Make love, not war. There is nothing worse than war and peace is always the better option.
Most people subscribe to that view, but it's hard to say that about most of our leaders. Politicians are by their very nature cautious and calculating creatures with an aversion to risks they are not forced to take. And peace is very dangerous to leaders.
On episode 5 of Game of Thrones Jon Snow made a bold gamble for peace once he was convinced he had no other choice if he wanted to win the war against the Whitewalkers. As Lord Commander of the Night's Watch he offered an olive branch to the Wildlings, who have been the Watch's biggest enemy for hundreds of years. The people around Jon do not have the foresight to see what he sees, and Jon was not deterred by that nor by the political perils that lay ahead. Now that's a leader if I've ever seen one.
Jon has decided to swim against the blood-red currant which is the result of centuries of mutual bloodshed and destruction, which make for are a fine recipe for mutual mistrust. That distrust, or maybe even outright revulsion, numbs the compassion that each side can feel for its enemy's suffering and for the ability to put yourself in their shoes. The men of the Night's Watch justify their own violence and basically say: they started it!
But not Jon. Nor Daenerys.
As she tries to rule a city that she took by force, she needs the losers to concede defeat and abide by her new rules, but her hopes are dashed when her soldiers face terror attacks by the Sons of the Harpy. If you asked them, they would say they are freedom fighters that are fighting against a foreign occupying force.
One piece of advice that Daenerys receives is from Daario, a hawk that urges her to send her soldiers to the streets, to every house and every alley and kill all who opposes them, until her enemies are no more. And while this Unsullied attack in the streets in Mereen is under way, proposes Daario, Dany should retreat to the safety of her pyramids and have the local population fend for themselves and face the consequences of her policies.
In the end she heeds the advice of the Barriston Selmy and chooses compassion. She extends a hand for peace and informs Hizdar, a member of the former ruling slaver class, that they are going to marry and forge a (hopefully) unbreakable alliance based on mutual interests.
Jon's and Daenerys' actions show true leadership. They are not afraid to go against public opinion or think outside the box. On episode 5 they also get similar advice: Maester Aemon tells Jon he should trust himself and rule without fear and Missandei tells Dany the exact same thing - do as you see fit, because you are our leader. And you should lead.
Both of them take an extraordinary risk. We've seen in the past how brave leaders paid the ultimate price for their peace-making. Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin was gunned down by a religious Jewish fanatic who opposed peace negotiations with Palestinians, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was killed for signing a peace deal with arch-enemy Israeli, U.S President Abraham Lincoln was shot after abolishing slavery, and the list goes on.
The next few episodes on Game of Thrones will reveal if their bold moves would pay off. But even if it all comes crashing down by season's end, we can't help it but take our hats off to them for taking a risk and making the tougher choice - choose peace over war.
Too bad our real-world leaders can't do the same.
Check out Gil Kidron's YouTube channel Game of Thrones Academy for unique content about Game of Thrones.
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