Thursday, October 27, 2016
It would do the world a bit of good, I think, if we all paused for a moment to read Terry Pratchett’s “Snuff.”
Because we live in a world now where decades of war on two continents are pushing an unprecedented wave of humanity looking for a safer place to live.
Because we have leaders, both with the small l and the capital L, who prefer to do nothing in the face of ugliness.
Because we, as a race of humans, are more prone to coming to those who will act, hat in hand, and play little scenes like this:
Mr. Hasty looked around at his fellows, and got that mixed assortment of waves and hoarse whispers that adds up to “Get on with it!” Reluctantly he turned back to Vimes, cleared his throat, and said, “Well, sir, yes of course we know about the goblins and no one liked it much. I mean they’re a bloody nuisance if you forget to lock your chicken coop and suchlike, but we didn’t like what was done, because it wasn’t . . . I mean, wasn’t right, not done like that , and some of us said we would suffer for it, come the finish, because if they could do that to goblins then what might they think they could do to real people, and some said real or not, it wasn’t right! We’re just ordinary people, sir tenants and similar, not big, not strong, not important, so who would listen to the likes of us? I mean, what could we have done?”
Heads leaned a little forward, breaths were held, and Vimes chewed the very last vinegary piece of crisp. Then he said, directing his gaze to the ceiling, “You’ve all got weapons. Every man jack of you. Huge, dangerous, deadly weapons, You could have done something. You could have done anything. You could have done everything. But you didn’t, and I’m not sure but that in your shoed, I might have done anything either. Yes?”
Hasty had held up a hand. “I’m sure we’re sorry, sir, but we don’t have weapons.”
“Oh, dear me. Look around. One of the things that you could have done was think. It’s been a long day, gentlemen, it’s been a long week. Just remember, that’s all. Remember for next time.”
Pratchett, in his quiet way, just indicted a planet, folks.
Because we’re all like this. Even those who self-appoint themselves as Vimes. Because Vimes himself only paid attention to the plight of the goblins because he was forced to. By Lord Havelock Vetinari. And before you say, ah, there’s the ray of sunshine set to redeem the planet, remember Vetinari himself would laugh and retort, “Tyrant, remember?” And save his coolest anger for a certain pet shop owner in Pellicool Steps who compiles the nastiest crossword puzzles that ever tormented mankind.
Oh there are many working to help the goblins of our world, in government, in churches, in private groups and public organizations.
But the majority of us—myself included – resemble Mr. Hasty. Recognizing the wrong that has sent more than three thousand souls into the netherworld, drowning in the Mediterranean, because we have no weapons, sir, even if we’re sorry we don’t.
Because they’ll get along without us.
Someone else will fix things.
I mean, they’re bound to. Can’t ignore it. It’s not human to ignore it.
“I’m sure we’re sorry, sir, but we don’t have weapons.” That’s us. We all say it. Or we give a little money, and say that’s our weapon.
It’s the something. That’s better than nothing, to be sure.
But Vimes – and our God, if we claim to be Christian – tells us we can do everything.
What am I doing, casting stones? I’m doing what you are, which is practically nothing. Other than reading a book and writing about it on a blog nobody will read.
I might have written a letter to my congressman. I forget.
And – as another author would put it: And so it goes.