To Kipple or Not?

Some time ago and in another blog-post I wondered if it were possible for those with conservative and libertarian leanings to develop some kind of secret password, or handshake with which to identify themselves to new-met acquaintances who might possibly share those inclinations. We tend to be polite, do not relish open confrontation – and really, why pick unnecessary fights with neighbors, casually-met strangers, distant kin, or fellow workers? Most times, it just is not worth the hassle, or the chance of turning a casual social interaction or relationship turning toxic. Most of us do not eat, sleep, dream, live politics twenty-four-seven, anyway. But it certainly is pleasant to discover someone of like sympathies, usually after a few rounds of warily sounding them out, and assuring them that no, we will not come unglued if they confess to having voted for or liked (insert political figure or philosophy here).

But I think that I have hit upon a handy shorthand method for discerning the political sympathies of another without coming outright and asking. This insight came about through following a couple of libertarian-leaning or conservative blogs – Sarah Hoyt and Wretchard at Belmont Club being two of the more notable – and noting that the principals and many of their commenters all seemed au courant with Kipling.

Lines from “The Gods of the Copybook Headings“When ‘Omer Smote ‘is Bloomin’ Lyre”, “The Sons of Martha” “The Three-Decker” and “Dane-geld” or “The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon” and any number of other poems from the pen of the Glorious Rudyard were tossed about with abandon, along with references to various short stories and novels. Tags and lines from these poems and others were almost a currency in comment threads at these websites and blogs.
If you like Kipling … then you are likely to be some stripe of conservative, libertarian, or an original independent. I have not much of an explanation of why this should be so, other than that Kipling was an unparalleled master of storytelling, and his poems – traditional in the sense that they had a rhyme and meter – sometimes are still topical and always quotable. He has been out of fashion among the mainstream intellectuals and tastemakers for going on a century; In the place of the story-teller and poet there is a massive straw-image of him, labeled with every nasty -ism that can be applied; imperialist, racist, and so on and so forth. Die-hard fan of British imperialism – or not – he certainly was an acute observer of the institution and of his times. Perhaps it is the clear-eyed observer part of the Glorious Rudyard that appeals. Any other explanation would be welcomed, but the correlation between a liking for Kipling and conservative leanings is pretty well marked in my mind. Your thoughts?

33 thoughts on “To Kipple or Not?”

  1. Kipling is good, but I think simply being Biblically literate in this foul age is more than enough. I vote for the Lord’s Prayer, if Kipling will not do.

  2. As long as it’s the proper Lord’s prayer, not a version in dismal local government English.

    Steve Sailer likes quoting at least one bit of Kingsley Amis.

    And then there’s Enoch Powell’s marvellous “The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.”

    But Kipling does give a wider range of meaty stuff.

  3. People in AA have “Are you a friend of Bill?” I like, “Are you a friend of Fred[eric Bastiat]?”

  4. It’s unfortunate, in the present context, that “Gods of the Copybook Headings” uses the term “Gods of the Marketplace”…many people probably interpret that line as a critique of capitalism.

  5. I’m pretty conservative and am not widely read of Rudyard.

    It is strange times we live in – not everyone leaning to the left is a rude, in-your-face type of person. Good people across the spectrum have a “live and let live” attitude.

  6. I wish I could agree with Phil, but I live near one of those liberal mega-churches. Some all-over-the-map biblical interpretations. It’s no guarantee anymore.

    I’m going to try Kipling.

    Usually if I can get a conversation going about handguns, pony cars, or MMA then I know we’re on the right track.

  7. “Respect the aged!”

    “It was a thick voice–a muddy voice that would have made you
    shudder–a voice like something soft breaking in two. There was
    a quaver in it, a croak and a whine.

    “Respect the aged! O Companions of the River–respect the aged!”

    One of my favorites. Although many are confused about my leanings, I favor 2 wings myself, one could not call me a libertarian or conservative, certainly an independent.

  8. Gurray – it’s a solid guarantee. If anything, fans of Kipling are interesting, nonconformist and don’t seem to be particularly judgmental.
    And some of his short stories … wow. Just wow. (I’ve been a fan since I could read. Does it show?
    Some of his stories will absolutely curl your hair. Mary Postgate. And then there is “A Matter of Fact.” )

  9. “not everyone leaning to the left is a rude”

    I have three kids that are lefties. Two are lawyers, of course.

    One is beyond conversation. One used to be but is getting philosophical. I asked her about Hillary last fall and said “I won’t vote for her. I won’t vote for Trump but I won’t vote for her.”

    The third is reasonable most of the time but thinks Trump will be impeached. She lives in Santa Monica so I understand.

    I like Kipling’s “Tommy.”

  10. MikeK – we have a couple of neighbors who have confessed to us after the last election – that they were long time Dems, but they just could not bring themselves to vote for Hillary. One of them, in despair, voted Trump. Another couple were Dem volunteers, walking the neighborhood for the local Dem caucus. They couldn’t stand her, either. They had a single yard sign out for the local Dem candidate for the House of Reps.

