Keeping things light, my first post will touch the subtle farce that is normailty within modernity, and how societal changes are a thing of the past, and future.
I wish I could say that this subject was inspired by my lecture on 'Identity in Media Ethics' given by Dr. Sophia Wood, who cited the works of sociologists Zyugmant Bauman, Jean-Francois Bayart and Peter Beilharz in her view that as humanity has floated further down the stream of liquid modernity since the Nazis used propaganda to fuel 'allosemitism', the media has been ever so diligent in alerting us to the current 'other' in our society, whether it be Muslims after 9/11 and 7/7 or British white trash after the England riots. But it wasn't.
I wish I could say that it was brought about by the story of Amina al-Filali, the Moroccan girl who committed suicide after a Tigerian judge forced her to marry her rapist...that the unwelcoming of one's sexual assaulter as a forced husband is not only a practice of rural times, it's one sanctioned by the bible, a passage loved by many of the New Atheists. But it wasn't.
It actually came from watching the first season of Game of Thrones.
I love the acclaimed HBO fantasy drama. I love it not for its superb acting, stellar writing, unique marketing and incredible direction (though the colourful adjectives suggest that I do), but for how many conflicts stem from disparate cultures and dynasties being forced to mingle and tolerate each other's customs, rather than just the basic need to place one's ass on the Iron Throne.
Despite it's overplayed tagline as 'the grown up Lord of The Rings' (I prefer 'Tolkein with boobs'), the original books by George R. R. Martin took their setting straight out of Norse history. A step forward and a step back, then and in GoT, women are either sold, betrothed or treated like whores. Or they were just whores, with a very lucrative industry behind them too.
The rampant criticism of the series' overt (and frankly unsexy) sex scenes intrigues me, but how the characters themselves develop this kind of culture shock towards each other does so even more. I'll avoid spoilers as much as possible, though I will say Dany Targaryen's plight of not only being forced to marry her Dothrakian rapist but actually falling in love with him leaves uncomfortable comparisons with the Morrocan case that I nor you want to make.
It really does really highlight the futility of our modern day identity politics and socio-economic plights though. Before watching GoT, I wondered whether, being an I-pad owner to be, I was going to be considered cool or elitist. Now I'm deciding if in the seven kingdoms being a bastard or dwarf is part of a hipster fad.
I think the reason GoT has struck such a chord with me and the rest of its audience is because we as a country, ney, a western world, are terrified of multiculturalism. And by that I don't mean foreign food making us thank Mcdonalds for being a global name, I mean in the evolution of civilization, of our culture versus those long gone.
So obsessed are we with the broken parts of our society, the abnormal and the obscene, that we lose sight of just how everything has changed in the last few thousand years, and how its likely to change even more. The icky parts of the houses of GoT, i.e. incest, arranged marriages and breast feeding ten year olds don't exactly go down like good ale in the series itself, but the level of tolerance they are given has made them the most talked about aspects.
What I see is a loss of perspective. It's astounding how difficuilt it is to grasp just how used we are to the world and customs we grow up in. How can we, in our age of brands, convinience and ease, even fathom a man executed minutes after his sentence is laid down? Do we forget that men not only used to die in front of crowds of thousands, they did so for entertainment?
I'll be the first to thank secular morality for raising the value of human life, and I only use these examples to pry at all those who criticize ideologies they know nothing of, whether it be David Cameron and his tired and nonsensical 'Broken Britain' rhetoric, or the EDL masking their racism by ascribing an identity of lost nationalism. My gear to grind is that whilst we can judge certain customs and behaviours in GoT as right or wrong through modern day ethical practices, the uncomfortable feeling we get watching a boy uncomfortably watching a man beheaded stems only from the niggling question of whether this can be considered 'normal'.
We as humans are constantly divided into sub-categories, based on our ethnicity, behaviour and beliefs. Whilst I uphold the free liberties and rights of all human beings, and would cite them as a just cause for change, I don't agree with singling out those we classify in what anthropologists have reffered to as a 're-invention of difference'.
Things weren't always the way they are, and they won't always be. Deal with it.