Terry Pratchett’s Jingo

I posted this to Tumblr about a year and a half ago, and now I’m reposting it here because I was thinking the same things recently, and… well, I wish I wasn’t.

There’s a lot of anger in this book. It’s hard to notice, sometimes, because it’s also an incredibly funny and ridiculous book. There are a lot of jokes! But some of those jokes come to a sharp and unexpected point. That scene with Detritus and the Riot Act is hilarious; it’s got Vimes at his most dry and sarcastic and it’s got Detritus methodically picking up a man and using him to hit a bunch of other men. But it’s also got that sharp moment when one of the men claims that Klatchians have killed people, and Vimes asks “who?” and the man falters and says “…everyone knows they’ve been killing people!” and that’s such a familiar sounding phrase that it pulls you up short.

And any conversation between Fred Colon and Nobby is going to be hilarious, and there is nothing funnier than watching Nobby quietly make a fool of Fred’s casual ignorant racism. He doesn’t even have to try hard! But then: “You know we’re better’n Klatchians. Otherwise what’s the point?

There’s so much of that in this book. Little moments, that betray the frustration and anger behind the entire plotline. When I first read it, I was thirteen, and didn’t notice most of it. But I distinctly remember reading for the first time that scene between Carrot and Goriff:

“We can tell which way the wind is blowing,” said Goriff calmly.
Carrot sniffed the salt air. “It’s blowing from Klatch,” he said.
“For you, perhaps,” said Goriff.

I’ve never forgotten that. That was how I remembered Jingo after reading the entire series and going back again. There are others that hit me harder now (the “they are us” passage in particular) but this was the scene that telegraphed perfectly to me the bitterness and frustration in this conflict, in watching it, in living it.

And then Jingo gives us what we all want so badly, the whole time, watching this play out. Vimes puts his foot down. He charges in. He arrests the leaders of the opposing nations. He arrests the armies. He stops it, he ends it. And there’s still frustration, there has to be, there’s no way everything can get better overnight. But he saw how stupid the whole thing was and he made it stop. There’s anger in that, too, because it’s what the angry part of us watching the conflict wants to have happen. We want to arrest the armies. We want to arrest Lord Rust and Prince Cadram and everybody like them. We want to end it, and we get to do that alongside Vimes. If only we didn’t have to put the book down afterwards.

I need to make some space for my own anger at the end of this tirade here. Reading the tags on some of these posts, a huge number of them echo the same core sentiment: “relevant.” And it is. It’s so relevant. And I’m so angry. Because it shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t still be here, watching the pebbles bounce. We shouldn’t feel an aching familiarity in the words of a bigot declaring that “everyone knows” something completely made-up, or in a family leaving their home because the people around them are claiming it doesn’t belong to them. Why are we still here. Why is this still happening. Why is this still relevant.

I’m extremely glad to have this book, as an excellent story and excellent social commentary, to be relevant in this time. But I still wish that it wasn’t.

 

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