Carrol Cox cbcox at
Sun Mar 28 14:27:25 PST 1999

"John K. Taber" wrote:

> Years ago, Kipling was more or less ignored as an embarrassment. That he
> is. But it would be nice if scholars revisited him because underneath
> his pro-imperialism is some uncomfortable awareness of imperialism's sins.

My original point was it was precisely this sort of "complexity" and "uncomfortable awareness" that is the most sinister form of pro- imperialism. All such mea culpas (combined with an implict or explicit, But what would you have us do?) should be read in the light of Yoshie's recent criticism of auto-critique. They play the same double role. Everyone should remember (or look up) the the record of anguished liberals in supporting the Vietnam War.

In fact, if of the possible follow-ups to this barbarian bombing actual use of ground troops begins, in a couple years defenders such as Margaret will be talking of the resulting U.S. involvement as "an aberration," not an expression of U.S. policy, as an "unfortunate accident," of terrible things resulting from good intentions. They will be "against the war" but also "against the crudity and reductionism" of those who call for "Get out now." This was essentially the position of Kipling's criticisms of western imperialism, and even more obviously of Conrad's.

It is probably no accident that the most unintelligible (at least to the general public) criticism of the Vietnam War ever made was based on a Conrad story. Both original tale and later movie seems to be most resentful of the imperialistic horrors for corrupting the imperialists. An aberration.


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