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About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise
Now I know what you’re thinking: how could you spew such colonialist garbage?! I know, I know. I’m sorry. It’s just my crass ignorance of the poem. Oh, it’s not to do with the poem that has incensed you to such a fever pitch? Well, what is it then? Oh, Kipling, you say? Yes, I know of him – and I certainly know of The White Man’s Burden, everyone has; it has rightly been held as an emblem of racism in its time of writing. But what does that have to do with this poem? Oh, just that it was the same person that was writing? Hmmm.
‘If’, the poem above, is by the canonical writer of English literature, Rudyard Kipling. The poem, which is followed by three more stanzas, sees the speaker talking to his son about the necessities needed (which, most of all, include a degree of stoicism) for him to overcome adversity and finally become a man. It’s a decent poem. Not my favourite by any stretch of the imagination; it has become somewhat synonymous with them slogans you sometimes see on mugs, or, if you’re a middle-aged woman looking for some deep mantra to live by, have plastered all over the walls in your home. Instead, it isn’t your aunt’s house it’s all over but by the local grammar school, also coiled up in the mouth of your headteacher ready to spring out at the beginning of the year to Year 7s.
Thus, it is usually used by many not knowing the past of the poet – and that is just how it was most likely used in the Manchester Student’s Union. But now it is not visible; some students have decided to paint over it with a poem by a Maya Angelou, a black female poet. Their reasoning for doing so, they say, is that it is a protest against ‘racist’ and ‘imperialist’ literature, quoting as the aforementioned The White Man’s Burden as evidence. But the problem is: the poem isn’t The White Man’s Burden. Instead of being a worthy protest against ‘racism’ and ‘imperialism’, this defacing of Kipling’s poem instead reeks of the modern phenomena sweeping Western universities which is to sniff out any semblance of prejudice even if it is from a time where it was the norm.
Image Credits: independent.co.uk