Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I don't think Kipling meant "The White Man's Burden"

For decades, now, Kipling has been spit on by literature departments as a racist, Imperialist bigot, nearly completely on the strength of one poem: "The White Man's Burden."

I think the ones who've damned Kipling as a bigot are wearing blinders. Or else they're idiots. Possibly both. No one seems to take into account Kipling's hatred of the British aristocracy--poems like "The Widow at Windsor," and "The Widow's Party" are clear indications of Kipling's anger at the upper classes that ordered the subjugation of the land where he was actually born and lived in early childhood.

I'm pretty sure that that hatred was limited to the policy makers for a few reasons: first, he wrote poetry for the common British soldier, in their dialect, and quite sympathetic to their plight (see again, "The Widow's Party," "Tommy," and "The Young British Soldier"); second, he turned down the position of Poet Laureate and several offers of knighthood. His poem "Recessional" openly prays for mercy on the people of Britain for what they've done to their colonies' inhabitants.

And all this doesn't even address how long he spent in India during his lifetime. Nor that he returned to the land of his birth (born in Bombay in 1865) when he was 17 (1882), and lost much of his anglicanization: "After these, my English years fell away, nor ever, I think, came back in full strength." (Kipling's own words, those.)

No, Kipling was British only in that he was born to British parents. In all other ways that mattered, he was Indian, and there is very little chance that he was anything other than anti-imperialist.

It's interesting and ironic that the current lefties (who are looking at those citizens of their own nations with the paternalistic eyes of the British Imperialist aristocracy) hate Kipling for writing the poems that explain why their dreams of imposing on us for our own good will fail.

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