Regarding Pratchett

A couple of excerpts from Night Watch that resonated with me:

Swing, though, started in the wrong place. He didn’t look around, and watch, and learn, and then say “This is how people are, how do we deal with it?” No, he sat and thought “This is how people ought to be, how do we change them?” And that was a good enough thought for a priest but not for a copper, because Swing’s patient, pedantic way had turned policing on its head.

There had been that Weapons Law, for a start. Weapons were involved in so many crimes that, Swing reasoned, reducing the number of weapons had to reduce the crime rate.

Vimes wondered if he’d sat up in bed in the middle of the night and hugged himself when he’d dreamed that one up. Confiscate all weapons, and crime would go down. It made sense. It would have worked too, if only there had been enough coppers — say, three per citizen.

Amazingly, quite a few weapons were handed in. The flaw, though, was one that somehow managed escape Swing, and it was this: criminals don’t obey the law. It’s more or less a requirement for the job. They had no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone but themselves. And they couldn’t believe what was happening.

And then, one after another, horrible things would happen. By then it was too late for them not to. The tension would unwind like a spring, scything through the city.

There were plotters, there was no doubt about it. Some had been ordinary people who’d had enough. Some were young people with no money who objected to the fact that the world was run by old people who were rich. Some were in it to get girls. And some had been idiots as mad as Swing, with a view of the world just as rigid and unreal, who were on the side of what they called “The People.” Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who’d steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he’d never met The People.

People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so, the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.

As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.

The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road lacked all the big, important buildings in the city, the ones that traditional rebels were supposed to take. It had no government buildings, no banks, and very few temples. It was almost completely bereft of important civic architecture.

All it had was the unimportant stuff. It had the entire slaughterhouse district, and the butter market, and the cheese market. It had the tobacco factors, and the candlemakers, and most of the fruit and vegetable warehouses, and the grain and flour stores. This meant that while the Republicans were being starved of important things like government, banking services, and salvation, they were self-sufficient in terms of humdrum, everyday things like food and drink.

People are content to wait a long time for salvation, but prefer dinner to turn up inside an hour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *