Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kipling

In my piece on Anzac Day I mentioned the poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. I've read enough on Kipling to be wary of endorsing him as a conservative. Even so, he doesn't fit well into an orthodox liberalism either. The writer Evelyn Waugh summarised Kipling's politics this way:

He was a conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defences fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.


Kipling's Jungle Books, which he began in 1892, are described by one biographer (David Gilmour, The Long Recessional, p.107) as follows:

he was not simply writing animal stories to amuse children. The tales are also fables with a moral, allegories with a message. The verses of "The Law of the Jungle," recited by the wise bear Baloo, lay down rules for the safety of individuals, families and communities. Individualism must be tempered by loyalty to the tribe - "For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack" - while survival depends on respect for the rules.


Kipling came to greatly admire the soldier and administrator Lord Roberts of Kandahar. Roberts, in his maiden speech to the House of Lords in 1905, summed up the motivation behind his long years of service with these words:

we are links in a living chain pledged to transmit intact to posterity the glorious heritage we have received from those who have gone before us in this place.


How different this sounds to the opinions of a Michael Leunig or a Tracee Hutchison, who both fall over themselves to reject the past and their own place within a living tradition.

2 comments:

  1. MARK.R SAID:
    "How different this sounds to the opinions of a Michael Leunig or a Tracee Hutchison, who both fall over themselves to reject the past and their own place within a living tradition."


    How true... Yet they still have nothing solid to replace the 'old' with - aside from just having faith that their brave new world will bear fruit.

    Well, it's been a few generations, and their tree is still producing bitter fruit.

    So, to the liberals/feminists, the question still remains.... what now?

    Bobby.N

    ReplyDelete
  2. For the Leunigs and Hutchison's of this world, the brave new world really means that they and their fellow travellors will be in charge (instead of the old Elite, such as the Queen and businessmen), and that they'll be free of all these restraints they feel sufficating, and that everything they dislike about the world will go away. It doesn't occur to them that there'll be new problems they've made - the failings of all revolutions. It also ignores the fact that they've done quite well out of this "nasty" society, and that some of the groups they make appoligies for are far less sympathetic to their concerns than the "nasty old elite" is.

    A typical rant of the completely irresponsible.

    ReplyDelete

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