Imagine that you are an American or other citizen of an imperializing nation. How might you react to this poem?

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Perhaps some people would be inspired by this poem to go abroad to developing nations for different reasons. With the professed goal of helping people of other countries, people who read this poem might dedicate themselves to working for colonial governments or for missions. In particular, religious missionaries might be inspired to go abroad to christianize people in other nations, whom Kipling describes as "half devil and half child." They might feel as though it is their duty to convert others to Christianity.

Others reading this poem might find it condescending and might disagree with the notion that it is the responsibility of people in industrializing nations to go abroad to train others in western ways. These readers might believe that other nations should be responsible for their own affairs and that other nations are capable of conducting their own affairs. They also might not believe in the idea that westerners are superior to people in other nations.

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Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The White Man's Burden," is often considered racist and condescending.  Kipling, an Englishman born in the crown jewel of the British Empire, India, in 1865, would spend much of his life in South and Southeast Asia, and knew these regions well.  He was very well versed on the role of the British colonial governments and on the toll in blood and treasure exacted on the British Army when the populations of some territories violently and skillfully resisted occupation.

"The White Man's Burden" can be interpreted as an ironic comment on the costs of empire.  Kipling's reference to "the savage wars of peace" can be considered a scathing indictment on the human costs of seeking to control another nation without the latter's consent.  

Some readers of Kipling's poem focus on its title at the expense of its underlying meaning.  Certainly, read out of context, the title denotes a racist approach to foreign policy and empire.  One could suggest, however, that Kipling intended both the title and the poem itself to be an indictment of British conduct in the undeveloped world.

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