The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Astonishing poem by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1919. How did he know about the Obamacrats? I guess it goes to show that our struggles against evil and idiocy are nothing new.
A copybook was used by English school children to practice penmanship. The heading on each page was some statement of common-sense wisdom, which the student would copy over and over again down the page. In Kipling’s poem, the Gods of the Copybook Headings were symbols for basic immutable truths. Examples like “Water would certainly wet us” and “Fire would certainly burn” convey the idea that some of these truths are so obvious, to dispute them would be insane.
In contrast are the Gods of the Market Place. This is not a reference to capitalism. The market is a reference to public spaces where people would gather to listen as demagogues tickled their ears with impossible and irrational promises. Their proclamations might have been absurd (e.g., that pigs have wings), yet people prefered the Gods of the Market Place because the promises, however unrealistic, were appealing.
In the modern day, the Market Place is MSNBC, CNN, etc, where Obamacrats promise that we can all get more and more free stuff (free college educations, free health care, more bureacrats to run our lives, etc.), and only a few people (the very rich) will pay for every bit of it. Such promises may sound good to teenagers and college professors, but mature, thinking people know it cannot work.
The Intellectual Activist summed it up nicely: “The point of the poem is that the various schemes for “social progress” being promoted at the time—and most of them are still with us today—are based on denying the basic truths represented by the Gods of the Copybook Headings.”
Here is Rudyard Kipling:
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings have been around for a long time, but we think we have “progressed” and have no further use for them.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
While we chased after false teachings, the Gods of the Copybook Headings never changed, nor were they blown around like clouds. When civilizations abandoned the Gods of the Copybook Headings to chase after progressive absurdities, those civilizations died.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings were hopelessly “out of touch.” They denied that the absurdities advanced by the God of the Market Place were true (e.g., that the Moon was made of Stilton cheese, that pigs had wings, etc.), so we worshipped the Gods of the Market.
We prefer to worship Gods which make us feel good. I’m reminded of the many churches which won’t talk about sin and other unpleasant realities, because such old-fashioned talk will not appeal to the masses, who prefer a more “seeker-friendly” fare.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
A 1919 reference to the modern-day effort to take away our arms, so that only criminals may have guns and law-abiding citizens may live in fear.
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
“Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife”: Liberalism tells us we must love our neighbor, which they define as giving more and more of our money to the government so they can give it to their own pet voter groups. But liberalism sees nothing at all wrong with “loving his wive” (i.e., adultry).
“Till our women had no more children”: Less than three weeks ago, the USA Today reported that the birth rate in America is the lowest in 25 years. The birthrate among Europeans is so low, it amounts to cultural suicide. So ask yourself, “Is their something about socialism that causes people to lose confidence in the future and in themselves, to the point that they will quit having children?”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Obviously, Kipling foresaw the Obamacrats. The Intellectual Activist put it this way: “That’s a concise summary of the inevitable disaster of the welfare state. And more: it names a key part of the mentality behind it—the systematic evasion of basic, obvious truths. Who thought this was ever going to work? Who thought we could build a society in which an ever-increasing number of citizens are told that they don’t have to work and that their needs will be provided for by somebody else—while the burden is shoved onto the shoulders of an ever-smaller, ever-more-despised minority of producers?”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
The inevitability of what awaits us is daunting, to say the least. But we can’t give up because the consequences of failure are so great (e.g., terror and slaughter). Our children depend on us, and fighting this battle is just part of being good parents.
We face an alliance of theivery and stupidity on a scale that is breathtaking, but perhaps we can be encouraged with the knowledge that on this world, the struggles against evil and stupidity are timeless. Rudyard Kipling knew them, and now so do we. Ronald Reagan knewm them as well, when he reminded us that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 at 4:45 pm and is filed under National Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.