View Full Version : The White Man's Burden

01-17-2002, 06:16 PM
I would like to get some analysis to Rudyard Kipling's The White Man's Burden if thats okay. I'm not quite sure what he's talking about. Thanks.

06-12-2007, 06:40 AM
The way I understand it, Kipling was talking about the burden of any White Man---that is, to "civilize" the "uncivilized" savages. Apparently, it aimed to justify imperialism, not just as a better alternative but a must for every White Man.

'It may take quite some force and time to reach the end, and they(savages) may not thank you for it. But in the end, they will realize that what you did for them was wise. The Whites are obliged to develop the living of other races, until they live up to Western standards.'

In my opinion, this is simply an ethnocentric view, that gives no credit to the cultures and traditions of other races.

This was written in the heat of USA's first attempt at colonization (Philippines) in the turn of the last century, in a tone that encourages the citizenry to support the move to colonize the Philippines and other Spanish colonies. During this time, the Senate was still divided and the Anti-Imperialism Party was winning.

05-05-2009, 09:09 AM
I find that an excellent way to consider Kipling's "White Man's Burden" is by directly contrasting it with Labouchère's counterpoint power, "Brown Man's Burden (http://www.guhsd.net/mcdowell/history/projects/wmburden/brownman.html)." There are other counterpoints as well, but these are not nearly as well written or insightful.

Many people these days casually disregard Kipling's poem as "racist" or "ethnocentric." These detractors forget that the original motivations for nineteenth-century colonialism and imperialism were themselves conflicting, and had at their roots liberal thinkers who had erradicated slavery in their own lands and intended to wipe it out around the world, by force if necessary. That these ideals assumed a paternalistic responsibility on the part of white people is undeniable (and they would not have argued otherwise), but many imperialists of the day did "mean well."

At the same time, there was a sharp difference between the idealism at home and the reality on the ground. People like Cecil Rhodes, still remembered by the scholarship that bears his name, were opportunists who took no issue with crushing native peoples and seizing their lands for financial gain. But even here, there is contrast; the most brutal British-administered colonies never approached the slavery-by-another-name horror of places like the Belgian "Free State" in Congo.

So, there's a lot to consider here, and a lot to debate. It's easy to look around our convenient world today and casually say, "Colonialism was wrong." To look at it through the eyes of those of the time makes the question much harder. Contrasting the two poems, Kipling's and Labouchère's, is a good place to start.

07-20-2009, 02:42 PM
I was taught that the pomes were ment to be sarcastic. That Kipling was making fun of the colonialisit attitude. But I don't believe this to be true. It is a hard thing to judge.