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“To the Person Sitting in Darkness” - Mark Twain

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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:23 PM
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“To the Person Sitting in Darkness” - Mark Twain


“To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” which Mark Twain published in the North American Review in 1901, attacks Western imperialism as it was manifesting itself in South Africa, China, Cuba, and the Philippines. It names its villains – McKinley, Joseph Chamberlain, the Kaiser, the Czar – and their instruments, especially the Reverend William Scott Ament, a Congregationalist minister who was affiliated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_the_Person_Sitting_in_D...

To the Person Sitting in Darkness (excerpted) By Mark Twain



Shall we? That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first? Would it not be prudent to get our Civilization-tools together, and see how much stock is left on hand in the way of Glass Beads and Theology, and Maxim Guns and Hymn Books, and Trade-Gin and Torches of Progress and Enlightenment (patent adjustable ones, good to fire villages with, upon occasion), and balance the books, and arrive at the profit and loss, so that we may intelligently decide whether to continue the business or sell out the property and start a new Civilization Scheme on the proceeds?

Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked -- but not enough, in my judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit in Darkness are getting to be too scarce -- too scarce and too shy. And such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality, and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or profitable for us. We have been injudicious.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it -- they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More -- they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light. In the right kind of a light, and at a proper distance, with the goods a little out of focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the Gentlemen who Sit in Darkness:

LOVE,
JUSTICE,
GENTLENESS,
CHRISTIANITY,
PROTECTION TO THE WEAK,
TEMPERANCE, LAW AND ORDER,
LIBERTY,
EQUALITY,
HONORABLE DEALING,
MERCY,
EDUCATION,

-- and so on.

There. Is it good? Sir, it is pie. It will bring into camp any idiot that sits in darkness anywhere. But not if we adulterate it. It is proper to be emphatic upon that point. This brand is strictly for Export -- apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially, it is nothing of the kind. Privately and confidentially, it is merely an outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special patterns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption, while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.

We all know that the Business is being ruined. The reason is not far to seek. It is because our Mr. McKinley, and Mr. Chamberlain, and the Kaiser, and the Czar and the French have been exporting the Actual Thing with the outside cover left off. This is bad for the Game. It shows that these new players of it are not sufficiently acquainted with it.

...

http://www1.assumption.edu/users/mcclymer/His130/P-H/bu...
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:41 PM
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1. One would think after all this time, we would not have to still be quoting George Santayana
to no avail, of course.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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HawkerHurricane Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. And those of us who do know history are doomed to say...
"I told you so!"

(History doesn't repeat itself, historians repeat each other.)
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Duke Newcombe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:43 PM
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2. Ouch. That all that needs to be said.
That Actual Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.

We all know that the Business is being ruined. The reason is not far to seek. It is because our Mr. McKinley, and Mr. Chamberlain, and the Kaiser, and the Czar and the French have been exporting the Actual Thing with the outside cover left off. This is bad for the Game. It shows that these new players of it are not sufficiently acquainted with it.



Indeed. I'm going to have to check this text out.
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 07:44 PM
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3. Great post. Do we have to Wiki Mark Twain? Would Mark Twain Tweet?
:eyes:
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lunatica Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 10:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. He would have to so he could reduce it all with his wit
And he would keep us gasping with laughter with his blog...
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omega minimo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 10:37 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Never the Twain shall Tweet -- or Twit.
:spray:
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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-23-09 08:01 PM
Response to Original message
4. this is sadly excellent ,still-
thank you for posting it.

k&r
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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-24-09 10:41 AM
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8. "The White Man's Burden"
The great spokesperson for American imperialism, ironically, was the British writer Rudyard Kipling, whose "The White Man's Burden" appeared in February 1899, just as the newly founded Philippine Republic declared war upon the United States. The U.S. had refused to withdraw its troops following the surrender of Spain and also had refused to recognize the new Republic.

In 1899 Rudyard Kipling was nearing the peak of his literary career. In 1907 he would win the Nobel Prize. Only thirty-four years old in 1899, he had already published best-selling children's books, collections of stories, and volumes of poetry. Many of his tales were set in India where he had been born and raised. India was, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli told Queen Victoria, the "jewel in the crown," the most important possession of the British Empire. Kipling considered himself a product of that empire, and he became a staunch advocate of western imperialism. It brought "civilization" to "new-caught sullen peoples." It was, in fact, a moral obligation. Favored nations and races had the responsibility to "take up the White Man's burden." Kipling wrote the poem to urge the United States to take over the Philippines. It was time for the United States to take its proper place as an imperial power.



Rudyard Kipling, "The White Man's Burden" published in McClure's Magazine, Feb. 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 hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron 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, make 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 ye 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 cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
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.

------

The racism and paternalism of those times lives on in the language, attitudes and actions of the apologists for today's post-modern, technocratic Empire which in all meaningful ways mirrors the characteristics of the old colonial empires.

Plus ca' change.
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