The International Writers
If you can
keep your head when all about you
Qaeda & Gunga Din
have been more than 5 years old when my father introduced me to
Rudyard Kipling. I recall a framed poem he had hanging on the wall
of his personal library room called If which
he would often take down and recite from as a goodnight
story before I closed my eyes and slumped into the wonderful world
of dreams of an innocent young child. To this day I still remember
the initial verses:
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, dont deal in lies,
Or being hated, dont give way to hating,
And yet dont look too good, nor talk too wise:
Profound words written over more than a century ago by one of Britains
But Kipling was not only a poet, he was also a journalist and war correspondent.
Born and partly raised in India during the colonial days, he was an expert
on the trials and tribulations of the British army in one of Britains
most treasured possessions, hence a great deal of his work was based on
his experiences living and writing amongst the Rajahs and army sergeants.
Another one of his poems, reflecting his adventures at the time, also
thrust upon my young self at bedtime, still remains vivid in my mind to
this very day. I refer to the famous story of Gunga Din. Herewith
is a quote of its final verse:
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din
Though Ive belted you and flayed you
By the livin Gawd that made you
Youre a better man than I am, Gunga Din
But, what does the above mean? Who could have uttered such profound words
of sorrow and regret? Who was Gunga Din anyway? The whole essence of the
poem might have slipped into oblivion had it not been for good old Hollywood
who turned a simple story of an Indian water bearer for the army who loses
his life saving a British soldier, into an act of heroism involving the
whole British army fighting against an evil bunch of assassins roaming
around the Indian subcontinent back in the XIX century. The film itself
(made in 1939 and featuring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks and Victor Mclaglen)
is good clean fun. Three disobedient sergeants and Gunga Din, in pursuit
of a temple of gold fall into the hands of the hierarchy of a bunch of
creeps known as the Thuggee Cult and are held hostage awaiting the arrival
of the rescuing army. A trap is set, but good old Gunga, who learned to
play the bugle, begins to blow the whistle just before the soldiers enter
the valley of death. Gunga gets shot and dies in the attempt
but saves the army, hence the famous ending paragraphs by the Commanding
Officer as they bury the coolie that saved the day. Although
the screen version had nothing to do with the original poem, the movie
did however open the history books to reveal a strange group of evildoers
that actually existed.
The Thuggee Cult where a weird group of Indians scattered all over the
country, who murdered and stole in the name of the Goddess Kali (mentioned
in the movie) between the XVII and XIX century. They considered their
acts of evil as a religious duty. The group was eventually suppressed
by the British thanks to Lord William Bentinck, Governor of India between
1828 and 1870 who made sure that they were totally eradicated, never to
rise again. These nutcases were not only featured in the Gunga Din film
but were the bad guys in Spielbergs movie Indian
Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as the supposed abductors
of Shirley McClaine in Around the world in eighty days.
According the Guinness Book of Records, they were responsible for over
2 million human deaths. By the way, the word Thug (meaning
villain) stems from the name of the cult.
Dont both of Kiplings poems ring a bell in todays world?
Lets start with Al Qaeda, the Islamic fundamentalist terror group
that has and is now acting all over the globe. Their system is very similar
to the Thuggees but spread further afield and across several continents.
They are killing, maiming, kidnapping and supposedly looting innocent
human lives spreading panic and chaos in the name of their own version
of religious duty. The latest attacks on Glasgow airport, the Spanish
army contingent in Lebanon and the tourists in Yemen, not to mention the
ongoing slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan are but a few examples of their
fiendish acts. Although the tactics were similar, kidnapping and slitting
of throats, their victims were different. The Thugs were after
money, basically from innocent travellers whilst Al Qaeda has got it in
for the West and those moderate Muslims who disagree with them and whose
only desire is peace based on human rights and a sort of watered down
democracy. But lets backtrack a bit.
Didnt coalition forces way back in 2003 go charging into Iraq similar
to the British army in the Gunga Din film? Only this time there was no
water bearer to head them off before the slaughter that has continued
for more than 4 years. And what about Kiplings poem If?
How different the scenario would be today if the so called trio of leaders,
Bush, Blair and Aznar had read the first verses that are quoted above,
and continued to pursue through diplomatic means rather than violence
in order to stop the Sadam Hussein reign. Instead, they went charging
in with a blind eye based on a handful of wrong information about weapons
of mass destruction and the objective of instituting a supposed Western
style democracy. Sure, the Middle East situation is a real mess at the
moment and it probably would have been no different had the coalition
forces not invaded Iraq. But at least it would not have been caused by
the West and billions of dollars would not have been and would not continue
to be spent on military support nor would many of todays lives be
Hold it! Does that mean that atrocities against our society may have been
averted? I doubt it! The Al Qaeda problem originated decades ago. Problem
is that the West in general, never woke up to the fact up until now. Could
it have been quashed years ago? Depends. Trouble is that it is too late
and we must face up to todays situation based on what is now known
as a major terrorist threat. Whats the solution?
Because of the continued threats to our very existence we are still in
time for the Western powers to recap and come to terms with reality, group
together, similar to Lord Bentinck and eradicate the evildoing. It can
only be done if the world unites as one global force. The existing coalition
needs help, fast! It needs to rally the UN, Russia, China (the whole of
the Far East for that matter!) as well as all the moderate Muslim states.
The ultimate question is how. A final quote from If perhaps?
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it,
And which is more youll be a Man, my son!
As per Rudyard Kipling, back to the drawing board and start afresh! There
is no other way.
© James Skinner. July 11th 2007.
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