is easy. Standing by our word is the real challenge. And like everything else, it comes easy with practice, over time. Best start today.
We idolize Jon Snow and wish we can be like him – defend the downtrodden, emerge victorious against the odds, gain the respect of his peers, and from adversity rise triumphant followed by a throng of faithful and a sword that serves salvation.
We dream of heroic deeds and grand fantasies but we can’t even start with the simplest act of honor.
Paalis na ko.
Sige, sasama ako.
Game ako dyan.
People have long since ceased in curing the illness of lying largely for its practical use, but an equally worse form of malady is the proclivity to withdraw our commitment to every promise, every oath, and every word, with very little consideration to what it means to the other person. We find it easy to yield when tempted with excuses, and find it convenient to feign apology for every promise we fail to keep, every oath we fail to honor, and every word we fail to stay true to.
Why? Because for the most part, we don’t mean what we say. We say yes to be agreeable. We agree to reinforce peer approval. We make a promise thinking this keeps us inside the clique. We commit because we think it is the right thing to do.
We give our word for the wrong reasons.
Only one reason matters. Only one reason makes sense. We commit, we promise, we agree, we say yes, we give our word because we mean it, with all our heart, and with all our honor.
Without an honest constitution, our words condemn us into becoming the least likely to be rewarded by esteem and trust.
We become Oathbreakers.