People don’t exist in a vacuum. Whether they like it or not, every individual is also a member of something bigger. Usually it starts at home, with the family, but soon enough their status, trade, and religion will steer them in one direction rather than other. Societies are the total sum of their members regardless if it is a religious congregation, a band of mercenaries, a government council or a handful of slaver traders: belonging to a society defines their member in a way that their individual characters cannot. At the same time, it is necessary to mention that there are different levels of commitment an individual can have towards a society, and as such not every member be affected the same way. In this regard, to be a sworn member for life of a military order like the Night’s Watch will impact a person more deeply than being a former mercenary, or a person that identifies with a religion but doesn’t practice it.
Most societies can be classified into 4 categories:
In Westeros, Essos, or even Sothoryos, a man is never far from another man. We get close to those who speak the same language, eat the same food, and sing the same songs. Then we draw the borders on our maps and call those outside them foreigners.
With very few exceptions most people are devoted to one religion or another. With hundreds of religions spread over the known world there is an immense variety of cults that shape the mind of their followers like no other type of societies does.
The world is a hard place to survive in, and as such these types of societies are commonplace in Westeros and Essos alike. Whether it is by need or obligation, few people remain unchanged once they join, as the very nature of the tasks they have to carry out are more often than not life-changing.
Belonging to the ruling elite is a privilege that few people posses. But to think that an individual who attains power remains unchanged by it is to be a fool. A position of power bears both privileges and obligations that quickly seep into the character of any individual.