In the fifteenth part of Jingo, I GET ANSWERS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of classism, racism.
SO MUCH JUST HAPPENED AND I AM VERY PLEASED.
I grew up in a boostrap household, and it was an infuriating thing to experience. Like many Americans, my parents believed in the boostrap theory – the idea that if one pulls one’s self up by the bootsraps, you can succeed. It involves lots of hard work and suffering, and, above all else, you cannot ask for help. Self-determination is the key. On the surface, that might seem like a benign or inspiring idea, but it created a toxic environment in my home. The same goes for the society at large in my country. There is nothing more shameful than getting help, so that means you are justified in hating those people who do get help. It’s why there’s such a vicious hatred of those on welfare or who receive government help of any sort. If these people just helped themselves instead of depending on someone else, then they could easily succeed. I’m sure you can see how reductive and bizarre that is. The world is, point blank, just not that simple. Effort does not erase institutional barriers. Effort does not change external circumstances out of a person’s control.
And sometimes, people are just dealt a bad hand. But that wasn’t something I was allowed to talk about. It’s part of the reason my mom was so virulently racist, despite adopting two Latinx boys. She refused to let us ever use our identity to engage with the world, and often told people that we were white. She even encouraged us to do the same on official forms or whenever people asked. (Spoiler alert: we refused to do so for the most part, and by the time we got to high school, we rebelled against her any chance we got.) Why? Why would someone do something so non-sensical? Because in her mind, “relying” on your race or ethnicity for anything was a sign of weakness. You weren’t working hard on your own; you were cheating. The only thing life rewarded was hard work and suffering and nothing else.
But this manifested in other ways, too, and I felt a kinship with Les because of that. In the opening of this section, Les privately despairs at being unable to be honest with his father. He can’t be a painter. Why? Well, not only is it something that no one in his family has been, but it’s not a respected profession. But Pratchett takes it a step further by quietly showing us that Les is, ultimately, afraid to be himself with his father. And this whole culture of telling people to keep things to themselves, to never complain, to gain virtue through silent suffering, is a toxic and unsustainable disaster. I wish I had learned to vocalize my problems instead of internalizing them, like I did at a very young age. I’m lucky enough that I broke free from my parents’ expectations of me and pursued a life that I wanted. I failed a lot during that time period (which I referenced in reviews for Moving Pictures), but I had to do it.
One more thing before I move on: Pratchett’s satire is remarkably vicious in this book, and it continues to thrill me. How so?
“I mean, I started out with nothing, son, except that old boat that your grandad left me, but –“
THEN YOU DIDN’T START OUT WITH NOTHING, MOTHERFUCKER. This bogus refrain is something I heard my entire life, and practically every time I heard it, it was from someone who had PLENTY OF HELP ALONG THE WAY. It’s just a lot easier to pretend you did it all yourself, isn’t it?
Leshp is a FLOATING ISLAND. Because of a unique build-up of gasses and rock in this specific part of the Ocean, a “bubble” bursts, shooting the land to the surface, which then sinks for many, many years until the bubble grows and bursts again. This would totally explain the layering that Les witnessed, too. Each time Leshp rose from the ocean, people would build on top of the existing structure.
You realize what this means, right? In about a week, Leshp will sink into the ocean, and this goddamn war will truly be pointless. I mean, it was always pointless, but this is literally the case. There is no reason for it to exist.
As if the Leshp reveal wasn’t enough, we learn of the fate of Vimes and the watchmen. Initially, it doesn’t seem all that great. Vimes’s attempt to use the Handshake on the D’Regs’ supposed leader fails because… well, I’ll let Carrot explain it:
“As I understand it, sir, the D’regs think that any leader who is stupid enough to be defeated so easily isn’t worth following. It’s a Klatchian thing.”
Pratchett, however, takes this conflict – Ankh-Morporkians vs Klatchians – and complicates it even further. The D’regs are a subset of people within Klatch who truly exist separately from the rest of their own society. Culturally, they’re more nomadic and prone to… crime? However you would put that. But beyond that and not having centralized leaders, they are a significant force for one major reason:
They hate 71-Hour Ahmed.
It’s here that Pratchett gives us Ahmed’s full motivation for his behind-the-scenes scheming: He wants to unite all of Klatch under one banner or ruler, and that includes the tribes like the D’regs. Given what Pratchett demonstrates in the scenes prior to Vimes’s conversation with Jabber, it made perfect sense to me. Why would they submit to a centralized leader? Thus, Ahmed’s actions were a grave miscalculation. He figured that the assassination attempt on a Klatchian leader would inspire the tribes in Klatch to unite to fight a common enemy. But, as Jabber puts it:
“A man n a horse came and said we must fight the foreign dogs –“
“That’s us, sir,” said Carrot helpfully.
“–because you have stolen an island that is under the sea. What what is that to us? We know no harm of you foreign devils, but the men who oil their beards in Al’Khali we do not like. So we send him back.”
It’s not work. AHMED IS LOSING. So he’s getting increasingly desperate, isn’t he??? He’s trying to bait the D’regs into doing what he wants, but I’m guessing it’s not going to work, especially not with Vimes and the watchmen around.
THIS IS SO GREAT.
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