The Corner

Re: Civilization’s Dirty Work

An illuminating e-mail:

“Mr. Derbyshire—The Orwell quote may have been bogus, but there are many

similar quotes specifically regarding Kipling. C.S. Lewis: ‘It is a brutal

truth about the world that the whole everlasting business of keeping the

human race protected and clothed and fed could not go on for twenty-four

hours without the vast legion of hard-bitten, technically efficient,

not-over-sympathetic men, and without the harsh processes of discipline by

which this legion is made. It is a brutal truth that unless a great many

people practiced the Kipling ethos there would be neither security nor

leisure for any people to practice a finer ethos.’

“One of the best essays on this subject is Richard Grenier’s ‘The Uniforms

That Guard: Kipling, Orwell, and Australia’s Breaker Morant’. (The essay is

in Grenier’s ‘Capturing The Culture’ – one of the best modern works of film

and cultural criticism).

“Particularly relevant to the Iraqi situation is this section by Grenier:

“‘Kipling’s notorious identification with authority and the ruling power, so

distatsteful to later intellectuals, conferred upon him one tremendous

advantage, a “sense of responsibilty,” which was the secret of his strength

and influence. “The ruling power,” wrote Orwell, “is always faced with the

question ‘in such and such circumstances what would you do?’ – whereas the

opposition is not obliged to take any real decisions. Where it is a

permanent and pensioned opposition… the quality of its thought

deteriorates accordingly.”‘”


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