Sunday, 28 June 2015

Homi Bhaba & Kipling's 'the Man who would be King'.

About 7 years after Kipling described the failure of a fictional attempt by 2 disreputable, ex-Drill Sergeant, British loafers, to become 'Kings of Kafiristan' and make a present of it to Queen Victoria, Muslim Afghans did succeed in colonising that mountainous realm, extirpating its native Religion, and adding  it to their Empire.

After the Soviet invasion, Nuristan- the 'realm of Light' as that 'realm of the Infidel' had been renamed- stood foremost in the resistance struggle against what Ronald Reagan termed an 'Evil Empire. The same thing happened after 9/11 when N.A.T.O put boots on the ground.

Why, according to Kipling, did the (fictional) British attempt fail and does that reason also explain why the Muslim Afghans succeeded?
Remarkably, yes.
In Kipling's story,  the priestly elite amongst the Nuristanis (who are a sort of lost tribe of Britishers) have a passionate inkling of the rituals of Freemasonry up to the Second Grade. Fortunately, the 2 British mock-Imperialists have been instructed one level higher. However, instead of confessing this purely human source of their esoteric knowledge, they let it be thought that they themselves are Gods. Since, sooner or later, one or the other of them is bound to suffer some injury or illness, their imposture is sure to be detected and thus their Kingdom is built on sand.
One of the soldiers, the brains behind the operation, decides to get married to a local girl. She thinks he is a God and knows that mortal women die if they marry either gods or demons. Thus, instead of kissing the groom, she bites his cheek and draws blood.
Since Gods don't bleed- except in Christianity- the two Imperialists meet a gristly fate.
Afghan Islam, on the other hand, could fare better. Its Prophet was wholly human and acceptance of its doctrine was not contingent upon it being a more advanced version of what was previously adhered to.
Nuristan is still a sort of palimpsest where ancient customs and practices remain faintly visible under the Kufic of Islamic orthopraxy. However, this 'sous rature' erasure or over-writing has not made that Province more amenable to the promises held out by new, non-Islamic, conquerors. On the contrary, the Nuristanis have offered such misguided Imperial adventures the most spirited resistance.

This, it seems to me, is a good reason to dismiss Post Colonial Theory as mischievous nonsense.

Consider the following excerpt from a representative text-

Vegetarian Hindus did not consider the Christian Eucharist to be a kind of cannibalism or vampirism any more than they thought the 'aja' grain they offered in sacrifice was actually a goat. The Namboodri did not taunt his Syrian Christian neighbor in such scurrilous terms over the score of centuries the two communities cohabited. Later on, Tamil Brahmins would scarcely have welcomed Fr. Roberto de Nobili or Fr. Joseph Besci into their agraharams if such prejudices in fact obtained. Raja Ramohan Roy has a criticism of Trinitarian Christianity, Radhakrishnan of eschatological Gospel hermeneutics, but neither they nor countless other Hindus who engaged with Christianity ever descended to such illiterate or school-boy invective.
The text Bhaba quotes- a typical Catechist's litany of improbable excuses for having taken a lot of seed-money but provided no great harvest of human souls in return-  has been taken out of context and interpreted in a wholly ludicrous manner.

