The Patrician steepled his hands and looked at Vimes over the top of them.
'Let me give you some advice, Captain,' he said.
'It may help you make some sense of the world.'
'I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,' said the man. 'You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.'
He waved his thin hand towards the city and walked over to the window.
'A great rolling sea of evil,' he said, almost proprietorially. 'Shallower in some places, of course, but deeper, oh, so much deeper in others. But people like you put together little rafts of rules and vaguely good intentions and say, this is the opposite, this will triumph in the end. Amazing!' He slapped Vimes good-naturedly on the back.
'Down there,' he said, 'are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don't say no. I'm sorry if this offends you,' he added, patting the captain's shoulder, 'but you fellows really need us.'
'Yes, sir?' said Vimes quietly.
'Oh, yes. We're the only ones who know how to make things work. You see, the only thing the good people are good at is overthrowing the bad people. And you're good at that, I'll grant you. But the trouble is that it's the only thing you're good at. One day it's the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it's everyone sitting around complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no-one's been taking out the trash. Because the bad people know how to plan. It's part of the specification, you might say. Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world. The good people don't seem to have the knack.'
'Maybe. But you're wrong about the rest!' said Vimes. 'It's just because people are afraid, and alone—' He paused. It sounded pretty hollow, even to him.
He shrugged. 'They're just people,' he said. 'They're just doing what people do. Sir.'
Lord Vetinari gave him a friendly smile.
'Of course, of course,' he said. 'You have to believe that, I appreciate. Otherwise you'd go quite mad. Otherwise you'd think you're standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of Hell. Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death. I quite understand.' He looked at his desk, and sighed. 'And now,' he said, 'there is such a lot to do. You may go.'
Vimes paused at the door.
'Do you believe all that, sir?' he said. 'About the endless evil and the sheer blackness?'
'Indeed, indeed,' said the Patrician, turning over the page. 'It is the only logical conclusion.'
'But you get out of bed every morning, sir?'
'Hmm? Yes? What is your point?'
'I'd just like to know why, sir.'
'Oh, do go away, Vimes. There's a good fellow.'
-- Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!