In the thirteenth part of Small Gods, NO. NOPE. TAKE IT BACK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For mental illness/ableism.
It’s like Brutha’s getting a tour of all the aspects of belief and faith, isn’t it? While in the midst of the living space of a once-powerful, now-forgotten god, Brutha talks about human sacrifice. He talks about the fear of death. He more or less admits that he doesn’t know for certain what the afterlife is. And then Om starts opening up about the life of a god, and IT’S ALL SO INTERESTING. But nothing more so than Brutha’s angry outburst at Om when Om tries to avoid responsibility for what his followers did:
“You could have helped people,” said Brutha. “But all you did was stamp around and roar and try to make people afraid. Like… like a man hitting a donkey with a stick. But people like Vorbis made the stick so good, that’s all the donkey ends up believing in.”
“That could use some work, as a parable,” said Om sourly.
“This is real life I’m talking about!”
“It’s not my fault if people misuse the–“
“It is! It has to be! If you muck up people’s minds just because you want them to believe in you, what they do is all your fault!”
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I spent a good portion of the years after leaving the Church being angry. I would develop all sorts of arguments I wanted to have with God, most of them similar to what Brutha says here. In the end, they mostly came down to the same point: why hadn’t God done anything to stop horrible things from happening? I was not the first one to come up with this question, and the problem of suffering in an omniscient, omnipotent god’s world has been an issues for thousands upon thousands of years. But it felt like a very personal question to me. There were so many times I begged God to help me, and I never once felt like He listened to me. So whose fault is that? Is there even any fault to assign, or was I always looking at the situation the wrong way?
That’s the uniqueness of this situation. Brutha is face-to-face with the god he’s believed in all his life, and he’s realizing just how flippant and apathetic he is. Sure, in the future, things might be better. They might all be dead and in the afterlife, but I adore Brutha’s angry and righteous claim: Here and now, we are alive. That’s what I choose to concern myself with. I am alive now, and I want to change the world for the better now.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and we see why that is while Didactylos tries to win people over to his side. The problem, though, is that Didactylos is not interested in dogma. He can’t understand how to convince people to believe in… well, facts. How do you convince someone the sky is blue when it’s right there, being all blue? The same goes for the Great A’Tuin. It doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, the Great A’Tuin is just gonna keep moving through space. But both Urn and Simony have a different motivation: they want people to simply be against the Church. And I understand that. Deacon Vorbis and his men have done monstrous things to the people of Omnia, and they deserve some retribution and justice for that. But then what? And given the end of this section, I’m worried about what these people might face if they’re ill-prepared.
Back to Om and Brutha. So, I am kind of pleased to be right about ONE SINGLE THING, since I’m generally so unprepared for everything. But the small gods are vying for Brutha’s belief! And they’re doing so by offering him untold riches and food and carnal gratification! Which… none of those are going to work for someone like Brutha, but I imagine that these gods are wholly unaware of what a unique person Brutha is. They’ll probably keep trying, bless them, but it’s not going to work.
Then there’s St. Ungulant, unofficial saint and anchorite of the Church of Om, who’s an interesting character because, as I said earlier, he represents another aspect of belief on this journey of Brutha’s. Where does fanaticism get you in the Church? Well, it gets you sent out to the middle of the desert, since one can apparently believe too much for the Church. I do worry about the conflation between mental illness and faith in his characterization, only because it’s a very, very common trope you’ll see not just in literature, but in real life. People are “c***y” for believing in god or having faith, and all the things they do are so wacky!!! I’m more interested in how St. Ungulant came to live the life he does as a hermit in such an inhospitable place. What I do enjoy about him is how kind he is. He hasn’t lost an ounce of hospitality, and it’s really sweet!
And then I’m lulled into a terrible sense of security. Ephebe is taken back by the Ephebians, who are bound for Omnia. (Converging plotlines!!! My favorite thing!!!) Brutha and Om are getting closer to home! Brutha has never been more knowledgable about the world he lives in! Everything is progressing nicely!
And then he saw Vorbis sit up, look around him in a slow methodical way, pick up a stone, study it carefully, and then bring it down sharply on Brutha’s head.
Brutha didn’t even groan.
Vorbis got up and strode directly toward the buses that hid Om. He tore the branches aside, regardless of the thorns, and pulled out the tortoise Om had just met.
For a moment it was held up, legs moving slowly, before the deacon threw it overarm into the rocks.
WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK. Was he faking it the whole time? Did he suddenly become conscious? WHAT IS HE DOING? I don’t like this at all. And I cannot ignore that that damn eagle shows up whenever Vorbis is around, so what the hell is that about??? GODDAMN THIS BOOK, DON’T DO THIS TO ME.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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