A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Recessional: for our modern Memorial Days


God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law ~
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word -
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Rudyard Kipling

Many of us find Kipling's self-righteous assumption that the British Empire was carrying out the will of God, and that the historical practices that gave them "Dominion over palm and pine" were decent and pious. But in fact the British Empire was not just a sustained act of piracy; it owed its strength while it had it in part to judiciousness and restraint. We Americans like to believe that we have acted with restraint and kindness in our own period of world hegemony; to the extent we actually have we could expect strength beyond mere strength of our arms. And to that extent, the men and women who like buried in our graveyards and under foreign soil died in a noble cause.

But when Kipling wrote this, for Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee, few would foretell the dark fate overshadowing the Empire on which the Sun never set. British power and prosperity were riding high. The disease he diagnoses eating away at this apparent ruddy health and strength might be interpreted as the small-minded, Phariseeical creatures who run our country today would do, as a failure of piety and authority. But read the words; the sin is the sin of pride in material power, the power to coerce and threaten. What nation today places more "trust/in reeking tube and iron shard" than ours? Who has done more to totally forget all moral laws in the course of having "our" way?

It isn't the soldiers who are making these decisions, though horribly it is they who carry them out. Some are corrupted by this, others have always been corrupt; most are damaged, and all are placed in the front line of the danger of inevitable retribution.

It matters so much what they die for. Bring them home before more die for destruction only.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why bring them home? They would just take your job away from you. Try to find out what's wrong there and help the people yourself. I did this in Africa several times, and also in Vietnam.

6/24/2006 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interested to know what the Post-colonial opinion on this poem would be. Surely they would note how much human prejudices are justified and misrepresented by the arrogance and hubris found in religious rightiousness. I, too, do not doubt that America's "far-flung battle line"--made current by the need to 'share' democracy and all of its spendor--isn't a far cry from Britain's late colonialism.

1/29/2007 6:58 PM  
Anonymous David McKelvie said...

When Kipling wrote this poem "Recessional" he was widely excoriated, not least in The Times, for lack of patriotism. The poem is an anti-jingoistic reminder of the transience of power.

Kipling often wrote like this - another, usually misunderstood and misquoted one, is the sarcastic ballad addressed to American hubris on the annexation of the Philippines in 1898 that contains the statement "take up the white man's burden".

And another is the "Ballad of East and West" of which people only seem to know the line "east is east and west is west" ignoring the whole statement "east is east and west is west, and ne'er the twain shall meet 'til earth and sky stand presently at God's great judgment seat. But there is neither east nor west, border nor breed nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth" which actually reverses the inference of the partial quote.

5/14/2008 3:29 AM  

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