Let us take a famous example of a comic muddle arising out of 'hybridization'- the Jesuits wrote a Christian Purana. Who was taken in by it? Not the Indians, it was the Frenchman, Voltaire.
Similarly, the first Professor of English Literature anywhere in the world was wholly taken in by the forgery- 'Ossian'- which also fooled Napoleon and Goethe and so on. But, in both these cases, no actual Bhaba type mimicry or mockery had occurred. Voltaire's education wasn't very different from that of the Jesuits. The English Professor who acclaimed Ossian was in fact a near neighbor to its forger.
Examples of culturally influential 'hybridization'- Carlos Castaneda, Lobsong Rampa, the French-Cambodian shemale David Cameron- more often than not, represent no vestige of conquest, or Colonial cross-pollination but are imaginary simply.
This is not to say that Bhaba's claims are wholly empty. No. But they are trivial.
Currently, some 'Hindutva' nut-jobs raise a hue and cry when they see foreign Missionaries deliberately using 'Hindu tropes- e.g. pilgrimage to the Ganges or Tirupati etc- or when Bishops claim that the Gita derives from the Gospel. But these nut-jobs will get exercised over anything- including the cutesy custom of little  kids sending each other Valentines, rather than 'Raakhees', thus obviating the guilt of having kissed one's 'Raakhee' brother behind the bike-shed. Of course, as a Hindutva intellectual myself- not a nutjob at all- I condemn the practice of saying 'Hello' because this is the secret Christian name of God as in the infamous Lord's prayer- 'O God who art in Heaven, Hello be thy name'.
Forster speaks of a 'muddle' and there will always be muddle where there exist Loves that dare not speak their name, and must-have gloves that cut off circulation to the scarlet hands of shame, with the result that Paideia's Credential becomes indistinguishable, to even the most discerning anus, from the pensive coprolite it itself extrudes. But that muddle had nothing to do with the functioning of the Colonial State nor contributed anything to its demise.
Dravot's divinity fails because he suffers an injury. Suppose he had slipped and broken his leg. The same cry would have gone up- 'How can a God break his leg?' Suppose he had suffered from dysentery- the scandal would have been 'how can a God suffer the shits?'
Dravot's crime is against the tenets of Freemasonry, belief in which he holds in common with the Priestly class of his new subjects- who, in any case, he considers British. The punishments he and his comrade suffer parallel those to be found in Masonic lore.
Kipling's point, in modern terminology, is a simple one. The establishment of a 'stationary bandit' suppresses wasteful vendettas and represents a Pareto improvement. The 'stationary bandit' gains both legitimacy and revenue by considering existing Schelling focal solutions to Society's co-ordination game (i.e. existing sacred geographies, conventions and shibboleths) and figuring out how to extract a rent from these choke points. However, if the 'stationary bandit' does not do this in a rational manner, then some irrational hybridization will occur- such as the notion of a Man-God- causing his own extinction event.
Post Colonial theory could have been a stationary bandit turned Imperium extracting rents from University Depts. better funded and less obviously worthless than 'World Literature' or 'Area Studies'.
But, being as opportunistic, Epimethean, and fundamentally declasse as Kipling's Dravot, it has been horribly tortured, has gone mad, suffered dismemberment and finally and most fiendishly suffered the torments of death and damnation as a Research Project.
Witness this-
Did Churchill, once a subaltern in India 'practicing domination', become hybrid in his language as a result? When he says 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,' though the cadence is Augustan, he is not really saying something very different from- '“And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too.” 

What of Thackeray, of Kipling, of Saqi, of Lawrence Durrell- was their language really hybridised? Are there passages in any of their works which suggest the authorial hand of Desani's H.Hatter?
What of contemporary Indians? Does Vikram Seth's poem on George Herbert (whose house he now occupies) smell of curry rather than whatever modish Californian fusion cuisine feeds M.F.A aesthetic inedia?

Hybridity is a grotesque- its grotto sacred to School Boy scurrilousness and Pot House puerility. It does not 'shift power' or 'question discursive authority'- rather it is a Carnival mostrance of the incompossible nature of mimetic desire, which far from overthrowing Lent points to the purgative necessity of the Man-God's korban or pharmakos.

The 'Rice Christian' who relapses points not to 'cultural differences' underpinning a notion of hybridity as strategic resistance but to Instrumentalized Charity's univocal status as whited sephulchre. 
Colour or Culture don't come into it. E.M Forster's Clapham Sect ancestors had faced the same problem with London's proletariat and his audience back in Blighty knew this full well.

Returning to Kipling's story, look at this by no means illiterate Post Colonial interpretation of it by a Bengali vidhushi- a female savant- whose PhD is from Ohio and who now teaches in Hong Kong.
My remarks are in bold.

