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June 18, 2002

The Burden

Supposedly everything changed on September 11th. America was awakened, we unleashed the terrible swift sword, Osama will be caught, dead or alive, state supported terrorism will be brought to an end, yadda yadda yadda. The problem is that nothing concrete has really changed. There’s an eerie feeling of Sitzkreig in the air. Yes, airline security personnel are taking your tweezers, but does anyone think that makes a flight any safer? The Taliban is gone from Afghanistan, but the poison they represented keeps chugging right along. We have a pre-emptive strike policy, but no post strike policy, other than to get out as quickly as possible. No one offers a logical blueprint for what the future should hold. There are no goals set for 10 years or even one year down the road, not to mention roadmaps on how to get there. Yes, America is a hyperpower, with a military, culture and economy second to none, and comparable to nothing in history before us. BFD. We were all that before September 11th. We were all that the September 11th before that, and the September 11th ten years before. And what good has it done us? Well, we’ve got nice houses, and fast cars, smooth putting greens and widely available internet porn. Does any of that make you feel safer? How do you feel about a trip to the Pyramids this year? Gonna take your daughter and wear your WWJD t-shirt when you ride out there on the camel?

With great power comes great responsibility, and just because Spiderman said it first doesn’t make it any less true. America’s troubles, like Peter Parker’s, can be traced to our attempts at dodging that responsibility. Without fail, we’ve been a nation that, once a war has been won, turns inwards. The noble excuse is that we’ve had had George Washington’s “no entangling alliances” bred into our very souls. The other excuse, and the one that most of the world believes, is that we’re self-centered, navel-gazing party girls. And, since the end of World War I, that has come back to bite us in the ass several times. The truth is, for 100 years we’ve been an empire, and have strenuously denied it the entire time. It’s time to accept that fact, and act like one, rather than stumbling about like the idiot savant giant we’ve been for the past century. We’re fortunate in that there is already advice on what the Pax Americana should be, inspired by the purest of motives, from the high water mark of the previous western empire. It's time for America to finally answer Rudyard Kipling's call, and take up The White Man's Burden.

I’ll give you a second to finish cursing at me.

Kipling's biggest failure in The White Man's Burden is the title’s specificity. Had he entitled it something along the lines of "The Burden of the West", the phrase might not have attracted as many sneering put downs and violent condemnations as it has throughout the years. Had he the sense to entitle it "The Radical Lesbian Feminist’s Burden" or "The Lefty Linguist's Burden" we might even now be strolling through Riyadh's Sahara Mall in our short-shorts and Nascar bimbo T-shirts, sipping pina coladas and munching on pork loin sandwiches sold to us by the humble Saudi proprietors. Rudyard’s been trashed by the left as an imperial racist since the publication of the poem and trashed by the right for daring to ask America to involve itself in overseas entanglements. The right at least has a case, because that’s exactly what Kipling was doing. The left? Not so much.

The word “white” in the poem, rather than representing your standard Anglo-Saxon Caucasian, is meant to convey a purity of spirit. Of course, aside from characters such as Gunga-Din, most of the people in Kipling’s world with this purity of spirit were your standard Anglo-Saxon Caucasians. Yes, it’s racist, but it’s from a racist time, when respect for human rights, freedom of religion, and freedom of movement, were seen only in the nations founded by white men. Yet, like a lily sprouting from manure, the poem is profoundly idealistic.

“…it was the responsibility of the richest and most civilized nations to help the poorest, not for reasons of vanity or self-aggrandizement, but because it was their duty to keep the peace, to bring justice and education, to protect minorities, to prevent people from dying of disease and starvation. Their officials would not be thanked, and their work might not endure, but it was their duty to try, to do their best to alleviate suffering where they found it.” p.130 The Long Recessional – David Gilmour.

The other standard argument is that the poem sees the non-white people in the world as violent children, in need of a firm parental hand.

“Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.”

And yes it’s offensive, and yes, it’s untrue. But not wholly untrue. There are children in the world today in need of a firm parental hand. I’ll give you a clue, they have a lot of oil, and they live in the desert. Like many a spoiled brat, they have too much money and waste most of it. There are some decent kids, Oman, maybe Qatar, but most of the Arab world has been given all the tools, privileges and wealth that Western Society can provide without having done dick to earn them. You may as well give guns, liquor and driver's licenses to 13 year olds. You’ll get similar results. September 11th was the international equivalent of Columbine, and the US was the absent parent. And you know what? It’s time somebody got a goddamn spanking. And after that spanking, there needs to be some loss of privileges and an indefinite grounding.

But, like many spoiled brats, you cannot trust Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq to behave unless you are on top of them all the time, telling them what to do, showing them what to do. You take care of the three troublemakers, and the other kids (Egypt, Iran, Libya) will likely fall in line. Once again, we’ve got an example to follow, one that created the world’s most populous democracy. It’s time for an American Raj.

I figure it’ll take 75 years, or less than a third of the time the British were in India. Three generations taught and ruled by Americans rather than a corrupt religious oligarchy will bring an explosion of art, wealth and learning to the Arabian peninsula that hasn’t been seen in 600 years. The best way to prevent another 9/11 is to make sure that the next Arab generation grows up memorizing the Constitution in a public school instead of the Koran in a madrassa. This is no longer only the white man's burden. The burden belongs to those who have benefited the most from the civilization built by the racist white men of the 19th century, to those who would suffer the most under the New Caliphate Osama dreamed of.

It’s the black woman’s burden.
It’s the Jewish burden.
It’s the homosexual’s burden.
It’s the feminist’s burden.
It’s your burden.

Posted by Bigwig at June 18, 2002 12:24 AM | TrackBack
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