Kipling, Doing Groucho ...
Bob Hicks has an article in the Books Section of today's Oregonian I found interesting. Concerns a conversation with a check-out clerk at the supermarket regarding Rudyard Kipling versus Jack London. Fascinating thing, and going to what it's like to live in a town wherein a clerk can bring such literary topics up while scanning your groceries.
Worth a read.
Hicks also talks about both Kipling and London, and how they were men of their day. Kipling at times has been thought to be no more than a saber-rattling proponent of the dying British Empire; London a racist and advocate of American Imperialism and Manifest Destiny. Hicks refers to Kipling's poem, "White Man's Burden," and London's essay "The Yellow Peril," and they are also interesting reading. Have a look. Nasty stuff from literary greats of our not-too-distant-past.
Of course, you have to read them in the context of a hundred years ago; using today's sensibilities, you can't really understand how, even among the intelligentsia of the time, these were not considered far-fetched positions, but quite reasonable for the day.
What was said, when, by whom, for what reasons, against what background, these all matter when it comes to understanding the intent of a statement. Things that horrify us today would have seemed worth less than a shrug two hundred, a hundred, even fifty years ago. If we don't blow ourselves up or die off from some man-made plague, I imagine that fifty or a hundred years from now our ancestors will be equally horrified at how barbaric we all were.