In discussing Bhabha's theory in the context of Kipling's story, we
may substitute the English book, or the Bible, for the Masonic grid;
No we may not! Christianity has a Man-God who bleeds for us. Masonry doesn't.
Daniel and Peachey know the missing Master's Mark which the natives
have no knowledge of and the revelation of this mark convinces the
natives of the supernatural status of these two men.
Daniel and Peachey's crime against Masonry consists in permitting this hybridization of Masonic practice- a sin against the Mother lodge- and are punished for this Epimethean act of expediency.
Bhabha writes, 'The acknowledgement of authority depends upon the immediate – unmedi-
ated – visibility of its rules of recognition' (Bhabha: 1994, 110) and
the Mark represents to the native the authority of the two English men.
Quite false.Their Martini guns, skill as drill masters, and shrewdness in tactics had already established their authority. The King of Kabul, too, had better guns than the Kaffirs and he would use them to establish his authority. But, his commanders weren't so foolish as to allow any expedient act of hybridisation which, since hybrids soon come a cropper in the real world, would have created a scandal, a stumbling block to faith, fatal to the legitimacy of the new Religion they introduced. Indeed, not as an atavistic 'return of the repressed', the Taliban are better understood as a rebellion against the hybridity of Iqbal's 'pirzada' and ISIS as expressing ire at the hybridized hereditary Sayyad/Saoshyant claiming an Achaemenid descent.
Bhabha asserts that hybridity turns the gaze of the discriminated back
upon the eye of power: '. . . faced with the hybridity of its objects, the
presence of power is revealed as something other than what its rules of
recognition assert' (Bhabha, 112). 
Nonsense! Saki dealt with a case of hybridity in his story 'Tobermory' about a cat which learns to talk. It does not cause the humans to question their authority over the animal kingdom. Instead, its revelations undermine the cordiality of their mutual relations. But since, as Saki well knew, 'in the Turkish bath all are naked', their solidarity is quickly re-established in the demand that the cat be destroyed. However, nature has done their job for them. Speaking elegant English confers no Darwinian advantage on a cat- which is why my neighbor's tabby refuses to say 'O long Johnson'- and thus Tobermory loses his battle with the big Tom from the Rectory.
Once again, this juncture is reached in "The Man who would be King" at the moment when Daniel is bitten by the native woman and begins to bleed. The earlier articulation of
the God/Devil-Englishman equivalence is now destabilized so that the
colonial authority of Daniel and Peachey is weakened and split.
The natives had no such concept as 'Englishman; Daniel and Peachey appeared to be of the same race as themselves. They had already established their authority before they foolishly let it be thought they enjoyed God like omniscience, rather than a superior inculcation in the rites of Freemasonry.
Daniel would have been found out even if his bride hadn't bitten him. Sooner or later he would have suffered some accident or injury or would have come done with a case of the shits.
Moreover, no 'equivalence has been destabilised', rather a thesis has been decisively refuted by an empirical test. The writer speaks of Daniel and Peachey as possessing 'colonial authority'. They did not. The locals had no concept of the British Raj. Daniel and Peachey had not disclosed their plan of gifting the Province to the Queen Empress to them and, of course, possessed no official warrant, or indeed complaisance, for their mission.
 According to Bhabha, 'The display of hybridity its peculiar 'repli-
cation' terrorizes authority with the ruse of recognition, its mimicry,
its mockery' (Bhabha, 115).
'Ruse of Recognition' is a conflation of 2 Hegelian tropes- The Master/Slave'Struggle for Recognition' by which the useful stuff the slave produces creates a dependency and craving for Life in the Master who was previously more unafraid of death and thus thymotically superior; and the 'Ruse of Reason' whereby people are merely the puppets of the Welt Geist.
Both tropes are fucked in the head. The Americans were much more not much less afraid of death than the people of the Phillipines. That's one reason their technology was so much better- Scientific advances make our lives safer they baffle Death's many snares- and also why they were much more ruthless- they invented the Concentration Camp. 
If Hegel was correct, the Japanese Kamikaze pilot would have defeated the U.S Navy. Not indifference to one's own death but the means and will to deal it out with massive ruthlessness is what establishes Mastery. As for the 'ruse of Reason'- perhaps, it was reasonable, at one time, to think of Napoleon as having been used by the Welt Geist to prod Prussia into that Perfection Hegel eulogized- but History has moved on since then; we all know that notion is utterly fucked in the head.
Sooner or later, by the Cliodynamics of Christaller Central Place theory, an ergodic, i.e. Economically rational, and more or less unitary State would have arisen even absent any 'heroes' or 'world-historical personalities' like Napoleon or Hitler. Reason needs no ruses, if it genuinely is reasonable- not Hegelian shite.
Bhaba says hybridity- like a cat that speaks upper class Edwardian English- 'terrorizes authority'. It does not, cats that talk are for the freak show. Even had Tobermory got to the office of the local paper and spilled the beans on the various fornications and defalcations of the upper crust inhabitants of the Country House, which Newspaper would have printed his revelations? Will the testimony of a cat really be given credence in a Court of Law? The Newspaper proprietor has no defense against a Libel suit militating for exemplary damages.

