As season 6 progresses and the capital of Westeros, King's Landing, is on the cusp of a bloody revolution, it seems that outside of Ramsay Bolton, the High Sparrow is everyone's least favorite character in the show.
There are good reasons to despise him: he's a religious fanatic who wants to establish a theocracy, he's always preaching, he has shamed several of the characters we've known for a long time and of course he imprisoned and tortured Loras Tyrel just for being gay.
Despicable. No one should support that kind of leader.
Today, that is.
But let's not forget that Game of Thrones takes place in medieval times, not in our (post) modern era.
We judge religious extremism in the show harshly because of ISIS and Taliban, and we give the feudal system and its perpetrators a pass because there's no feudal threat on our cushy democracies. But if we judge the High Sparrow and the Sparrow movement by 21st century values, let's hold the other characters to the same standard.
For More On Why We Shouldn't Hate The High Sparrow - Watch This Video
Tyrion and Ned Should Be In Jail, Daenerys is Just an Establishment Crony
Let's look at Tyrion Lannister, a trust fund baby who is guilty of extortion, murder and kidnapping. He also owned a woman he later killed because she testified against him. Sounds like a swell guy.
What about the late Ned Stark, the noblest of all characters? He inherited his daddy's vast wealth that has been amassed thanks to paying NO WAGES to the people who cultivate land that they are not allowed to own. And how many people died in the war he started because his sister was kidnapped? No one cares about the sisters of the common people though. Furthermore, in the pilot episode he didn't give a soldier who fled the White Walkers a fair trial and executed him unjustly, with his own hands, while his 10 year boy was watching. That sounds like some Kim Jung Un might try to pull off.
Loras Tyrel should not be in jail for being gay on this we can all agree. He should rot in a cell for convincing Renly Baratheon to start an unlawful civil war against Stannis, a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And for what? So Loras could get a cabinet position in the new administration.
The High Sparrow's victim, Cersei, is the one who actually got Loras in prison in the first place, because he was standing in her way. She also had her husband and innocent civilians murdered for political reasons, so she's more like a mob boss than a queen. She also tortured a woman just to get back at her brother.
But what about Daenerys Targaryen, the Freer of Slaves and Breaker of Chains? She is against slavery, but isn't feudalism just a different system of quasi-slavery that is built on exploitation and violence against the 99%? She doesn't want to change this horrible system, just tweak it. And how is she planning on getting to power? Through fire and blood. Thousands will have to die for her to fulfil her personal political ambition.
The Lords Have Only Themselves To Blame
This all sounds preposterous, of course, because we're talking about the middle ages, because preaching and shaming are far less serious crimes than all of the above.
The Sparrow movement is after all a direct result of the economic and political policies advanced by one-percenters like the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons. Why shouldn't the poor be allowed to advance their own interests? They're just acting in self-defense, telling the billionaire class that they cannot have it all. Enough is enough.
The working families of Westeros don't have democratic tools for change, no ballot boxes or freedom of speech - their constitution is the religious text. They're right to be angry and to want a political revolution. Why should they accept to be ruled by an elite that dubs them LOWborn?! Are the HIGHborn really better just because they say so? Why should everyone pay for their own mistakes?
Also, Westerosi kings and lords derive their legitimacy from the religious establishment, so why shouldn't the 99% do the same?
There's actually a good reason to mistrust the High Sparrow - could it be because we barely know him and not part of the "club". We want Cersei to pay for her crimes, but we want someone from the club to kill her, somebody like Arya. What does a pope have to do with kings, knights and dragons?! We've been following these nobles for so many seasons, so we prefer the devil we know.
But, objectively, if we were living in Westeros, most of us would prefer to be ruled by a religious zealot with a mandate to better the life of the 99%, than by a crazy murderous caste who think their blood makes them genetically superior. That's some fucked up shit right there.
In contrast, the High Sparrow offers regular folks hope of social mobility and dignity, he protects them for the violence of the 1%. So when we judge him according to the world he lives in, he doesn't seem like such a bad guy after all.
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* This post first appeared on Tower of the Hand on July 20 2015