Discworld Vimes The theory of boots used to highlight poverty in the UK


Ankh-Morpork City Guard, as they appear on the cover of Men at Arms

Not every day Discworld becomes part of the national conversation on economic justice.
Picture: Josh Kirby / Gollancz

Terry Pratchettworks in Discworld he may have thrown us into the magical world of animated baggage and daring sorcery, but his insightful, often furious view of class dynamics and social injustice is what made him so highly durable series. Now it gives part of that outrage to highlight a new campaign against poverty in the UK.

This week, the estate of Pratchett and Pratchett’s daughter, author Rhianna Pratchett, supported a new campaign by food writer and anti-poverty activist Jack Monroe. Such as Guard reports, the Pratchett family’s link is on behalf of Monroe’s new price index, the Vimes Boot Index, which aims to provide a third-party alternative to the consumer price index provided by the UK National Bureau of Statistics, showing the impact of inflation on consumer goods and services. the profound impact that inflation has had on low-income families and the range of values ​​of food and other basic goods in supermarkets.

“It was announced last week that the CPI is measuring inflation rose to 5.4% in December, the highest level in almost 30 years, ”Monroe wrote in Guardian earlier this week, announcing his new campaign. “CPI and Retail Price Index (RPI) are used interchangeably to document rising food and household price levels across the UK. However, they only tell a part of the story about inflation and greatly underestimate the real crisis of the cost of living. ” The campaign has already received a response from the Office for National Statistics, but has become even more prominent thanks to Monroe’s unorthodox choice of name for the index.

Inspired by an excerpt from Pratchett ‘s 1993 novel People in arms, others in Discworld series that follows the magical city of Ankh-Morpork City Guard from the perspective of its commander, Captain Sam Vimes, the Vimes Boot Index is named after what Pratchett described as the “Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic injustice.”

“The reason the rich were so rich, Vimes concluded, was that they managed to spend less money,” a passage from People in arms partially reads, and yesterday tweeted Terry Pratchett’s former Twitter account in its entirety to support the Boots index. “Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus benefits. A really good pair of leather boots costs fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were kind of OK for a season or two, and then leaked like hell when the cardboard broke, cost about ten bucks. These were boots that Vimes always bought and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell by the cobblestone feel where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night. But the thing was, good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that would keep his feet dry for ten years, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots at the same time would spend a hundred dollars on boots and he would still have wet feet. ”

Monroe drew parallels with an explanation of a famous passage on how low-income families in the UK saw supermarkets noticeably increase prices on “budget” food and commodity lines (the Monroe example). used cited an increase of over 300% per bag of rice in one store last year, while halving the amount of rice in the bag) as the country faces continued economic effects of Brexit, the covid-19 pandemic and general supply chain problems. With these lines, aimed at low-income households, or with price increases or replaced by a more expensive range of brands, struggling families are forced to turn to charities and food banks to survive, with more than a decade of declining social support programs by British series of Cconservative governments, including the current cabinet of Boris Johnson, who is currently quite busy trying to hide a long line embarrassing, potentially illegal social gatherings of prime ministers during quarantine due to covid-19.

“Vimes’ thinking about how expensive it is to be poor because of the price of boots was a harsh assessment of socio-economic injustice. And the one that is too relevant today, where our most vulnerable so often bear the burden of austerity measures and are rejected from protection and empathy, ”Rhianna Pratchett said in a statement to the Guardian. “Even though we don’t have Vimes anymore, we have Jack and Dad would be proud to use his work that way.”

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