Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Three Colonialists: Rhodes, Kipling, and Roosevelt

Rudyard Kipling was a close friend of Cecil Rhodes, the colonial empire-builder of South Africa. In 1898, when Kipling went to South Africa, he lived in a house that was given to him by Rhodes. Kipling wrote a poem on Rhodes, titled, “Cecil John Rhodes,” that was read on Rhodes’s funeral at Matobo National Park, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), in 1902. 

Kipling’s imperial views were inspired by Rhodes. Several scholars have suggested that Rhodes’s ideology of the British Empire was the inspiration behind Kipling’s infamous poem, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.” Kipling wrote this poem in February 1899 as an exhortation to the Americans to pick up the burden of the British Empire. He wanted the Americans to conquer all those regions of the world that Britain could not conquer. 

Theodore Roosevelt, who would soon become the vice president and president of the United States, was inspired by Kipling’s poem. He copied the poem and sent it to his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, with a message that it made “good sense from the expansion point of view.” In Roosevelt’s time, America had completed its expansion across North America and now they were planning to expand across the world. 

One of Roosevelt’s most infamous statements is often summarized as: "The only good Indian Is a dead Indian.” His extremist views made him very popular with the American masses—he won the presidential election twice. He wanted the Native Indians to die, but what about the other races? What about the South Americans, the Asians? It was during his presidency that America began its incursions into South America and its blockade of Japan’s ships in the Pacific. 

The colonial attitude of dominating the whole world is part of the British and American political culture. These two countries are incapable of creating a free and fair world. I am not claiming that the Asian powers are humane—the Asian governments are as corrupt, violent, and tyrannical as Britain and America. The only alternative for mankind is to have a multipolar world, a world in which there are regional powers but no superpower.

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