Even when Rudyard Kipling’s poem was first published in 1899, it was with laden with a heavy sense of self-loathing by an Englishman: Who are we to be ordering about native peoples around the globe?
And yet, the first paragraph aptly describes the reality:
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.
As an American, I grew up too readily accepting the liberal premise that we white folk had no business subjugating the darker-hued. Also, as an American, I naturally favored our Revolution against England’s tyranny. After all, we’d learned the essentials of government and liberty from the English and Scottish Enlightenment. We were civilized and no longer needed to be ruled from afar.
Two centuries on, starting in the 1940s, Britain divested itself of its Empire. And, with the exception of the Anglosphere democracies (Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand), post-colonial areas of the world in Africa and Asia are, to be blunt, festering sewers that lack prosperity and liberty. Places that were not quite civilized and truly needed adult supervision. And still do to this very day.
Three examples of what happens when the White Man leaves town? First, Sudan. Here’s a timeline of grief and misery since Britain granted it its Independence in 1956. After going on 60 years, they are back to being savages.
Then there are current events. Boko Haram in Nigeria, a long-festering sore on the largest nation in Africa has been in the Western news of late because of its long-standing practice of murder, rape, and selling hostage children into sex slavery. Yep, sure am glad they don’t have those Brutal Englishmen around anymore.
Finally, my greatest disappointment: Pakistan. From the Wall Street Journal, this lovely testament as to how little freedom exists there:
The 26-year-old Christian was convicted in March of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. He is one of four Pakistanis sentenced to death for the crime this year under the country’s draconian blasphemy laws, which increasingly target religious minorities in this predominantly Muslim country.
More people have been convicted under the laws in the past seven years than in the first two decades since death penalty for blasphemy was enacted by conservative dictator Zia-ul-Haq in 1986.
Is this inherent in the color of the skin of the former colonies’ populations? No, of course not. Consider India as a counterweight. Hardly perfect (which nation is?). But it does demonstrate that the Islamic-tribal culture of Pakistan overcame the English model for government and liberty, whereas the Hindi-tribal culture of India acclimated itself.
We in America have our problems. As do the Australians, Canadians, and most others (can’t think of what problems the placid Kiwis might have…). But the essential difference is that we resolve our problems under the rule of law, with freedom ensured by our institutions and enshrined in our founding documents.
Absent adult supervision, much of the former colonial world just does not seem up to this task.