Mark Reads ‘Night Watch’: Part 11

In the eleventh part of Night Watch, Vimes manipulates a member of Cable Street, but then is taken in surprising character. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Trigger Warning: For discussion of police brutality.

You know, I’m admitting that I got a form of enjoyment out of the trick that Vimes and his men pull on Ferret. There’s a reason that it works so well, y’all. The entire situation is designed to manipulate Ferret into telling the truth, and the ironic thing is that Ferret should know better. Why?

Because it’s the exact same technique that Ferret and his men use on their prisoners.

And thus, there’s an element to this that I love. It’s a form of revenge, at least for people like myself who have been victim to police brutality, who have experience law enforcement officers exploiting their power and harming others. You know, I experienced a lot of shame in the years after my major interactions with the police because I felt so terrible that I did not do something to fight back or stand up for myself. In the face of such an terrifying experience, I cowered. I wasn’t the fiery, take-no-shit person I normally was. I became so frozen and so fearful that I did exactly as I was told. In one of those interactions, I even confessed to something I absolutely had not done, and it was because the threat of being arrested and jailed felt so real to me.

I’ve been through therapy for a lot of this, and I know where that shame came from. Look, you think that when the time comes, you’ll make the best decision. You’ll fight your oppressors. You’ll say something snappy and meaningful and powerful—

And then you don’t.

Now, Night Watch is from the perspective of all these agents of the state, so we’re not getting a point-of-view from the victims of Cable Street. I’m not sure that would fit into this narrative anyway, but for a moment, we at least get to see one of these men subjected to the same brutality that he subjected other people to. We get to watch Ferret cower in terror, then spill forth all the secrets of Cable Street’s horrific system of violence and spite:

“As you said in your statement… what was it, Fred? Something about just obeying orders? All that stuff about mixing with the mobs and throwing things at coppers and soldiers, you didn’t want to do that, I know. You didn’t like being round in Cable Street watching people being beaten up and being told what to confess to, ‘cos it’s plain to me that you’re not that sort.”

What Pratchett writes here isn’t fiction. I drew from a long history of corruption within American law enforcement for Anger Is a Gift, and that’s even the case when it was a science fiction book with a different name. These things are real techniques used by law enforcement officials around the world to maintain order, to guarantee that people never break from a prescribed existence, and to keep those in power exactly where they are.

And really, I’d say all of the 11th part of this book deals with power. Madam Meserole wants power herself, but Night Watch presents an interesting conundrum. Before Lord Vetinari becomes the Patrician, Ankh-Morpork suffers through the leadership of Lord Snapcase. Is that how history has to happen? Vimes keeps warning people about Snapcase, but… should he be? Does Ankh-Morpork maintain the same arc of history without him?

I don’t actually know! I have no clue what Vimes should do in this instance. I get the feeling that he’s going to keep himself as uninvolved in the choice for Patrician because he wants to focus on the Watch and becoming Keel. But what if he can’t avoid that?


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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