Brexit of Thrones

If you’ve ever read any of my previous posts on the shitshow that is Brexit then you may be familiar with the way I’ve described this catastrophe of a process as a rubbish version of Game of Thrones. Minus the attractive ladies and dragons of course. Unless I’ve missed a key day of news, neither of those things are happening down at Westminster.

But Brexit has everything else that makes George R.R. Martin’s books and HBO’s TV adaptation so enthralling:

Political back-stabbing
Defections
Individuals using events to further their own agenda/careers
The struggle for power taking precedence over what’s important for the country
The populance being split apart with a growing “Us vs Them” environment
Wars of words with neighbouring countries

So what exactly is my point with all of this? I’m not actually sure but at least my half-assed attitude is more solidified than the rapidly-shifting events here in the UK that continue to flabbergast us. You honestly couldn’t write this shit. Each morning’s fresh batch of headlines bring something else that chips away at any belief I have in our leadership. This is a considerable achievement given that my current faith in our political elite would be represented with a negative number were I to use a percentage-based metric.

Bringing this post back to the original analogy, I have genuinely often thought, “fuck Game of Thrones. It has nothing on Brexit.” If Brexit was all entirely fictional and dramatised as a book then it would be one hell of an addictive page-turner, brimming with plots, counter-plots and end-of-chapter shocks that turn everything upside-down.

As I’ve already said, so much has happened since Boris Johnson ascended to the Iron Throne armchair in No.10, Downing Street. Therefore, it’s incredibly difficult to summarise the current situation – especially given that this crap has been selling papers since 2016 – but I will try to put it in layman’s terms…

Parliament is currently on shutdown because Boris Johnson asked the Queen for permission to do so. This is known as being “Prorogued”. During this time, MP’s may not enter Westminster and no parliamentary business may take place. Prorogation has historically been used by Monarchs in Britain to prevent parliament from interfering with their plans. In the modern era (where Monarchs are figureheads and don’t wield their theoretical power), prorogation is usually reserved for bringing parliamentary sessions to an end.

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Is Boris Johnson our version of Donald Trump? The similarities are striking and I’m not just talking about the hair…[Source]
However, opposing MP’s were planning to try and pass new legislation which would prevent the Prime Minister from taking the UK out of Europe without a trade deal if one hasn’t been agreed on by October 31st. The “No Deal” option is seen as the riskiest option which could send economic shockwaves throughout the country but Boris Johnson has repeatedly made clear that he is going to get Brexit done by the 31st of October, whether a deal with the EU has been successfully negotiated or not. No request for an extension – just leave and get Brexit over the finish line.

The Queen granted Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament and it is widely accepted that he chose to do this in order to shut down parliamentary business as soon as possible and give the opposition much less time to pass their legislation.

The legislation WAS passed, however. Johnson’s Conservative government held a majority in parliament by the slimmest of slim margins – just one seat. Unfortunately for him, an MP defected to the Liberal Democrats thus torpedoing the Conservatives’ majority. The opposition was therefore able to band together, take control of parliamentary business and get their legislation through after winning a vote in the Commons.

This is where the shit really hit the fan and Westminster became the scene for raging slanging matches between Boris Johnson and the divisive Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Furthermore, Johnson decided to expel all of the Conservative MP’s from his own party who had rebelled and sided with the opposition when it came to voting on the legislation that would make No Deal illegal (or at least very difficult to pull off).

The fallout is still happening, even as parliament is prorogued and Westminster lies dormant, despite that fast-approaching October 31st deadline.

A No Deal “worst case scenario” preparation document that speaks of potential food/medicine shortages and civil unrest was leaked and forced to be publicised. Jeremy Corbyn has been as indecisive and flaky as usual, saying he wants a General Election, then that he doesn’t, then deciding that he does after all. The Brexit Party has proposed some form of possible alliance with Johnson’s Conservative party if it means getting Brexit over the line. MP’s are resigning and switching teams all over the place. The public is sick of the whole damn thing.

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All the shouting and thinly-veiled insults may be amusing to watch but they haven’t gotten us anywhere since 2016. [Source]
I don’t know where all of this is going to end, nor would I be confident in making any sort of prediction. I do, however, think that the government is teetering on the verge of a cataclysmic implosion and might not see out the year. I also think that the next elected government has a high chance of being either a hard-right or hard-left party, due to the fact that so many people are absolutely fed up of politicians by this point and so millions of mainstream, centre-ground voters may simply avoid the ballot box.

One thing’s for sure though: as in Game of Thrones, it’s politicians and the rich elite that stand to gain from this mess while the common folk suffer as usual. They will certainly be able to weather any economic storm. Either way, they are playing a dangerous game and prioritising their own egos and party agendas. Is it really all about doing right by the country or is it about exploiting a weakness in the government and getting their foot in the door of No.10?

