Students at Manchester University have removed Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" (one of the greatest and most popular poems in the English language) from a wall in a Students' Union (SU) building. They object to it not because they disagree with the sentiments of the poem. It's Kipling they have a problem with. They regard him as a racist and that he “stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights”.
According to the Telegraph, Sara Khan, the liberation and access officer (what?) at Manchester’s SU, blamed a “failure to consult students” during the renovation of the SU building for the Kipling poem being painted on the wall in the first place.
“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights - the things that we, as an SU, stand for,” she said.
Once again we have those who object to people in our history who have allegedly imposed their beliefs on others, failing to notice the irony that they are displaying the same behaviour they are accusing them of.
They conveniently ignore that Kipling was a product of his generation and time, just as they are products of their generation and time. Opinions change. You can't erase history, but people like Khan want to.
In her mission to get everyone to conform with her world view, she acts illiberally, and seeks to disempower those who do not object to the poem being displayed. She seeks to silence them. All that matters to her is that her world view is the view that everyone must agree to. No ifs, no buts. I am right; you are wrong. Indeed, you are not only wrong, but you are evil and you shouldn't be allowed to express a viewpoint. That is Khan's real position. She'll be banning screenings of Jungle Book next!
Universities are supposed to be places where young (and not so young) people's minds are opened. Instead they are becoming places where they are closed, locked, and the key is thrown away.
As it happens, "If" is my favourite poem, and I don't need an excuse to quote from it. But I am going to do better than that. Here it is in full, dedicated to those sensible students who need the courage to fight back.
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 by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!