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Kim ()

Nobel Prize Winners

If the nattering class could expunge just one dead white male from the Western Canon, Rudyard Kipling would surely be the unanimous choice.  To the Left, he is the poet laureate of racism.

We can see much of why they so dislike him, and also the degree to which they misunderstand him, in the poem The White Man's Burden (1899):

Take up the White Man's burden--
     Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
   On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
   Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
    In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
    And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
   An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
    And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
    The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
    And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
    (The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
    Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
    No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
    The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
    The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
    And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man's burden,
   And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
    The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--

"Why brought ye us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?"
Take up the White Man's burden--
    Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
    To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
    By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
    Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
   Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
   The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
   Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
   The judgment of your peers.

Not exactly politically correct is it?

But there are three important factors that are overlooked.  First, while the Left argues that the sole motivation for Imperialism was exploitation, Kipling, the bard of the colonizers, didn't believe that the colonial powers would reap tremendous benefits.  Rather, he saw Imperialism as a burden that the White man was morally obligated to undertake, for the good of the colonized.   "To seek another's profit  And work another's gain"

Second, Kipling did not argue that the indigenous people's were hopeless or  undeserving of the West's help.  Nor did he seem particularly troubled by the fact that the help would be unappreciated.  Instead, he described them as children, needing our help whether they would recognize it or not.

Now, I readily acknowledge that folks looking back from a modern perspective would find Kipling's patronizing philosophy to be objectionable.  But I think it's pretty much intellectually dishonest to say (even in this poem which was one of his most inflammatory works) that Kipling's motivations or attitudes were evil.  Why is it so hard to concede that Kipling and Christian missionaries and the like, were just as committed to bettering the lot of native people's as Hillary Clinton or the UN are now?  If you read a hateful caricature of the missionaries like The Poisonwood Bible (see review), you come away with the absurd view that the religious folk were selfish & malevolent, as opposed to the truly good UN workers and Peace Corps types.   This is little more than misguided generational chauvanism or, considering the success of Ms Kingsolver's venomous tome, well-guided agitprop.

Finally, the most important factor that gets overlooked is, was he right or wrong?  I would argue that the post-Colonial period has seen former Colonies trace a long & tortuous path from reaction against the West and Western values to eager embrace of those values (Protestantism, Capitalism, Democracy) as the only effective basis for a productive society. Essentially we are living in a period of cultural colonialism as long reviled Western values and institutions are being readily accepted by former colonies--witness Hong Kong, Singapore, etc..  As it turns out, Kipling was right, but it took a 50 year spasm of misery and violence for the colonized to realize it.

All this brings us to our review.  Kipling's metier were the short story and the poem, but he did write several novels.  The best, i.e. most textured, of these was Kim.  Herein he tells the story of  Kimball O'Hara, a street urchin of Lahore, who unbeknownst to the people of the city is an Anglo; the orphan son of an Irish colour-sergeant and a nursemaid in a colonel's family.  His only inheritance from his father is the assurance that one day nine hundred first-class devils whose god is a Red Bull on a Green Field will come for him.  Meanwhile, Kim meets a Tibetian Lama in search of a mystic River and fearful that the innocent cleric will be victimized on his travels, Kim becomes his acolyte.  On their travels, they meet up with the Red Bull; it is the Regimental flag of his father's unit.  Colonel Creighton quickly realizes Kim's potential as a player in the Great Game (espionage) and determines to send him to school.  The Lama acquiesces but insists on paying for the schooling.  Ultimately, Kim rejoins his beloved Lama, while also undertaking a mission for the Secret Service.  He succeeeds gloriously in his mission and the Lama finds his River, but Kim is torn between these two worlds, the spiritual and the political.

As you can see, this is hardly the racist tract that you were expecting. Kipling's love for India and it's people is apparent on every page.  And, surely, Kim's ambivalence, about the choice of the Western political world versus the Eastern mystic world, reflected Kipling's own.  What emerges here is a man who fully understood what colony and colonizer had to offer one another, hardly the hackneyed caricature that his critics denounce.


Grade: (A)


Rudyard Kipling Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Rudyard Kipling
    -The Kipling Society
    -ENTRY: Rudyard Kipling (Poetry Foundation)
    -POEM: If (Rudyard Kipling)
-Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)(kirjasto)
    -Kipling Society homepage
    -The Nobel Prize in Literature 1907 (Official Site)
    -Rudyard Kipling Winner of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature (Nobel Prize Internet Archive)
    -Rudyard Kipling: An Overview (Victorian Web)
    -AITLC  Guide to   Rudyard Kipling (The ACCESS INDIANA Teaching & Learning Center)
    -BIO: Kipling: a Brief Biography  (David Cody, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick College, Victorian Web)
    -Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)(Ben Freer)
    -Rudyard Kipling (Spartacus)
    -Rudyard Kipling
    -Rudyard Kipling and Scouting
    -ETEXT: The Jungle Books (Project Gutenberg)
    -ANNOTATED ETEXT: The Jungle Book (Self Knowledge)
    -ETEXTS: Rudyard Kipling (Project Gutenberg)
    -ETEXTS: Links to Etexts of (Joseph) Rudyard Kipling (Mumbai/Bombay)
-ESSAY: HOW RUDYARD KIPLING'S 'KIM' HELPED CREATE MODERN ESPIONAGE: Kipling's tale of imperial adventure whipped Britain into a frenzy for spies. Soon, a new agency was created. (HUGH WILFORD, 6/13/24, CrimeReads0
    -ARTICLE: Marlboro Journal; 1892 Bank Box Opens A Lid on Kipling's Past  (FOX BUTTERFIELD, The New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Rudyard Kipling &  the god of things as they are  (John Derbyshire, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Diamonds are forever? Kipling's imperialism (Denis Judd, History Today)
    -ESSAY: Summary of the Mowgli Stories
    -ESSAY: Rudyard Kipling and Tacoma (Tacoma Public Library)
    -ESSAY: Kipling and Freemasonry (Grand Lodge Webmaster, Grand Lodge of British Columbia)
    -REVIEW: of THE JUNGLE BOOK By Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated by  Michael Foreman GUNGA DIN By Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Jonathan Cott, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: John Bayley: Paleface, NY Review of Books
        Rudyard Kipling and His World by Kingsley Amis
        Kipling: The Glass, the Shadow and the Fire by Philip Mason
    -REVIEW: V.S. Pritchett: A Gentle-Violent Man, NY Review of Books
        The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works by Angus Wilson
    -REVIEW: V. S. Pritchett: Contradictory Kipling, NY Review of Books
        Rudyard Kipling by Lord Birkenhead
    -REVIEW: of QUEST FOR KIM By Peter Hopkirk (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, NY times)

    -BUY IT: The Jungle Book (1967)(
    -Review of RUDYARD KIPLING'S THE JUNGLE BOOK 1994 (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

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