We should never have been given this vote in the first place but – staying on theme – it was a pledge in David Cameron’s manifesto. He promised to deliver a vote on the UK’s membership of the EU if he was elected. In other words, he offered the necessary treats to get voted into No.10, probably (wrongly) assuming that the British public would never actually vote to leave. And when we did? He immediately stepped down as Prime Minister and washed his hands of the problem – proof, if needed, that Brexit is simply the result of politicians chasing power and trying to further their own careers.

I think the likes of Tyrion Lannister and Littlefinger would be in their element here…

You know nothing (and that’s okay)

Fewer people irritate quite as much as those who walk around reciting quotes from Game of Thrones, believing that they are humorous for it and not the copy/paste boxset-obsessed sheep that they actually are. There’s only so many solemn “winter is coming” warnings that you can tolerate whenever the outside temperature drops a few degrees for example. And don’t get me started on those who mimic The Hound and contribute to the oversuse of the last bastion of hard-hitting, impactful naughty words – cunt.

There is however, one quoted-to-death line that is perfectly applicable to our actual lives even if the vast majority of GOT followers probably dont realise it. That line – as you’ve no-doubt already guessed by the topic title – is Ygritte’s observation of “you know nothing, Jon Snow”

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[image: thesaint-online]
On a surface level, this was Ygritte criticising Jon for making assumptions of the wildlings based solely on what he knew or had been taught by those living in the safety of – or beyond – The Wall. But it’s here that we can delve deeper and discover that a quote from a TV show does in fact reflect us and our society. You may not have the luxury of seeing as many perfectly-formed breasts as some of the characters in ‘Thrones and you certainly can’t expect to soar the skies on the back of a dragon but you can rest assured that you really don’t know anything.

It happens all the time on a daily basis and this humble blogger cannot excuse himself from the guilty. We go around professing to know things for certain or believing that our methods or strategies are the correct way forward. The basic truth is that by thinking like this, we close our minds off to other options and possibilities. How do we know that what we are shown on our newsfeeds is in fact the truth? How do we know for a fact that our way of working is the most efficient if we refuse to even try the suggestions of others? How do we know that somebody we are attracted to is actually interested in that way (or vice-versa)?

That’s not to say that you or I are wrong in what we do or believe but we might be. Might be. That’s the key thing to remember and take away. We might be wrong because for as much as we know for a fact, there is so much more that we don’t know. On top of that, even the few nuggets that we can hold on to as “fact” may be flipped upside down before our very eyes on the basis of new evidence or a fresh perspective that we hadn’t previously considered.

“You are not bigger than your own ignorance”

An example from my own life: a month or so ago, I mustered up the balls to ask out a girl that I had been into for some time. After past experience in mis-reading the signs and plain old delusions when it came to previous women in the past, I felt a lot more confident and assured this time. I felt fully in control of my emotions, hadn’t rushed into it and was rocking my new mindset of “if she says ‘no’ then it’s going to be shit but that’s life and I won’t waste time analysing it”. We’d been talking for a while now and it felt like positive talk: friendly yet teasing and I was sure that I could feel a spark. More importantly, I am a shit conversationalist and a bit of an introvert but even I often lost track of time and ended up chatting shit with this girl for around half an hour at a time.

In short, I ignored the advice of this very post by my future self and believed that THIS time, I was right and I was in with a chance. As you probably deciphered with scant assistance, she turned me down. Now I won’t go into her reasons or my own reaction because they have no further bearing on this topic. All I’ll say is that it is totally cool between us and despite being disappointed, I got over it quickly and did at least manage to stay true to my mindset of acknowledging that her rejection was a shit thing to happen but shit happens. I dusted myself down and carried on.

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[image: fluentin3months.com]
The point is, I believed that I was right and that I knew what the outcome was going to be when I was clearly wrong all along. Obviously I don’t regret sticking my balls on the line and taking the plunge and on that note I do want to say that taking what I’m saying onboard here doesn’t mean that you should fall into the trap of over-analysing a situation or being paralysed by indecision because you haven’t got all of the facts. You may never be able to access all of the facts or every side to a story. You can’t, for example, know all of the facts surrounding a big news story in a far flung part of the globe because you can’t be there to see what’s actually happening behind the veil of bullshit and propaganda that our western news outlets put up. You also can’t read another person’s mind and therefore can’t always predict how they really feel or how they view something. But you must still form an opinion or still have a go at getting that girl’s phone number or putting yourself out there in some other way.

It’s okay to be ignorant but it’s not okay to be intentionally ignorant is what I’m saying. I have come to see that it’s far healthier to always remember that you could be wrong. Don’t stop reaching for things and don’t necessarily change how you live your life but just remember that we rarely possess all of the facts and even when we do, there isn’t always the guarantee that those facts are untainted and raw. Don’t make assumptions (assume makes an ass out of u and me as Alice says in Stephen King’s book, Cell), don’t presume that your way of doing things is necessarily the best way and certainly don’t believe that you know the truth because the TV or internet told you something was so.

