Not seeing the meaning for the words
Posted by aogFriday, 28 January 2005 at 21:31 TrackBack Ping URL

Over at Harry’s Place is a post about poets and judenhass. I just want to nitpick one point, which is a complaint about the poem Fuzzy Wuzzy by Rudyard Kipling:

Kipling was a product of an imperial age which was intellectually predicated on the belief that the British were, effectively, the chosen people. His childhood influences and experiences inside and outside India pretty much made it impossible that he could have turned out anything other than racist. Society and specious science as he knew it fostered the myth of the omnipotent and omniscient white man, which meant he had little trouble getting his work published even when it referred to “Fuzzy Wuzzies” in the Sudan.

I can’t believe that some who’s actually read the poem could write this. The basic element of the poem is grudging respect for an enemy who did very well in battle against the British and lost only because of the British having better weapons. It is effectively an homage to the fighting prowess and bravery of the Sudanese. But, of course, since it uses a politically incorrect word it’s part of the ‘myth of the omnipotent and omniscient white man’. The poem remarks that

We took our chanst among the Khyber ‘ills,
The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.

Yeah, that sounds like just like something intended to demonstrate the inherint superiority of the white man. But I suppose it’s part and parcel nowadays to judge things by the connotations of the words used and not the ideas the words are used to express.