Monday, May 18, 2009

I'd not read any of Terry Pratchett's work before

Night Watch, but I'm going to have to look up more of his work. One of the reasons is things like this Watchman ruminating on his situation:
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 of operating 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 had somehow managed to 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 except themselves. And they couldn’t believe what was happening. It was like Hogswatch every day.

Some citizens took the not-unreasonable view that something had gone a bit askew if only naughty people were carrying arms. And they got arrested in large numbers. The average copper, when he’d been kicked in the nadgers once too often and has reason to believe that his bosses don’t much care, has an understandable tendency to prefer to arrest those people who won’t instantly try to stab him, especially if they act a bit snotty and wear more expensive clothes than he personally can afford. The rate of arrests shot right up, and Swing had been very pleased about that.

Admittedly, most of the arrests had been for possessing weaponry after dark, but quite a few had been for assaults on the Watch by irate citizens. That was Assault On A City Official, a very important and despicable crime, and, as such, far more important than all these thefts that were going on everywhere.

It wasn’t that the city was lawless. It has plenty of laws. It just didn’t offer many opportunities not to break them. Swing didn’t seem to have grasped the idea that the system was supposed to take criminals and, in some rough-and-ready fashion, force them into becoming honest men. Instead, he’d taken honest men and turned them into criminals. And the Watch, by and large, into just another gang.
Damn, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?


Home on the Range said...

Ahh - another Pratchett convert. You'll find quotes throughout my blog, the works is just too good not to reference, especially now.

Anonymous said...

Start with Colour of Magic. Don't stop until you've read every last one of his books.

Sigivald said...

Pratchett's social analysis is top-notch, above and beyond his ability to tell a good and convincing story.

James R. Rummel said...

Pratchett is a very prolific author, and he is shockingly pro-liberty for a Brit. But be cautious.....

LibertyNews suggested that you "Start with Colour of Magic. Don't stop until you've read every last one of his books." The problem is that not all of his books are equal.

I really, really enjoy the books that feature the Night Watch, and routinely suggest them to any friend of mine in law enforcement. Pratchett captures what it is to be a cop perfectly. I have no idea how he does it, since he has never been one himself.

But most of his other books don't mention cops. Or liberty. Or anything near what the passage you quoted encapsulates. They are very clever, and certainly worth reading, but you will be disappointed of you are expecting more of the same.


Keith said...

Damn, I must have missed that book!
A (n ex for many years now) girlfriend introduced me to Pratchett about 15 years ago. Current SWMBO hates him with a passion.

I'd certainly recommend "jingo", "the fifth elephant" and I think it was "guards, guards".

The witches books are all good too (well, maby not so much "equal rites")

Also try Rowling's "harry potter and the order of the phoenix", It has the kids deciding that with the authorities not only failing to protect them, but also preventing them from learning self defence, to clandestinely teach themselves self defence.

Poor Pratchet has now been diagnosed with the early stages of alzheimers, a great shame.

I heard him interviewed on the radio years ago:

Interviewer: "Your day job used to be press officer for several nuclear power stations, how did you think up such weirdness with such a serious and responsible day job"

Pratchet: "If you think nuclear power has any connection to reality, think again"


Firehand said...

I've read Order of the Phoenix, not bad at all. Really ticked off the authorities when they did, didn't it?

Now that you mention it, I remember my daughter mentioning his condition; damned shame.