Monday, February 18, 2008

When good writers turn cranky

William Kristol says "Democrats Should Read Kipling".

From the same essay which Kristol draws Orwell's praise of Kipling, at least in terms of one virtue, he sets up his analogy --

If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell’s argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics.

OK, let's substitute Republicans for Kipling and read the whole thing --

It is no use pretending that Kipling's view of life, as a whole, can be accepted or even forgiven by any civilized person. It is no use claiming, for instance, that when Kipling describes a British soldier beating a "nigger" with a cleaning rod in order to get money out of him, he is acting merely as a reporter and does not necessarily approve what he describes. There is not the slightest sign anywhere in Kipling's work that he disapproves of that kind of conduct — on the contrary, there is a definite strain of sadism in him, over and above the brutality which a writer of that type has to have. Kipling is a jingo imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting. It is better to start by admitting that, and then to try to find out why it is that he survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly.

Indeed. Kristol's real attraction is probably not based on the above quote, which he selectively excerpts, but Orwell's later reference to "pansy-left circles", because this was the increasingly curmudgeonly and, yes, reactionary, Orwell.

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