Knowing that you might be wrong helps keep your mind open to new ideas and information. It helps you listen to others and it makes you a much more humble person and not a closed-off “my way or the highway” individual. Don’t sacrifice your values or beliefs but be open to challenges and new perspectives.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong!

Book Talk: Fire And Blood (George R.R. Martin, 2018)

F&B-1If you’re a huge fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (more universally known as just ‘A Game of Thrones’ these days thanks to the runaway success of the TV series which uses the title of the first book in the series) as I am then you will probably be resigned to the fact that Martin is probably never going to finish the series. Has he lost control of the plot and characters or is it a simple creative block of sorts? It’s a debate for a different time but what I do know is that I can’t have been the only one who saw the mammoth 700-page Fire And Blood on store shelves and thought “so he hasn’t finished The Winds of Winter but he had time to bash this out?”

Sadly, it’s easier to sum up a reaction with a meme these days so here’s one for the internet generation that more or less reflects my reaction to the release of Fire And Blood:

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I haven’t read any reviews or taken a look at other people’s opinions on this book but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a general feeling of deflation amongst the Ice and Fire devout; downright fury, even (though, as a card-carrying bookish nerd, I feel obligated to point out that we are – fortunately – probably not able to turn that fury into a credible form of anger).  I reckon there are even those who see Fire And Blood as an elaborate form of trolling…

Martin: “Guess what, loyal fans? New book releasing soon!”

Fans: “Ohmygod! It’s The Winds of Winter!” *throws panties at the stage etc.*

Martin: “Actually…no. It’s a partial – PARTIAL – history of Westeros. Suckers!”

Anyway, enough of the memes and silliness. This is me reviewing the book as an Ice and Fire fan and without any prior knowledge of what other people are saying. And you know what? I think it’s great.

Fire And Blood is a richly-detailed recounting of Westeros’ history beginning with the reign of Aegon the Conqueror and concluding with the regency of Aegon III. That might not sound like a lot but five other Targaryen kings sat the Iron Throne in between the first and third Aegons plus a Queen and a few short-lived pretenders. That’s a lot of history to get through.

Obviously – this being a factual (of sorts) retelling of a hundred and thirty-something year’s worth of events – it doesn’t read the same way as a typical ‘thrones book. There’s no character perspectives for example and therefore no way of knowing the innermost thoughts and motivations of the characters. Instead, the book is presented more like a history lesson and you are guided through the years of politics, intrigue, wars and betrayals in exhaustive detail. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the book must be boring in that case though because it really isn’t. As I said, it doesn’t read like one of the regular books but the same level of detail and explicit information is still correct and present. It’s unmistakably a George R.R. Martin work and returning to the land of Westeros with its familiar houses, regions and customs is like coming home after a long, shitty day at work and snuggling up on the sofa with your significant other.

It’s also nice to be ‘in the moment’ and discover the history of these ancient Kings and legendary characters that were only previously mentioned as long-deceased artifacts of the past in the main books and the ‘present’ timeline. Now we can find out about their personalities and motivations.

The best part of reading this book was that despite the shift in style, it didn’t take long to become a page-turner. It’s a historical text but given that this is the first real in-depth exploration of Westeros and it’s Targaryen years, you still don’t know exactly how everything moves from point A to point B. In other words, Fire And Blood still has the ability to shock albeit not with quite the same savagery as the main books. Characters that you have been reading about for many chapters can suddenly get killed off via treacherous murder, illness or random accidents just as in the main books. The trade-off is of course the fact that you don’t get quite as invested in the characters (especially knowing that they will ALL die at some point given that this is history) but even so, I still found myself with a few favourites that I really didn’t want to lose to villainy.

The book also features many excellent, high-quality illustrations by Doug Wheatley. I’m not sure if these have been printed elsewhere in other Ice and Fire spin-offs but in any case, it was nice to finally see a visual interpretation of these Targaryen lords and ladies. As an added bonus, there are dragons too and who doesn’t like those?

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Aegon the Conqueror with the legendary Balerion, The Black Dread.

In conclusion, I genuinely believe that Fire And Blood should only be a disappointment to casual followers of the Ice and Fire saga. Major fans will understandably be disappointed that they are still waiting for The Winds of Winter but they should definitely put aside their disgruntlement at having to see yet another stop-gap book hit the shelves rather than the next ‘proper’ installment. All the rich detail that you’d expect is here and I can honestly say that I couldn’t put the book down once I’d read a few pages. The superb presentation is a welcome bonus and I would definitely welcome the second volume which should take us from Aegon III up to Aerys II.

Just…try and make Volume II one of the stop-gaps AFTER The Winds of Winter please, George?