    I know where they stand, and they are nice, decent people. I figure at this point, I can get more flies with honey…

  11. I think Kipling is an excellent test. With all respect for previous commenters, the point of Sgt.Mom’s post is not to collect the sum of all good literature but to identify people who are, at a minimum, reasonably independent thinkers and probably “safe” to talk to.

    Anybody who can quote Kipling has gone past the “racist, sexist, imperialist, and did you ever read “Take up the white man’s burden?” clutter of politically correct disapproval and has discovered a great writer behind that smokescreen. Ergo, the Kippler doesn’t automatically bow down to the gods of the left; ergo, he may be open to rational discourse.

  12. Once I said something (in passing) about Hayek in class – a woman (she’d put her kids through and come back; ended up getting a PhD I think at the big school) came up to me afterward with a glow in her eye. It was pretty much – she understands me from both of us. One of my husband’s students was writing his dissertation on Kipling (so he came to an old white guy to teach him, of course). He also often wore a pith helmet. If you use Kipling, you’ll get Victorians and military, but you will also get some real eccentrics.

  13. The good news is that the kids get it.

    Check the box office.

    The Jungle Book 2016, $966 million.

  14. @David, excellent link, both in itself and for the hint (was it?) that having a high opinion of Orwell is also a distinguishing mark of the modern non-left.

  15. ‘I came to realize’, he says in his posthumous memoirs,
    ‘the bare horrors of the private’s life, and the unnecessary torments he
    endured’. He is accused of glorifying war, and perhaps he does so, but
    not in the usual manner, by pretending that war is a sort of football

    I’m currently reading and listening to audio copies of Bernard Cornwell’s novels about a soldier in Wellington’s army, the Richard Sharpe series. The audio version is read by a guy with an amazing ability to use accents in reading the novel. I listen on my commute from Tucson to Phoenix twice a week. The description of life in the army is probably pretty good.

    I also read his nonfiction book on Waterloo, before we visited in 2015.

    I read his “Saxon Tales” series several years ago. He is an amazingly prolific writer. He has a US Civil War series I may try next.

  16. “The good news is that the kids get it.

    Check the box office.

    The Jungle Book 2016, $966 million.”

    I was raised on Kipling. The Jungle books I loved a lot. What Disney did was f&^%ing crime!

  17. You can read all of Kipling and will find nothing cute. The Jungle Books were amazing and there is just life as Kipling saw it, life and death, written partly for young people.

    The movie is horrible. Nothing of Kipling gets through. That modern children are so deprived, angers me. I don’t get angry much.

  18. In my mind, the Disney Jungle Book and the Disney version of the Black Cauldron are neck-and-neck competitors in the contest for “Movie Which Least Resembles The Book(s) It Was Adapted From.”

  19. That Orwell essay reminds me of the criticisms of Paddy Fermor I come across from time to time. He was elitist, patronizing, and somewhat snobby. He also keenly captured a world that few others could or dared to.

    Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
    Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
    For the temple-bells are callin’, and it’s there that I would be—
    By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea.

    Now trying to figure how to devise a local Kipling secret society.

  20. Really? The only criticism of Fermor I’ve encountered had nothing to do with literature. I was reading somebody’s memoir of the war in Crete and came across something like, “And then that idiot Paddy Lee Fermor kidnapped a German general and messed everything up.”

  21. Dearieme….actually, leftists have been citing Orwell approvingly as a warning about the evils of Trump. There is apparently some plan for theaters to run the 1984 movie as a protest against Trump.

  22. Yes, the movie ran last night in a local artsy theater. The theater’s email announcement didn’t mention Trump, but it was easy to guess that opposition to Trump was the subtext of the movie’s showing. I don’t recall any similar event surrounding the Obama administration’s abusive tax audits of Tea Party leaders, the federal police raid on Gibson Guitars, or the jailing of that unfortunate film-maker in California after the Benghazi debacle. I’m guessing that few of the people who attend showings of 1984 to protest Trump are even aware of these Obama civil-liberties scandals.

  23. Actually I can remember a (perhaps smaller) boom in Orwell in response to Bush. I said, oh, the anti-communist work just to get a rise but got blankness instead. That was followed by a discussion of Bin Laden being the subject of the 15-minute hate. Self-consciousness is not the left’s strength.

  24. Here’s my not so subtle test:

    ‘What do you think so this?

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security’

  25. For a great Kipling film the best is “The Man who would be King” and of course the older versions of “Kim”. Kipling’s Indian stories show him as a kind and inquisitive man, with a great interest in other people and cultures. Only the left’s preoccupation with race could make Kipling’s defense of western culture racist.

    The “Just So” stories are still great for kids. His historical interests and affection for children and animals shows. Any dog lover would know this line from “The Cat that Walked by Himself”

    “When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always. “

  26. Orwell gets to the nub of the matter, doesn’t he? Then he gets to the nub of the nub of the nub and so on. Just so impressive in the analysis of things he chose to examine.

    BTW, the copyrights have run out on Kipling’s work. Collections can be had at Amazon’s Kindle offerings for a song, and probably for free at other places on the web.

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