Read The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling Free Online
Book Title: The Man Who Would Be King|
The author of the book: Rudyard Kipling
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 393 KB
Edition: Heraklion Press
Date of issue: August 4th 2013
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Read full description of the books The Man Who Would Be King:I must admit I find the modern backlash against colonialism to be somewhat ridiculous; as if colonialism were something new, something purely European, something malicious and unnatural. What else has mankind done since it rose in Africa but displace its neighbors? What else does any animal do but seek to thrive where it can?
Any successful group soon becomes cramped as their population rises, and hence spreads out to new areas. In this way, each species has developed and then expanded to its limits. Whenever there is a significant change in environment, a new species takes over the place of the old. But this does not in any way lessen the worth of the displaced group.
It is a mistake to see Darwinian evolution as leading towards 'something greater'. Human beings are no better than jellyfish, indeed, place a human being underwater with only small fish for his sustenance, and see how long he lasts. No animal is better, each is specialized for a certain environment.
Mankind has colonized the world, but so have ants, and pound for pound, there are more ants than people. Humans have altered their atmosphere and environment, but so did algae millions of years ago, and they drove most of the other animals extinct. Our ability to affect the world does not make us unique.
Populations of early man expanded across Africa and out into Europe and Asia. Some of these were Homo Sapiens, like modern man, others neanderthals, australopithecines, and other variations. These different groups fought for territory and resources, and one-by-one, wiped each other out. The expansion of animals across the globe is never one of peaceful balance. There can be no balance in a constantly-shifting environment.
Eventually, we began to develop early cultures, not because any group of humans was 'better', but because of environmental effects (for a theory about what sorts of effects these were, check out Guns, Germs and Steel). The populations who developed things like agriculture and tool-use were able to expand, and when they expanded, they ran into the neighboring populations, who they fought, slew, sublimated, and combined with.
Humans moved all around the globe, taking over land from other groups and wiping out the previous cultures. There is archaeological evidence that suggests that when the most recent migration came to America from Siberia, they completely wiped out the previous inhabitants and their culture.
Places like Australia, America, and Oceania are remote, so new waves are infrequent. Africa, Europe, and Asia, on the other hand, have been in a constant state of flux since prehistory. The Indo-Aryans conquered northern India, the Phoenicians founded Carthage, the Trojans founded Rome (on the heads of the Latins), and the Old Testament Jews committed wholesale genocide on the Amalekites and the Midianites to expand the tribe of Israel.
As cultural ties grew stronger and new technologies were developed, larger and larger areas could be taken over and ruled by a single culture. The Roman Empire and China expanded under their technological and social successes, sublimating all the distinct peoples who surrounded them. In Europe, Rome fell, giving way to the North Africans, the Byzantines, and the Normans. Each group took what they could and tried to homogenize the cultures in the territories they controlled.
But they did not destroy the cultures they conquered. Cultures are always in constant flux, growing, changing, mutating, combining, and cleaving. There is no 'pure culture' in the world, nor has there been, and though some have been destroyed, their traditions and practices did not actually disappear.
Take for example the epic of Gilgamesh, the product of a nearly forgotten culture. Though the tradition it comes from is lost to time and its cities are buried beneath the sand, when we rediscovered Gilgamesh, it became clear that the story had influenced many cultures, including the writings of Homer. Forgotten, but not annihilated.
The conquering culture overwhelms some parts of the previous culture, but it adopts others, often without recognizing it, and thus both cultures progress and change. Just as the Indo-Aryans changed Indian culture, which changed Chinese culture, which changed Korean culture, which changed Japanese culture, so was the colonial conflict between Britain and India a cultural exchange. The terms of the exchange weren't fair, but such exchanges rarely are, and it certainly wasn't one-sided.
By the time of colonialism, the geographical space in Europe had reached something approaching equilibrium. The most successful groups had sublimated those around them and expanded to an area of land they could roughly control and homogenize. Many wars were fought over the same pieces of land, which were passed back and forth again and again.
Technologies increase more and more quickly over time, as illustrated by transportation at the beginning of colonialism. Tallships traveled to foreign lands, like America and Japan, and when they arrived, they discovered that the local cultures were not able to contend with the wartime technologies the Europeans brought with them.
