In the fifteenth part of Small Gods, the rebels and heretics assemble to take down Vorbis. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of racism (specifically anti-Asian) and racial slurs, war, torture.
I’m nervous about the ending to this because I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like the set-up was so dire. Nothing has gone right! Everything is broken or on fire or being tortured! At this point, Om is literally the only possible hope. Let’s discuss!
Like, I want to believe that Pratchett’s criticizing this behavior, but I’m unsure. He’s already proudly wrote that there’s no racism in the Discworld, and yet there are two glaring examples of it here. They’re not even subtle! First of all, Deacon Cusp calls Lu-Tze a “ghastly little yellow fool.” That’s… that’s not even one of those examples where I have to explain in detail why it’s a damaging thing to say. Calling an Asian character a “yellow fool” is about as racist as you can get without using a slur.
Oh, and Pratchett’s ready for that, too.
That was the best and the worst of civil war, at least at the start – everyone wore the same uniform. It was much easier when you picked enemies who wore a different color or at least spoke with a funny accent. You could call them “gooks” or something. It made things easier.
My father was a Japanese-Hawaiian. Dark-skinned, so much so that often, from a distance, people would assume he was black. He enrolled in the military after high school because, as is very common in my country, it was the only option available to him as a poor graduate that might better his life. When he enlisted, he expected to go through training and spend time somewhere in the States until his time was up.
Then the Vietnam War broke out.
My father did multiple tours in Vietnam, and he spoke of that time with an alternating sense of pride and revulsion. He was so proud of his military service that he spent the entire time he was alive urging me to enlist. He would do this after telling my brother and me stories of the war and the horrible conditions of the jungles he was in. He would do this after telling us of watching American planes fly over his battalion, spraying everyone with some mysterious substance that caused his skin to itch and his head to ache.
And he would tell us how his fellow soldiers – many who fought by his side and some who went to boot camp with him – would call him a gook. They’d constantly make him prove he wasn’t on “their” side. They’d make fun of the “gook” food he ate, the width of this nose, the shape of his eyes, and the color of his skin, which often wasn’t that different than some of the people they killed.
My dad was a walking contradiction, but he still told us everything. I stood next to him at a Wal Mart once when I was nine and watched as an older white man in a Marines hat berated my father for taking to long. He told my dad that he once shot gooks like him in the jungle. Little did he know that my father did too.
My point is this: that word invokes such an ugly, horrific, and violent image that its use should be carefully considered. I think that Pratchett intended to poke fun at the mentality of soldiers, or perhaps this is related to Urn’s claim that Vorbis’s true evil is his ability to turn people into him. Regardless, that word should never, never be used casually EVER. It shouldn’t be used as a joke or to “poke fun” at something. And it certainly shouldn’t be employed as flippantly as it is here.
I made a comment in the video for this part that I just felt sad for Brutha. I know why now: this all feels like someone making a slow march to their death. Without Om to help him, and without a single soul who understands what he’s going through, Brutha is completely alone. It’s heartbreaking. After the kind of journey he’s been through, he’s uncertain of what he believes in anymore. He’s had his religion taken away from him by learning how false it was. And now, the man who lied to everyone for years, who killed people himself, who ordered those below him to murder, is now placing himself on the very top of this violent hierarchy, and not a single fucking person will listen to Brutha.
He’s utterly alone.
Urn and Simony aren’t there to help him, despite that Urn’s friendly towards him. They’ve got a disaster of their own to deal with. (And lord, does it ever turn into a disaster.) So he stands in front of the gates to the city and cries out for Om, and it’s a remarkably touching moment. Granted, we learn of it through Dhblah’s narration, so it’s kinda funny, but I still thought it was a powerful scene. So what does Brutha do once he gets past the gates? Well, it’s fascinating, y’all. I was a little confused at first, but I think I understand it better:
The part of him still capable of thought was thinking: there is nothing you can say. No one will listen. No one will care. It doesn’t matter what you tell people about Ephebe, and Brother Murduck, and the desert. It won’t be fundamentally true.
Fundamentally true. That’s what the world is, with Vorbis in it.
So Brutha abandons logic and reason and he prepares to just smack Vorbis a good one. But he stops. Why? Wouldn’t that have been incredibly cathartic? Absolutely. But I noted that Vorbis smiled when he saw what Brutha was about to do. That seemed like a weird reaction, unless Vorbis wanted Brutha to hit him. Wouldn’t it have made a perfect narrative twist? Just before ascending to the Cenobiarch position, Vorbis was STRUCK by a NON-BELIEVER, but Vorbis PERSEVERED!
Brutha denied him, so Vorbis sent him to die as the first person to demonstrate what Vorbis new turtle can do.
Everything is so messed up. Simony’s turtle doesn’t work. Om is… somewhere? I mean, at least he got an eagle carrying him to the Citadel. That’s somewhat hopeful. And there was a million-to-one-chance that Urn and Fergmen would cause the gates to open right when Brutha needed them to. Still, I have no idea how this is going to be resolved in like… forty pages. HOW???
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