If hybridity can't terrorize but only give one a fright before proceeding to amuse, what of Bhaba's 'ruse of recognition'- i.e. a situation where the slave's work is one of mimickry and mockery which the Welt Geist itself has ordained so that Society can reach that state of Perfection Hegel himself saw mirrored in the Prussian Constitution?
'Hail to the Chimp' is a movie in the Simpsons universe. Suppose it was actually made and gave rise to a TV show where chimps re-enact the doings of the great and the good. No doubt, initially some people in authority will freak out. But, if sanity prevails, the show will become increasingly anodyne- a Disney cartoon. President Chimp will show himself increasingly statesmanlike. If he misses his son's Little League game because he had to stop a nuclear war, we know he will say to his son- 'Champ, I know I should of been there for you for your big game, but, y'know what?, I had a pretty tough time myself today and thinking of you helped me get through it.' At which point the little monkey hugs him and says 'I love you Dad'.
 In order to reduce resistance from the Kafirs, the colonizers seek to establish such a "replication" between themselves and the natives and in this they are aided by the absence of racial difference. 
The Kafirs stopped resisting once it became clear that the 2 Brits had superior technology, tactics and, what's more, were savvy enough to suppress wasteful vendettas in favor of a lean 'stationary bandit' type regime which was a Pareto improvement. However, for enhanced rent extraction without territorial expansion, Economic Development is needed. But such Development can only occur if people trust each other- i.e. Credit burgeons- and also if productivity improves by reason of the adoption of a sterner work-ethic.
Freemasonry ab ovo was concerned with increasing mutual trust and replacing thymotic competition with productive co-operation. It has its own mythology centered on Solomon's Temple and could, plausibly, within its own universe of discourse, have spread to Kafiristan.
Daniel does not say that he and his friend can't fight any more but they don't want to fight anymore. Moreover, the local priests are already second degree Masons and have an inbuilt tropism towards the arcana of the Third.
Here is the relevant passage-

“‘Peachey,’ says Dravot, ‘we don’t want to fight no more. The Craft’s the trick so help me!’ and he brings forward that same Chief that I left at Bashkai — Billy Fish we called him afterwards, because he was so like Billy Fish that drove the big tank-engine at Mach on the Bolan in the old days. ‘Shake hands with him,’ says Dravot, and I shook hands and nearly dropped, for Billy Fish gave me the Grip. I said nothing, but tried him with the Fellow Craft Grip. He answers, all right, and I tried the Master’s Grip, but that was a slip. ‘A Fellow Craft he is!’ I says to Dan. ‘Does he know the word?’ ‘He does,’ says Dan, ‘and all the priests know. It’s a miracle! The Chiefs and the priest can work a Fellow Craft Lodge in a way that’s very like ours, and they’ve cut the marks on the rocks, but they don’t know the Third Degree, and they’ve come to find out. It’s Gord’s Truth. I’ve known these long years that the Afghans knew up to the Fellow Craft Degree, but this is a miracle. A god and a Grand-Master of the Craft am I, and a Lodge in the Third Degree I will open, and we’ll raise the head priests and the Chiefs of the villages.’
“‘It’s against all the law,’ I says, ‘holding a Lodge without warrant from any one; and we never held office in any Lodge.’
“‘It’s a master-stroke of policy,’ says Dravot. ‘It means running the country as easy as a four-wheeled bogy on a down grade. We can’t stop to inquire now, or they’ll turn against us.
The most amazing miracle was at Lodge next night. One of the old priests was watching us continuous, and I felt uneasy, for I knew we’d have to fudge the Ritual, and I didn’t know what the men knew. The old priest was a stranger come in from beyond the village of Bashkai. The minute Dravot puts on the Master’s apron that the girls had made for him, the priest fetches a whoop and a howl, and tries to overturn the stone that Dravot was sitting on. ‘It’s all up now,’ I says. ‘That comes of meddling with the Craft without warrant!’ Dravot never winked an eye, not when ten priests took and tilted over the Grand-Master’s chair — which was to say the stone of Imbra. The priest begins rubbing the bottom end of it to clear away the black dirt, and presently he shows all the other priests the Master’s Mark, same as was on Dravot’s apron, cut into the stone. Not even the priests of the temple of Imbra knew it was there. The old chap falls flat on his face at Dravot’s feet and kisses ’em. ‘Luck again,’ says Dravot, across the Lodge to me, ‘they say it’s the missing Mark that no one could understand the why of. We’re more than safe now.’ Then he bangs the butt of his gun for a gavel and says:— ‘By virtue of the authority vested in me by my own right hand and the help of Peachey, I declare myself Grand-Master of all Freemasonry in Kafiristan in this the Mother Lodge o’ the country, and King of Kafiristan equally with Peachey!’ At that he puts on his crown and I puts on mine — I was doing Senior Warden — and we opens the Lodge in most ample form. It was a amazing miracle! The priests moved in Lodge through the first two degrees almost without telling, as if the memory was coming back to them. After that, Peachey and Dravot raised such as was worthy — high priests and Chiefs of far-off villages. Billy Fish was the first, and I can tell you we scared the soul out of him. It was not in any way according to Ritual, but it served our turn. We didn’t raise more than ten of the biggest men because we didn’t want to make the Degree common. And they was clamoring to be raised.