The unification of China and remoteness of Japan meant that new technologies, such as navigational aids, water-clocks, and gunpowder, were not widely adopted. The Chinese bureaucracy did not value these changes, because change always means political restructuring, and they had no threat of close neighbors (like Europe) to drive them to an arms race.
The Europeans were not better or smarter than the Chinese, they were merely adapted to different requirements. It's rather like the case of Tibbles the cat:
On Stephen's Island in New Zealand, there was a species of flightless bird. There was also a lighthouse. The lighthouse-keeper owned a cat, named Tibbles, who hunted the birds. By the time it was recognized that they were a new, unique species, Tibbles the cat had eaten them all. They are the only species known to have become extinct due to the actions of a single animal.
The flightless birds were not 'less advanced' than the cat, they were merely specialized for a certain kind of lifestyle. The cat could not have survived on the island by itself, after all, which the wrens had no problem doing. The wrens were as good as they could be at surviving on a remote island, which meant they didn't waste energy on nonexistent predators. But, when conditions changed, they were overcome.
It is said that the Aboriginal people of Australia have a social system whereby two members meeting for the first time, no matter how remote, can determine their genetic relationship to one another within a few sentences. Their culture is not an inferior one, it merely specializes in different areas.
The Europeans had a different background than the people of Africa or the Americas. They were not better-suited to life in those parts of the world, as the many deaths of the Virginia colony showed, nor were their cultures in any way 'better', but they were specialized in killing people efficiently and holding land.
Since the Europeans had already expanded roughly to their limits in Europe, it produced a great change when trains and steamboats allowed them to access remote areas of the globe. It was easier for them to fight for land in Africa, America, and Oceania than it was for them to fight for land against their powerful neighbors.
They expanded, as humans always have, in waves, the more physically powerful culture dominating the one with other specializations. There is nothing new about this, except the range at which they were able to expand, and there is no 'pure culture' that did not establish itself after the displacement of others.
Colonialism was remarkable because it was unprecedented for people to commit war on others so far away, and because in terms of military technology, it was often one-sided. The extinction rate for animals is at an all-time high right now, but this is chiefly because the variety of animals is at a high. Land has been separating and breaking up since the age of the super-continents, and so there are more islands, more mountains, and hence, more remote areas to produce extra-specialized animals.
In the wake of global travel, many species are finding themselves in the position of the Stephen's Island Wren, as rats, cats, pigs, and rabbits are taking over the world. This is because the specialization only thrives in a closed environment. In open competition, the generalized animal survives. Think of weight classes in boxing.
But it is a mistake to equate one sort of superiority with another. Just because you can kill another man does not make you smarter than him. And yet, for all his knowledge, it avails him not in death. This is the pain we feel from colonialism, that those who 'won' did not do so because they were smarter or better, but merely because they were more skilled at killing.
But people do not kill merely to kill. We kill to propagate ourselves, our ideas, and our cultures. No culture ever really destroys another, and even the culture that 'loses' the war does not lose itself.
The Africans who were enslaved by their fellows, sold to Europeans, separated, and forced to work did not lose their culture, even though they faced as daunting a path as can be imagined. Indeed, their culture combined with the European cultures in America and blossomed in new and unpredictable ways.
Rome brought back people and culture from all of the lands into which it expanded, and was eventually overtaken by one small, insignificant group, The Christians. Cultural interaction is not a bad thing, and the pure, unadulterated, unchanging culture is a myth.
And this myth is what allows White supremacists, Black nationalists, and Islamic fundamentalists to unite under the same banner of 'racial purity'. The mixing of cultures is natural and produces the most remarkable effects. It is by the transfer of ideas that humanity grows.
Kipling is called an imperialist because he was descended from the most recent wave of conquerors in India. He was born there and worked there, and learned the language before he knew English. The British suffered the same fate under the Normans, who replaced half of the Germanic English language with French.
Kipling claims no moral superiority to the Indians, nor does he pretend to know their culture, inside and out. In this story, particularly, he seems to recognize that even the most foolish, unremarkable man can achieve something when he has guns and other men do not.
