Friday, May 29, 2009

JIM CROCE - The Ballad of Gunga Din

Rudyard Kipling has been banished to the tomb of the Politically Incorrect. After all, how many people are named "Rudyard" anymore?
Kipling was the first Brit to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, but that fact seems forgotten now.
The modern British, overrun by immigrants willing to blow themselves up for Allah, know that "the white man's burden" is among them, but they dare not say it out loud. It's as if they're guilty over bring civilization to heathen areas of the Far East and Africa, and must make amends by destroying their own culture, and watch churches convert to mosques and tourists disappear because the Fish & Chip shops are no longer run by authentic Brits.
Kipling is perceived as just an embarrassing example of white people not leaving the coloreds alone. Although minorities are generally the first to start shouting that they need aid from a richer, more industrial country. Or else.
Rudyard wrote very English (usually filled with dialect) poems about common soldiers. "Tommy Atkins" is one of the best. The soldiers were also portrayed as human, and lusty ("On the Road to Mandalay" is the place to be for interracial sex). He praised the guts and skills of the opposing soldiers ("Fuzzy Wuzzy") and in 1892 used racism in "Gunga Din" the same way Charles Dickens used misanthropy in "A Chrismtas Carol," which was to set the stage for humility: "...'you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din."
All we hear now is "how dare Kipling write about other races...what a racist!" But wasn't he, in some ways, the Randy Newman of his day? Randy Newman is a smug white guy who knows he's a lot smarter than the common ethnics. Yet critics fall over themselves praising him for lyrics that often simply tell a story without judgment. "Louisiana 1927" calls poor crackers "poor crackers," "Half a Man" is about a man disgusted by his own homosexuality, and "Rednecks" doesn't exactly say anything bad about the racist Lester Maddox. "Gunga Din" written in 1892 is in many ways quite similar to a Randy Newman lyric, where the narrator is real, human, and flawed.
As for the 1939 film, this classic is almost never shown, perhaps because it was played in brown-face by a Jewish actor named Sam Jaffe. Forget that he was courageous, and "a better man" than the whites (which was the point of the story), or that the character is not any worse a stereotype than what you've been enjoying on hip late night talk shows: Jimmy Kimmel's ugly dumb Guillermo, Letterman's excitable Mujibur and Sirajul, or Leno's effeminate Ross the Intern.
The 1939 movie is especially timely in 2009, since the plot involves a religious death cult. "Kill for the love of KILLING," was the cry (from Eduardo Cianelli, an Italian in brown-face.) It seems no TV station would want to enrage any of the lethal suicide bombers from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who kill for the love of KILLING, and kill because their religious leaders tell them so.
In the 70's, at the same time John Lennon was offering "Woman is the Nigger of the World," Jim Croce decided to champion the noble "heathen" named "Gunga Din," and put that poem to music. Unable to perform in British dialect, Jim's version is slightly wan, but at least he made the attempt. It's also rather softly sung (no din in this Gunga). If Jim Croce, a minority group member himself, didn't find "Gunga Din" offensive, maybe it's time to go back and appreciate some Kipling. (It beats Twittering.)
"Gunga Din" is one of the great story poems of all time, and Kipling wrote some great things. Not too many would agree, and...that's why you're reading this at the Illfolks blog!

No comments: