domingo, 12 de diciembre de 2010

Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden (1899)

Take up the White Man's burden--

Send forth the best ye breed--

Go bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives' need;

To wait in heavy harness,

On fluttered folk and wild--

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White

Man's burden--

In patience to abide,

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple,

An hundred times made plain

To seek another's profit,

And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--

The savage wars of peace--

Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest

The end for others sought,

Watch sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--

No tawdry rule of kings,

But toil of serf and sweeper--

The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter,

The roads ye shall not tread,

Go mark them with your living,

And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard--

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--

"Why brought he us from bondage,

Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--

Ye dare not stoop to less--

Nor call too loud on Freedom

To cloke (1) your weariness;

By all ye cry or whisper,

By all ye leave or do,

The silent, sullen peoples

Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--

Have done with childish days--

The lightly proferred laurel, (2)

The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years,

Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,

The judgment of your peers!


(1) Cloak, cover.

(2) Since the days of Classical Greece, a laurel wreath has been a symbolic victory prize.

American exceptionalism, American hypocrisy
Dec 10th 2010, 4:47 by W.W. IOWA CITY

AMERICA'S reaction to WikiLeaks' recent trickle of confidential diplomatic messages has not improved its reputation in Europe, at least according to this article by Steven Erlanger in the New York Times. Mr Erlanger offers an entertaining run-down of sharply critical opinions from pundits and politicos across the pond. Their theme, as Mr Erlanger puts it in his lede, is that "Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles".

Near the end of the piece, Mr Erlanger touches on a second theme which I think may shed some light on the first. The content of the cables, some commentators say, has hurt the American government's reputation less than has its bumbling, alarmed over-reaction. The United States' diplomatic corps itself comes off looking professional and well meaning:

Renaud Girard, a respected reporter for the center-right Le Figaro, said that he was impressed by the generally high quality of the American diplomatic corps. “What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy,” he said. “They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia. They really believe in democracy and human rights. People accuse the Americans of double standards all the time. But it’s not true here. If anything, the diplomats are almost naïve, and I don’t think these leaks will jeopardize the United States. Most will see the diplomats as honest, sincere and not so cynical.”

This is charming. Most Americans don't grasp the extent to which their country is considered throughout the world a bullying, opportunistic, imperialist power. Mr Girard sounds almost surprised by the "almost naïve" sincerity of American diplomats' commitment to democracy and human rights. And I think he is right that the intelligence, good humour, and benevolent intentions on display in the cables redounds to the benefit of the American foreign service's reputation.

But should it be so surprising that aspiring global hegemons do not run on the fuel of dishonesty and cynicism? "The White Man's Burden" is perhaps history's most earnestly idealistic poem. Sturdy conviction in the cause of democracy and human rights, the belief that America is exceptional in its embodiment of these values, and the confidence that American power is generally applied on the side of justice make an almost ideal ideological basis for assuming the role of freedom's global steward, of the kindly superindentant of the world's lesser powers.

I propose that this sort of exceptionalism helps explain the well-meaning earnestness of America's diplomats, the ubiquity of American surveillance and intervention, as well as the widespread American hostility toward WikiLeaks. Americans by and large trust their military, their foreign service, and even their spy agencies basically because all of them are full of Americans. If the good patriots keeping the world safe for democracy feel they need to keep certain things secret, then they need to keep certain things secret. To splash those secrets all over the internet is simply to interfere with America's attempt to carry its noble burden, to perform its urgent and necessary task, to make the world a little less safe for democracy. What kind of person would do that?

The more plausible that line of thought sounds to you, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as something akin to a terrorist enterprise. But the more you see a hegemonic America as a problem and not a solution, the more WikiLeaks will strike you as a welcome check on a dangerous, out-of-control hyperpower drunk on its own good intentions. In that case, it may seem that the American political establishment and the collaborating media has grown blind to the hypocrisy so clearly apparent to others in its approach to WikiLeaks because it has forgotten that freedom and democracy have meaning apart from their role in justifying the operations of the far-flung secret-shrouded state.

Fuente Democracy in America, The Economist