He does not claim that it is in the blood of the British to rule, nor the blood of the Indians to be ruled. Even in 'The White Man's Burden', one can see that he is more concerned with the cultural and technological relationship than with some in-born quality.
Even so, Kipling and his contemporaries did not know what the source of European power was. They had the technology, but it would be many years until academics began to theorize why this inequality in technology developed.
At the time, Europeans traveled around the world and found that no one else had developed steam power or guns, and surely they wondered why. The more simplistic stated it was the will of god, or some innate superiority of their evolution. But we still don't know what it was, for sure.
We still don't know how racial difference affect the mind. We can all interbreed, which means we are all the same species, all related that closely at least, but beyond that, it is difficult to say just what our in-born differences may be, or how strong they are.
While many cling to the ideals of egalitarianism, 'all men are born equal', this is clearly not true at all. Some are more mathematically-minded, some are taller, some stronger, some cannot parse words, some sickly, some attractive. It is almost impossible, at this point, to separate genetic elements from cultural elements, but slowly, we are learning to do so to some degree.
Kipling does not put forth the ignorant ideal that 'Europeans are better', and even if some authors do, it is no more true than the ideal 'humans are equal'. Though just because we are not equal does not mean some are 'better', like animals, our differences specialize us for different tasks and different environments.
Morality is a small and personal game. It is not the source of culture, it is the result of culture. Trying to fit human society into any ideal, from 'fairness' to 'equality' to 'superiority' is just mincing words. Colonialism is merely a new word to describe the balance of power between the physically dominant and those they overwhelm.
I don't suggest that we ignore or excuse this unequal balance merely because it is ancient, natural, and as far as we know, inescapable, any more than I would suggest we stop fighting against death and disease because they are ancient, natural, and inescapable. I would only suggest that we try to look at the situation as a dynamic of political power.
Colonialism was not a conspiracy, it was not a small, deliberate decision made by some few people. It was the predictable outgrowth of the interactions between states and people.
When Kipling makes his most damning remark in 'The White Man's Burden', that English culture has become parent to the Indian culture's 'half-devil, half-child', he is describing the eternal relationship between any government and people. The populace is ignorant and violent everywhere, and they are the burden of the government, but also its supporters.
Britain took on this burden willfully, sensing that the economic benefits it would bring would counterbalance the difficulty of maintaining it. Compounding this was the sense that India could be 'educated', pulled up into the 'modern world', as the West is still trying to do all over the world today.
This sense that First World powers can and should transfer knowledge to the rest of the world does reflect the roles of child and parent, doubly so because the rest of the world at once resents and desires it.
They desire the knowledge, production, and technology of the First World, but to get it, they must create an economic agreement. The First World trades what it has as dearly as possible, using the economic ties to increase their influence and their profit.
It is not a new, remarkable, personal state of inequality, it is the same state we have been living under since culture developed, and the same state we're living under today. If there were a good pejorative definition of colonialism, it is that people in power feel they deserve to be in power, and people under their power resent that they are not in power. It is this unwarranted sense of entitlement which should chafe, not the facts of power dynamics.
We are not created equally, we are not treated equally, and those of us who attain power feel entitled to use it. Demonizing this ancient, ever-repeating relationship isn't going to change anything, and it won't help us to better understand the world, ourselves, or power. Like many social debates about inequality, 'colonialism' boils down to entitlement vs. resentment, and neither stance is of any use to ideas or discourse.
Read information about the authorJoseph Rudyard Kipling was a journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.
Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888). His poems include Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), The Gods of the Copybook Headings (1919), The White Man's Burden (1899), and If— (1910). He is regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story; his children's books are classics of children's literature; and one critic described his work as exhibiting "a versatile and luminous narrative gift".
Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry James said: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907, at the age of 41, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and its youngest recipient to date. He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.
Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author."
Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace and with much less success than before. On the night of 12 January 1936, Kipling suffered a haemorrhage in his small intestine. He underwent surgery, but died less than a week later on 18 January 1936 at the age of 70 of a perforated duodenal ulcer. Kipling's death had in fact previously been incorrectly announced in a magazine, to which he wrote, "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."
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