From Derb's Email Bag: The Burden, "Asians" And Gurbanguly Dodges A Rocket, Etc
Print Friendly and PDF

Just a few.

Math Corner brainteaser.

Solution here.  I definitely overthought that one, and probably mistranslated it, too.


The White Man's Burden.

In the May 7th Radio Derb I remarked that

The greatest poet of European colonialism was of course Rudyard Kipling. One of his best efforts, first published in 1899, was addressed to the people of the U.S.A., exhorting us to colonize the Philippines, which we had acquired in the Spanish-American War. The title of that poem was "The White Man's Burden." 

A listener begged to differ.

Mr. Derbyshire:  Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" enumerates all the problems the U.S. would face if it took the Philippines. It is against the U.S. becoming an empire. Several verses were read in the Senate as arguments against the ratification of the Treaty of Paris. The lefties at Wikipedia agree with you however.

I thought that seemed unlikely. The whole thrust of Kipling's commentary on imperialism was that while the white race had a civilizing mission, to the general advantage of humanity at large, we shouldn't expect any thanks for it.

The single adjective that best describes Kipling and all his works is "unillusioned." There never was a writer with fewer illusions.

For a check, though, I went to the two recent biographies I reviewed back in 2000, neither of the authors a lefty.

Harry Ricketts

Rather than portraying the Empire as "The White Man's jack-pot," or promoting the pomp and circumstance of the Jubilee pageant, the verses [i.e. of "The White Man's Burden"] highlighted responsibility and duty, even representing colonial rule as colonial servitude in disguise — a thankless, relentless task that someone had to do.

Andrew Lycett

Rudyard was keen for the United States to exact as much as possible from its peace with Spain. He was not disappointed that the Treaty of Paris in December gave the United States control over the old Spanish colony of the Philippines — even though this would require further suppression of an indigenous nationalist movement.

To show his solidarity he dusted down his poem on "The White Man's Burden" from the previous year and sent copies to [Theodore] Roosevelt and to McClure's Magazine for publication in February. This time there was none of the ambiguity about the meaning of "lesser breeds without the Law" (his phrase from "Recessional," which was deemed to refer to the Germans). Rudyard called on Americans

To wait in heavy harness,
  On fluttered folk and wild — 
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, 
  Half-devil and half-child.

As Roosevelt rightly commented, it made "rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansionist point of view." 


"Asian" as a descriptor.

Dear Mr Derbyshire

Can you please stop using the word "Asian" when you mean "East Asian"? Asia is a very big place, and it has a lot of racial diversity. I know that the American Census regards all people East of Iran as "Asians," but American racial classifications are notoriously lacking in rigor. After all, the US is a country in which Kamala Harris and Prince Harry's wife are called "black" and in which Ted Cruz and Jorge Ramos are seen as members of the Hispanic "race".

That's over-scrupulous. In societies as race-spooked as those of the modern West, lack of rigor in racial descriptors is de rigueur. (Sorry …)  I wouldn't personally mind if we were still saying "octoroon" and "Eurasian," but we're not.

"Asian" has settled into everyday American English as the descriptor for East Asians; the "East" is only added when there's some necessity to be clear that we're not talking about South Asians. These terms don't always make logical sense, but so long as we all understand what's meant, I can't see that it matters.

In Britain, "Asian" mostly means West Asian (Pakistani, Afghan, Iranian), or South Asian (Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi). East Asians, when in the news (which isn't often), are referred to by national origin: "Chinese," "Japanese," "Vietnamese," etc.

So perhaps the general usage rule is that when nothing more specific is required, "Asians" just means "those Asians we're best acquainted with."


Turkmenistan in peril.

CNN reported on Friday that debris from that ChiCom rocket "will land somewhere in Turkmenistan." Some Radio Derb listeners were disturbed by that, hoping that suitable precautions were being made for the safety of our longtime friend and patron President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

In the event the debris seems to have come down in the Indian Ocean. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is, so far as we know, safe and well.

Long live President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov! Long live the noble Republic of Turkmenistan!   


Print Friendly and PDF