Saturday, June 12, 2004

Kim by Edward Said

Anyone who doubts the power of the Leftist pen must account for the peculiar circumstances in which Edward Said was asked to write the introduction to Penguin's 1989 edition of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. Peter Hopkirk, the inveterate chronicler of the "Great Game" -- the 19th century geopolitical rivalry between Russia and Britain for Central Asia -- observed in his 1996 book The Quest for Kim how far the historical revisionism had advanced.

"More recently both Kipling and Kim have become the targets of sanctimonious critics, especially in the United States. Declaring that all of Kipling's writing is 'shot through with hatred', the late American critic Edmund Wilson accused Kim of betraying those, the Indians, whom he considered his own people' by delivering them into the bondage of 'the British invaders'. He also accused Kim, by that time aged sixteen (in the novel), of spurning the advances of the Woman of Shamlegh because she is only a 'native' while he is a sahib. ... More recently still, Professor Edwar Said of Columbia University has accused Kipling of racial stereotyping, stigmatizing, particularly in Kim, objecting, for example, to his observation that 'Kim could lie like an Oriental'."

Kipling's wonderful adventure story, a War and Peace in miniature, thronged with characters seeking gain, salvation or knowledge in a vanished India, becomes, under the Marxist heel, just another cheap tale to be thrown onto the bonfire. The practice of retrospectively judging literary work by the standards of another millennium may yet cut both ways; Kipling and Kim will continue to be read long after Edmund Wilson and Edward Said have been forgotten. But that cure was unintended.

If there is something particularly egregious about naming a Baptist clergyman to write an introduction to the Koran it can be no less than the appointment of a man who considered the 1993 Oslo Accords to be too soft on Israel to introduce Rudyard Kipling's classic. Every man deserves to speak with his own voice and it would be as great an injustice to name Daniel Pipes to raise the curtain on Said's work as it was to enlist Said in prefacing Kim.

Literature ought to be and remain a persistent data structure; which while allowing the addition of new knowledge, preserves its old versions, that is, "previous versions may be queried in addition to the latest version". Marxist revisionism derives much of its power by substituting a partially persistent data structure for the fuller one, a cut-down system in which only the latest version survives -- and that version in their control -- and where the earlier, once overlain, disappears forever. Commentators who have searched for the reason why Leftist information dominance has declined in direct proportion to the spread of the Internet should observe that in many respects, the Internet is a kind of memory machine, the "persistent data structure" which is anathema to historical revisionism.

Descartes once observed, "I think, therefore I am". One might add, "I remember and therefore I will resist".