Returning to the lady savant's Post Colonial account, we read-
However, they are suddenly and violently made aware
of the degeneracy of their imperialist project when the recognition
between them and the natives becomes absolute. 
The savant is right to speak of degeneracy in this context- but it is a degeneracy only with respect to Freemasonry as practiced in Kipling's own Mother Lodge. 
Daniel had a duty, as a Mason, to deny any claim to the hybrid status of a Man-God. It was very foolish of him to neglect this duty, but then Daniel was a fool. Earlier Kipling had saved him from certain death when he formed a scheme to blackmail a native prince by passing himself of as a  correspondent for Kipling's own paper. In other words, Daniel had tried the ruse of 'repetition' but Imperial systems stand in no terror of such monkey tricks and maintain a well oiled machine to detect and stamp out such freaks or frauds.
Our learned vidushi tells us that the recognition between the natives and the man who would be King became absolute. She surely can't be claiming that the natives could suddenly place Daniel in his socio-economic context or his relationship to the British Raj. However, it is true to say that, from the point of view of Masonry, there was indeed an absolute recognition on both sides that Daniel has reduplicated the crime against Hiram, the Widow's son in that he has sought to usurp a Gnosis- he had, in Vogelin's phrase, 'immanentized the eschaton'- by means both forceful and fraudulent. The punishments both men suffer, too, are prefigured in Masonic lore.
Returning to our learned theorist, we learn
'The natives are like them in more ways than they had imagined possible. The consequence
of such a horrifying recognition can only be, in Kipling's scheme of
things, madness and dismemberment as is demonstrated by the ultimate
fate of Daniel and Peachey. Bhabha's theories on the discourse of colo-
nialism therefore, suggest that the native is somehow in possession of
colonial power, although his culture and economy are destroyed. The
natives of Kafiristan in Kipling's story assert this power in the most
crucial moment of the story.
Freemasonry isn't about Colonial Power anymore than it is about Daniel's crowned Baphomet head which disappears at the end of Kipling's story. But even if it had been, ab ovo, an Imperial instrumentality,  it still isn't true that Colonial Power could or has ever been extinguished by the terror struck by purely sanguinary means.
Rebellions which sought simply to instrumentalize atrocity, or enforce a univocity of unspeakable terror, rather than securing obligatory passage point status for their instigators, backfired horribly. Kipling grew up hearing stories of the 'Ghaddar'- the events of 1857. There could be no question that the atrocities committed by the Sepoys were utterly destructive to their own ethos and rendered their natal districts more supine than ever before.
The British did leave Kenya, the French did leave Algeria, but did not return to their own shores with a human cargo displaying the horrific Mau Mau marks of 'madness and dismemberment'. On the contrary, the Govts. and peoples of the ex-Colonial powers enjoyed increasingly cordial and profitable relations with their former colonies. There were some exceptions. After the assassination of Aung San, (with the complicity of disaffected British traders and officers but in defiance of Atlee) Burma did leave the Commonwealth. It is the only country that was less than welcoming to retired British Army soldiers.
Does anybody really believe that Kipling was saying 'guys, let's give up Imperialism. It will end badly. My Daddy will go mad and Mummy will be dismembered. Fuck the British Raj. Let's get out while we still can.'?
Even suppose there was some way to prove this really was his sub-conscious sub-text, why bring up the matter unless all you are interested in doing is showing Kipling was as stupid as shit? Surely, we can find plenty of other texts in his oeuvre- for example his opposition to Statutory limitations on working hours on the grounds that this was the thin edge of the wedge of the Teutonic type of slavery which Herbert Spenser denounced in 'The Servile State'?

What about the notion that 'the native is somehow in possession of Colonial Power'? Either Imperialism is a viable project or it isn't. If the native, in some occult manner, possesses Colonial Power how come Cairo doesn't still rule over Khartoum or Delhi over Aden and Rangoon?
Epistemic power doesn't exist. Epistemic violence is gesture politics of the most pointless sort.
Post Colonial Theory, illiterate and developmentally challenged though it undoubtedly is, nevertheless has an audience. We are all unwitting Bhaba black sheep when we whine about being wogs.
I once had a Trustafarian g.f who claimed she felt 'mentally raped' when I suggested we split the rent. I quickly responded that I felt like a nigger being whipped in the cotton field while Missy twirls her parasol and looks on. She upped the ante by becoming Anne Frank. I suppose, if I'd read enough Bhaba, I could have gotten off a snappy comeback featuring my own horrific apotheosis as the trajectory of the sodomized Subaltern in Singur, but the truth is I've always considered Anne Frank kinda hot. It turned out, she did too. So that ended quite unedifyingly with me continuing to have to pay all our bills out of my exiguous earnings as a Gayatri Spivak celebrity lookalike.


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