Thursday, May 25, 2006

Were You There?

In honor of May 25, some quotations from Terry Pratchett's Night Watch.

“Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes.”

“When there’s a kid on the way, well, suddenly a man sees it different. He thinks: my kid’s going to have to grow up in this mess. Time to clean it up. Time to make it a Better World.”

The cemetery of Small Gods was for the people who didn’t know what happened next. They didn’t know what they believed in or if there was life after death and, often, they didn’t know what hit them. They’d gone through life being amiably uncertain, until the ultimate certainty had claimed them at the last. Among the city’s bone orchards the cemetery was the equivalent of the drawer marked Misc, where people were interred in the glorious expectation of nothing very much.

Two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.

Vimes had mixed memories of Captain Tilden. He had been a military man before being given this job as a kind of pension, and that was a bad thing in a senior copper. It meant he looked to Authority for orders and obeyed them, whereas Vimes found it better to look to Authority for orders and then filter those orders through a fine mesh of common sense, adding a generous scoop of creative misunderstanding and maybe even incipient deafness if circumstances demanded, because Authority rarely descended to street level.

“Well done,” said a voice somewhere behind him. “Consciousness to sarcasm in five seconds!” [Editor’s note: I would love an icon of this.]

When you got right down to the bottom of the ladder the rungs were very close together and, oh my, weren’t the women careful about them. In their own way, they were as haughty as any duchess. You might not have much, but you could have Standards. Clothes might be cheap and old but at least they could be scrubbed. There might be nothing behind the front door worth stealing but at least the doorstep could be clean enough to eat your dinner off, if you could’ve afforded dinner. And no one ever bought their clothes from the pawn shop. You’d hit bottom when you did that. No, you bought them from Mr Sun at the shonky shop, and you never asked where he got them from.

“Y’know,” he said, “it’s very hard to talk quantum using a language originally designed to tell other monkeys where the ripe fruit is.”

The safe had still been there when he made captain, and by then everyone knew the combination was 4-4-7-8 and that no one seemed to know how to change it. The only things worth keeping in it had been the tea and sugar and anything you particularly wanted Nobby to read.

“I comma square bracket recruit’s name square bracket comma do solemnly swear by square bracket recruit’s deity of choice square bracket to uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of Ankh-Morpork comma serve the public truft comma and defend the fubjects of His ftroke Her bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket Majefty bracket name of reigning monarch bracket without fear comma favour comma or thought of perfonal fafety semi-colon to purfue evildoers and protect the innocent comma laying down my life if necefsary in the caufe of said duty comma so help me bracket aforesaid deity bracket full stop Gods Save the King stroke Queen bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket full stop.” -- Ankh-Morpork Night Watch oath

And [Lord Winder] saw plots and spies everywhere throughout his waking hours, and had men root them out, and the thing about rooting out plots and spies everywhere is that, even if there are no real plots to begin with, there are plots and spies galore very soon.

They might be very bad at it but they were coppers, and coppers did not respond well to the Happy Families approach: “Hello, chaps, call me Christopher, my door is always open, I’m sure if we all pull together we shall get along splendidly like one big happy family.” They’d seen too many families to fall for that rubbish.

What was it Vetinari had said once? “Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces”?

“And don’t you eyeball me. I’ve been eyeballed by experts, and you look as if you’re desperate for the privy.”

Sam: “Yeah, all right, but everyone knows they torture people.”
Vimes: “Then why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?’
Sam: “‘cos they torture people.”

“You’re an interesting man, sergeant. You make enemies like a craftsman.”

There was the People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road (Truth! Justice! Freedom! Reasonably priced Love! And a Hard-Boiled Egg!)

He wondered if it was at all possible to give this idiot some lessons in basic politics. That was always the dream, wasn’t it? “I wish I’d known then what I know now”? But when you got older you found out that you now wasn’t you then. You then was a twerp. You then was what you had to be to start out on the rocky road of becoming you now, and one of the rocky patches on that road was being a twerp.

We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.

Ninety per cent of most magic merely consists of knowing one extra fact.

He felt instinctively that if you were going to fondle a cat while discussing matters of intrigue, then it should be a long-haired white one. It shouldn’t be an elderly street tom with irregular bouts of flatulence.

“Winder is a madman, and that’s not good for business. His cronies are criminals, and that’s not good for business. A new Patrician will need new friends, far-sighted people who want to be part of a wonderful future. One that’s good for business. That’s how it goes. Meetings in rooms. A little diplomacy, a little give and take, a promise here, an understanding there. That’s how real revolutions happen. All that stuff in the streets is just froth...”

Madam: “The world does not deal well with those who don’t pick a side.”
Vimes: “I like the middle.”
Madam: “That gives you two enemies. I’m amazed that you can afford so many, on a sergeant’s pay.”

Coates: “What could you do, then? Arrest [Lord] Winder?”
Vimes: “Of course we can’t, but we ought to be able to. Maybe one day we will. If we can’t then the law isn’t the law, it’s just a way of keeping people down.”

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

“Death to the Fascist Oppressors, Present Company Excepted! There, is everyone happy now?”

“You’re an officer of the law, not a soldier of the government.”

“Coppers were always outnumbered, so being a copper only worked when people let it work. If they refocused and realized you were just another standard idiot with a pennyworth of metal for a badge, you could end up a smear on the pavement.

He wanted to add: you’re a cell of one, Reg. The real revolutionaries are silent men with poker-player faces and probably don’t know or care if you live or die. You’ve got the shirt and the haircut and the sash and you know all the songs, but you’re no urban guerrilla. You’re an urban dreamer. You turn over rubbish bins and scrawl on walls in the name of The People, who’d clip you round the ear if they found you doing it.

Of course, he’d be expelled from the Guild if caught wearing such clothing. He’d reasoned that this was much better than being expelled from the land of the upright and breathing. He’d rather not be cool than be cold.

When he was a boy he’d read books about great military campaigns, and visited the museums and looked with patriotic pride at the paintings of famous cavalry charges, last stands and glorious victories. It had come as rather a shock, when he later began to participate in some of these, to find that the painters had unaccountably left out the intestines.

It’s a real soldiers’ song: sentimental, with dirty bits.

People said things like “quite possibly we shall never know the truth” which meant, in Vimes’s personal lexicon, “I know, or think I know what the truth is, and hope like hell it doesn’t come out, because things are all smoothed over now.”

He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... then it was too high.

It was regrettable how many rulers of the city had been inhumed by the men in black because they didn’t recognize a chance when they saw it, didn’t know when they’d gone too far, didn’t read the signs, didn’t know when to walk away after embezzling a moderate and acceptable amount of cash. They didn’t realize it when the machine had stopped, when the world was ripe for change, when it was time, in fact, to spend more time with their family in case they ended up spending it with their ancestors.

Vetinari: “‘You know, it has often crossed my mind that those men deserve a proper memorial of some sort.”
Vimes: “Oh yes? In one of the main squares, perhaps?”
Vetinari: “Yes, that would be a good idea.”
Vimes: “Perhaps a tableau in bronze? All seven of them raising the flag, perhaps?”
Vetinari: “Bronze, yes.”
Vimes: “Really? And some sort of inspiring slogan?”
Vetinari: “Yes, indeed. Something like, perhaps, ‘They Did The Job They Had To Do’?”
Vimes: “No. How dare you? How dare you! At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn’t have to do, and they died doing it, and you can’t give them anything. Do you understand? They fought for those who’d been abandoned, they fought for one another, and they were betrayed. Men like them always are. What good would a statue be? It’d just inspire new fools to believe they’re going to be heroes. They wouldn’t want that. Just let them be. For ever.”

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