Poetry · Political Correctness

Dumb and Dumber and Kipling

First Cup of Coffee I have done a lot of dumb things in my 87 years, especially when I was in high school and college, but I feel better and better about my youthful self when I compare him to some—not all—of today’s college students 


In the race for the bottom, the students at the U of Manchester in the UK have pulled ahead of the dumbos at the U of Missouri and Yale. Kipling’s poem “If” was painted on the wall of their newly refurbished student union. It is a poem of advice to young men of any creed, race, or religion. If this, if that “you’ll be a Man, my son!” First two lines: “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” (Hmm. Seems significant somehow.)

The students painted over the poem because Kipling “dehumanised people of  colour.” Not in this poem, but in some other poems. The college’s “liberation and access officer” (What kind of title is that?) said pompously: “We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for.”

What they stand for is a self-righteous, arrogant, ignorant judgementalism. Have they read Kim? Do they know Nehru loved Kipling as did many other educated Indians and Pakistanis?

Kipling wrote a wonderful poem condemning ethnocentrism. It’s not as well known as it should be, probably because its funny.

We and They

Father, Mother, and Me
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But – would you believe it? – They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While They who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay
(Isn’t it scandalous?) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

The students at U of Manchester replaced “If” with a bitter, racist denunciation of racism,”Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.


4 thoughts on “Dumb and Dumber and Kipling

  1. I shake my head
    And then the sigh
    I have no words for a reply
    Sorry Rudyard (Laura too)
    These goslings know not what they do


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