Our task is to rank each of the characters (the King, the Queen, the lover, the guard who falls asleep and the guard who kills her) according to how responsible we think they are for the Queen's death.
We do this first by ourselves, and then we have to gather in groups to try to reach (without voting) a common list. Then we present our list to the whole room and discuss our reasons, or the difficulties we had in trying to rank them together.
This, it goes without saying, wasn't the easiest task we had all day.
One of the reasons why we had a hard time coming up with lists, especially in small groups, is that the story asks us to probe our moral reasons for who is responsible for what. And, depending on what values we hold (or promote), we can come up with really, really different responses. Which is what happens in the room today.
We're encouraged to use some of the tools we've already learned (as well as the types of questions
we learned about last week at the Nansen Summer School). We don't use them perfect, but here are a few things we heard about why we pushed certain characters further up or down the list (as well as what values those choices may imply):The King
: Saying the King's responsible implies fairly common values like justice against perpetrators, responsibility for orders and a sense that the ones at the top of a decision-making structure need to be held more accountable than the ones who actually carry out the commands. This matches the legal structures in many countries around the world.
Those who disagree say that the King is a product of his times, that maybe he didn't mean it or that he was driven out of jealousy and not out of malice.The Queen
: There were a number of people who said the Queen herself was responsible for her death. This could imply a patriarchal value set, where a woman is expected to do certain things and otherwise must be punished. But there's another opinion that focuses on agency
and her own free will. She knew the risk, and by taking her life in her own hands she takes responsibility for what follows. For some, removing her responsibility is a way of stripping her of her power and her ability to make her own choices (while facing the consequences.
Those who disagree say that this is an example of victim-blaming, and that the focus should be on the people who ordered her death or on the power structures that make events like this possible.The lover
: The lover was generally lower on the list than the other characters, but the ones who placed him higher up said that it was his selfishness that caused the whole scenario, and that he was the one who tempted the Queen while knowing the risk. He misused love, which for some is something that needs to be protected. Violating the act of love can be considered worse than killing an unfaithful wife.
Those who disagree say that, while the lover may be selfish, he wasn't the one who actually did the killing. Also, they mention that giving the man more responsibility than the woman can also be a sign of patriarchy or double-standards. The guard who falls asleep
: Similarly to the lover, the guard who falls asleep violates a value: friendship and trust. As a military man, betraying his word is a sin against his own honour, and in honour-based cultures this can be seen as unforgivable.
Those who disagree say that, since it was an accident, he shouldn't be blamed at all. The guard who kills her
: Ranking the guard who shot the gun at the top is often a sign that a person values individual actions, and that you can't escape responsibility (even as a soldier) for orders that were given to you from on top. The emphasis is on persons rather than systems, and highlights his ability to disobey orders (like the first guard) or to choose not to participate in the system that made the killing possible.
Those who disagree emphasize that maybe the guards have less power, or that refusing orders would mean that their lives (or those of their loved ones) could be in danger.