Vimes vs. war

Jingo (Discworld, #21) - Terry Pratchett

Let’s be patriotic. Let’s show those Klatchians what Ankh-Morpork is made of!

 

Such sentiments are on the rise in the famous Discworld city, as its denizens gird themselves for war. Shop owners and aristocrats, butlers and assassins march to the glorious war drums. The Klatchians, some of whom have lived in Ankh-Morpork for generations and don’t even speak their ‘native’ tongue, suddenly become enemies, barricading in their homes against the blood-thirsty mobs.

In Klatch, the battle trumpets are also blowing loud. As both lands throb with war lust, it seems only Watch commander Sam Vimes is a pacifist. After all, the mandate of the Watch is to maintain peace. It’s up to the Watch and its sardonic chief to chase and arrest all the law-breaking warmongers, in Ankh-Morpork and in Klatch, and restore peace and order for everyone. Of course, the habitual diplomatic canning of the city ruler, Lord Vetinary, helps.

I won’t talk about character development or pacing or story arch here. Pratchett is a master, at the top of his craft in this book. Nevertheless, I didn’t like it very much. On one hand, I laughed hard and often. On the other, my laughter was tinged with horrified recognition. Sometimes, our countries go to war with one another too, and the patriotic games are always on, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. But unlike Discworld, we invariably fight JUST battles, always on the side of truth, aren’t we? Our cause is always the right one, isn’t it?

This book is one of the best anti-war novels I have read. It is harsh and brutal. Its satire is so deep that it turns into a real life account. Clever exploits stupidity there… and here. Powerful abuse the weak. Life as usual, one might say, and everyone has a price. Only the Watch – the Ankh-Morpork police – is incorruptible, but the tale’s genre is fantasy after all. The novel doesn’t deliver much joy, but its powerful punch will have long-lasting effects on me.

 

Here are Vimes’s contemplations about people – Them and Us – painful in their honesty:

It was because he wanted there to be conspirators. It was much better to imagine men in some smoky room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over the brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told their children bedtime stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No-one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.        

Here is another one, on the nature of a mob:

‘Odd thing, ain’t it … you meet people one at a time, they seem decent, they got brains that work, and then they get together and you hear the voice of the people. And it snarls.’

‘That’s mob rule!’

‘Oh, no, surely not,’ said Vimes. ‘Call it democratic justice.’

‘One man, one rock,’ Detritus volunteered.

And here is about the nature of heroism:

Colon had always thought that heroes had some special kind of clockwork that made them go out and die famously for god, country and apple pie, or whatever particular delicacy their mother made. It had never occurred to him that they might do it because they’d get yelled at if they didn’t.

Could he be any more cynical? Or any more right?

Recommended to everyone.