In the second half of the third chapter of Going Postal, Vetinari makes a confrontation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For brief mention of transphobia, fatphobia
I’m used to there being much more ambiguity and mystery in the opening parts of a Discworld book, so I’m super fascinated by how the structure is slightly different here. The second half of this chapter introduces the major antagonist, Reacher Gilt, and makes much of his motivation clear to the reader. Not only that, but the mystery of the person in the clacks tower is solved, too, which makes me worry:
If I’m being told all of this upfront, then what the hell does Pratchett have waiting for me?
So, let’s talk about what just happened, because this is such an odd (but rewarding) choice for a theme in a book. It adds some necessary context to Vetinari’s choice to revive the Post Office: it’s because he’s at war with the predatory company that now owns the major clacks tower in Ankh-Morpork, the Grand Trunk. And that ownership has begat a story that many of us probably recognize: rich people buy up something through shady means (that are still legal, unfortunately), and then use that thing to make themselves more money. This happens in housing; utilities; property development; I COULD KEEP GOING. I literally had what is described here happen to me when I lived in a neighborhood whose Internet services were bought out by Time Warner, who then ruined the fantastic service, made it run slower, then charged exorbitant prices to access what was previous the baseline for service. Actually, now I think about it, the same thing happened to my insurance plan once Obamacare got passed. Almost overnight, my plan suddenly wasn’t “compatible” with the law, and they had a “comparable plan” that had literally none of the same benefits and was a shitty, shitty option that had such a high deductible that it was more expensive to pay for insurance every month. The exact plan I had before that the same company had provided for a year?
Three times the price.
This has to be the “allegations” that Vetinari refers to when talking to Drumknott. There’s no hard evidence of what these men have done, but this is also Vetinari we’re talking about. He knows shit, and it’s pretty much impossible to get anything by him. So he toys with these men, manipulating them with clever slips of the papers he is holding, or by telling the truth within a hypothetical to let those who are smart enough pick up on the fact that he knows exactly what’s going on. And he starts with his dissection of the Agatean Wall, the bullshit excuse that Mr. Slant gives as to why these men, who all work for different companies and should be competing with one another, are somehow working together. And I gotta say: these men talk so believably. Their dialogue is so littered with bullshit and half-truths, but it came off as so real, you know! This is how people like this really talk, particularly when you look at Slant’s defense of Mr. Dearheart’s death. (Clearly, that is Adora’s brother, right???) He speaks about Mr. Dearheart in a passive tone, as if it just couldn’t be helped, because these things happen, and clearly, there’s no evidence, and why are you being so offensive to these honorable, respectable men?
It’s just a veneer of honor, of course, because these people don’t care about honor. They cheated the inventors out of their invention, used legal means to steal the patents, took control of the Grand Trunk, and then used more bullshit excuses to milk money out of it all.
There’s a practical reason, then, why Vetinari wants to revitalize the postal system. Messages sent via the clacks are now taking much, much longer than usual, and the city has become dependent on them. They need a different means of communication, and since the post office is a public, governmental agency, it’s not like these men can buy it out from under Ankh-Morpork. (Which is something our current Republicans basically want to happen; and if our postal service, which is nearly in ruins thanks to Republican interference, is privatized, it’s going to be a disaster to mail anything here.) But I’m curious if there’s another angle I haven’t seen yet. Reacher Gilt, for example, is clearly on to Vetinari, and I sense a battle of wills is inevitable. He’s very open about the fact that he’s gonna do exactly what he wants because the city depends on him.
Okay, but for how long? How long until this isn’t sustainable anymore? Because y’all, there’s no way these men aren’t gonna go after Moist, too. If the Postal Service poses any threat at all, they’ll try to take it out. So… this is gonna be a big mess, isn’t it?
Lastly, I wanted to just bring this up less so that I could talk about it and more to facilitate a conversation in the community. I felt really weird about the way the text spoke of Crispin Horsefry. The description of his body (and then the footnote that invokes a “transvestite”) both felt so tonally different than everything else, so I’m curious if this rang as a bit cruel to others.
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