Civilization is built on nuggets of wisdom learned from man’s behavior through the ages resulting in well understood and inviolable rules of conduct. Millennia of human experience have ingrained these rules and disregarding them inevitably leads to terror and slaughter. Copybooks once were used in schools to teach penmanship. Each page was headed by one of these nuggets of wisdom which students then copied such as “All is not gold that glitters“. These are Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings.
This post excerpts parts of the poem; the full version is readily available online. The first two stanzas of the poem follow.
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper protestations 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 Market Place refer to transient and ephemeral fads such as Tulip Mania and the South Sea Bubble. Today such Gods would include climate change, transgender bathrooms, open borders, microaggressions and government health care.
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 even was Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
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.”
The Gods of the Market tell us what we want to hear – that we can spend and borrow without limit or consequence and that we can slash defense spending and still be safe. They tell us we can tax and regulate without choking economic growth. The Gods of the Market tell us we can have perpetual peace if only we ignore threats and appease North Korea, Russia, ISIS and Iran and negotiate ersatz one-sided treaties.
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.”
The Gods of the Market promise that every collectivist, socialist, communist and utopian scheme will deliver abundance for all. But such schemes are contrary to human nature per the copybook headings. Never has socialism worked for more than a family, clan or small tribe – perhaps 25 people max. Yet this eternal lesson is lost on the people of Venezuela and far too many other places. Following is the poem’s apt conclusion.
And 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!
Kipling’s poem goes to the heart of human nature and is just as valid now as when he wrote it in 1919. Today, America is worshiping the Gods of the Market and defying the Gods of the Copybook Headings. We continue this only at our grave peril. Water still wets us and fire still burns; the only question remaining is: how much terror and slaughter must America endure before the Gods of the Copybook Headings return?
June 4th is MLLG’s not-to-be-missed high school graduation address