Honouring the Dead

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Tue Nov 11 14:31:46 MST 2003

This morning's news item about the new Australian War Memorial in London
set my FrQ (Frustration Quotient) soaring to new heights.  The spectacle of
the Queen and Howard and the military chiefs getting up to "honour" the
dead is truly revolting.  Prime Minister Howard though manages to bring it
off usually.  He has the advantage that his grandfather and father served
in WW1 and he has exploited that well in the past.

There was though an interesting (well moderately interesting) twist to the
rhetoric.  It seems now that the young men of two World Wars died for 'the
shared values (ie shared by Australia & UK) of democracy and individual

(Chunder down under as my Aussie friends would say.)

However, all puking aside, if one walks up to the War Memorial in Brisbane
and cares to take a look at what is set in stone, one will see there the
proud boast that the young men of WW1 died for "King, God and Empire".

The current rhetoric omits all reference to the Glorious Triad.  It would
seem that we are all "democrats now" bringing "enduring freedom" to the
world.  But there is a continuity nevertheless underneath the apparent
rupture.  What we are hearing in the updated justifications for slaughter
and conquest, are really variations on the old "White Man's Burden" theme.

I have cut and pasted the original poem from the Net.  I urge everyone to
read it carefully.  Contemporary echoes will ring out.  In many ways it
could be thought of in contemporary terms as a Manifesto for the NGOs who
swarm ever so eagerly to do the "clean" work of Imperialism.

The white Man's Burden, Rudyard Kipling 1989

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-- T
he 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.



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