In the second half of the eleventh chapter of Going Postal, Gilt manipulates the board and the head engineer, and Moist reacts to the bullshit. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I’ve said this in numerous iterations, but as I approach the final chapters of Going Postal, I truly feel like this book is on the pulse of something in a way others have not been. There’s a tragedy in that, of course, given that it would be great if the social commentary in this book wasn’t relatable or relevant. And I don’t want to ignore that Pratchett had long been including social commentary in his works; there have been so many thematic stories told up to this point that are also firmly on the pulse of important issues.
But the specificity and deliberate nature of the events in Going Postal make this book so much more fulfilling because of their inclusion. I’m just now reckoning with the fact that Moist HAD to be a con man. If he wasn’t, Pratchett would not have been been able to make the cutting and much-needed comparisons he does here. Moist is able to recognize exactly what Gilt is doing because he has done the same things himself. Thus, we get characters who are cut from the same cloth—I still keep thinking about that incredible scene at the fancy restaurant when they both realized who they were—but one of them is now actively choosing not to be a terrible person who takes advantage of others. But this contrast is not a simple, one-layered thing. Even in the approach to their problems, Gilt and Moist react differently. Because it’s not lost on me that both of these men are dealing with public utilities of a sorts, and both systems are run down, broken, or overused. We’ve seen in great detail how Moist dealt with the post office. But what does Gilt do with the clacks system?
Well, it’s obviously been a disaster, but even in this chapter alone, he continues to drive it all into the ground with the explicit urge to make more money from it all. He insults his board to their faces—which they lap up because they are greedy, foolish men—and then devises the means by which he will spend the least amount of money in order to wring more of it out of the system for himself. Now, I have no sympathy for the terrible board members at all. Let Gilt manipulate them. As Gilt notes to Igor, they’re adults who know he’s a terrible person. And that’s fascinating from a craft perspective because Pratchett has written an antagonist who is fully aware they’re the villain, and they don’t care! But when it comes to the others propping up Gilt and this theft of public service, I could not give a single fuck about them or their fate.
But lord, did I ever feel sorry for Mr. Pony. I imagine that there are a lot of you out there who have been bullied into positions much like Mr. Pony was here. I feel sympathy for him because I know what it’s like to feel like you have to put aside your own morals or standards because you’re afraid of losing a job you need. Most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to throw a job in someone’s face, you know? It’s clear that Mr. Pony cares deeply about what he does and about those who work for him. His suggestions are necessary, and they’re well-informed. (I also constantly had flashes to the larger discussion we’re having here in New York City regarding the MTA. IT’S TOO FUCKING REAL.) And yet, Gilt manipulates him: he gives Mr. Pony a (much-needed) raise. And then he tries to make it sound like the board was only able to give him $25K for repairs—a complete lie!!—and that he himself, out of the goodness of his heart and because he respected Mr. Pony so much, was able to raise that to $50K. The whole thing is so gross, and I felt deeply sorry for Mr. Pony, who was forced into a shitty and dangerous situation and is going to have to make the best out of the worst.
Which is why I completely understood Moist’s reaction to it all. Especially the swearing. DEFINITELY THAT PART. Moist is a con man, and he has done some terrible things throughout his life. This chapter details one of those moments, too! He discovers that he forged checks at a bank that Miss Dearheart used to work at, and she got fired because of it. So we have a different approach to con men meeting their victims, too. Gilt wants to further manipulate them, and there is no remorse on his part. Moist, however, feels an intense guilt and shame, though it’s important to note that Pratchett makes it clear that this character has, for most of his life, simply never met one of his victims. He was never faced with the consequences of his actions.
I’m interested to see if Moist will tell Miss Dearheart the truth. I feel like he needs to, especially if he’s going to continue attempting some sort of relationship with her. In the meantime, though, I’m so into this escalating war. What the hell is Moist going to do in less than ninety minutes to issue the next challenge to Gilt? And is he going after Gilt not just because it’s right, but because Moist knows from experience that people like him always get away with it?
Mark Links Stuff