The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


"'One of them, a tall coal-black bastard, kept grinning at me, real insolent. I slapped him hard, but he kept on grinning at me, so I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could ... When he finally got up on his feet he grinned at me again and I snapped. I really did. I stuck my revolver right in his grinning mouth ... And I pulled the trigger. His brains went all over the side of the police station. The other two (suspects) were standing there looking blank ... so I shot them both ... when the sub-inspector drove up, I told him the (suspects) tried to escape. He didn't believe me but all he said was 'bury them and see the wall is cleaned up'.'" -- The British Empire at work in Kenya in the 1950s. Always good to remember just how recent and bad it was. And it's for this reason that Philip Larkin's worst poem is "Homage to a Government." With an incredible slippiness, he manages to say that it's not the end of Empire he's angry about, just the way it's ending. "The places are a long way off, not here,/ Which is all right, and from what we hear/ The soldiers there only made trouble happen." The narrator of the poem is saying that people have lost their sense of duty to such an extent that even when they're unpacking the Empire, it's not because they're against it. But thank God. Thank God Britain lost the drive to care enough to shoot the smiles off people's faces .