In the ninth part of Jingo, I WASN’T READY. AT ALL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of racism/xenophobia.
HOLY SHIT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED. I WAS SO UNPREPARED.
You know, I would totally read a whole book from her perspective. That’s not what I wanted to talk about here, though. I like Sybil a great deal, yet I’m glad that Pratchett used her to make a very necessary point: sometimes, people we enjoy hold toxic views. Like her or not, Sybil still belongs to a certain class, one for whom the world is easily split into a dichotomy. Thus, to her, the world has become “difficult” just by the mere suggestion that maybe people should think of the Klatchians as enemies. It might seem like a shocking idea, but for people who are entrenched in this kind of thinking, this constitutes a disruption to their life. As Sybil puts it:
That seemed straightforward. You fought them, they fought you, everyone knew the rules, and if you got your head cut off you jolly well didn’t blub about it afterward.
Certainly, things were better now. But they were just… more difficult.
They’re only more difficult because a personal change is required. Sybil has to let go of her prejudices against the Klatchians, and apparently, that’s too “difficult.”
Honestly, one of the coolest lines in here – and I’m totally fine if others interpreted it differently – comes from Vimes’s section while arguing with Mr. Wazir. I mean, I’m like the King of Misinterpretation. Sometimes, I do it deliberately; a line could totally have been intended one way, but it inspires something in me, and I take it elsewhere. A lot of times, I’m just wrong, and I don’t get something. But Mr. Wazir’s demands are about narrative! From his perspective, the Goriff’s have been held in custody, their shop was “confiscated,” and this is all an assault on Klatch. And from his side of things, I get why it may seem like that, despite that Vimes is definitely not acting in opposition to the Klatchians. So, it’s understandable that he’s confused and frustrated by the exchange. However, this one bit totally blew me away:
Vimes told himself that there was no reason at all why a Klatchian couldn’t be a pompous little troublemaker. But he felt uneasy about it, like a man edging along the side of a very deep crevasse.
And what’s that crevasse? Well, I can see two interpretations here. If Vimes treats Mr. Wazir terribly, he might be acting out an unconscious prejudice towards this man because he’s Klatchian. If he’s not, then Mr. Wazir might see this as mistreatment based on who he is, too. Which, as someone who fits into multiple marginalized groups, is something I struggle with all the time! I don’t seek out situations to feel like shit, and I often question my perception when I’ve been mistreated. Is it just because the person is a jerk, or is there a deeper reason for it? You can’t ever truly know unless you ask, and in this situation, I appreciated that Vimes erred on the side of caution. He’s aware of the dynamic at hand – hence him feeling uneasy – so he just tries to push past it and treat Mr. Wazir as best as he can. I respect that because it’s not an easy thing to do, especially if a person feels insulted or offended by someone else. And I certainly would not put forth the idea that if you have institutional power over someone, that person can’t be a total asshole. We are not perfect angels just because we’re marginalized, you know?
Yet in this moment, Vimes makes a deference. It’s a subtle thing, but I liked it a lot. The same goes for this:
“I wish we understood more about Klatch,” he said.
Sergeant Colon tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially.
“Know the enemy, eh, sir?” he said.
“Oh, I know the enemy,” said Vimes. “It’s Klatchians I want to find out about.”
THANK YOU, VIMES.
This is, so far, the biggest, most surprising plot twist in the Discworld series. Part of that comes from how wrong it feels, and I realized after reading this part of Jingo that I had never been so infuriated by the actions of an antagonist in this series before. And Lord Rust counts as an antagonist in my eyes, even if he’s not the main one. In Rust, Pratchett finds a way to criticize xenophobia and racism in a rather brutal tone, and it’s made all the more chilling because he didn’t have to make any of this up. Once Lord Rust order Vimes to arrest every single Klatchian in the city, I felt sick. One does not have to look far for real-world parallels. Fuck, they’re not even parallels! My government ordered the internment of all peoples of Japanese descent during World War II. Look at what Joe Arpaio is doing in Arizona! Oh my god, LOOK AT EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN THE U.K. RIGHT NOW. (Seriously, so many of you have tweeted to me or commented on YouTube about how Jingo feels like a weird premonition for Brexit, and I’m just so, so sorry for that. I mean, we’ve got Donald Trump over here if that’s at all comforting? JUST KIDDING, IT’S NOT.)
And then Rust does something that was never even on the table for me. It’s why I was so shocked. Vimes just is the Commander of the Watch, and I cannot view him as anything else. It’s his identity. He leads those people, and that’s that. So Rust then throws Vimes under the bus by deliberately misinterpreting Vimes’s behavior, and fires him. There’s a part of me that believes Vetinari did this on purpose because he knows Vimes will react a certain way and then, as a civilian, he’ll help take care of this problem. The more I think about that, the more certain I am about it. Yet it’s not the slightest bit comforting, and it doesn’t take the sting away.
What did make me feel good, though, was to watch Carrot, Colon, and Detritus refuse to take the role of Commander. My heart swelled. I was so proud of them for standing up to Lord Rust and support Vimes in the process. Maybe it was an empty gesture to Lord Rust, but it wasn’t for me.
Just… what the fuck, y’all. WHAT HAS THIS BOOK TURNED INTO.
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