"If" by Rudyard Kipling (read by Tom O'Bedlam)





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Published on Mar 4, 2009

If you think the views expressed in this poem are admirable, you should consider what George Orwell said about Kipling:

Also you could listen to Roger Whittaker, "I Don't Believe In 'If' Anymore"

Kipling wrote this poem for his son John then aged 12. Later he pulled strings to get John into the Great War, and John was killed in 1915.

Later Kipling wrote this codicil about his son and all the other dead sons:
"If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied".

Thus "If" does not represent Kipling's views.

Some of my tastier friends from the underworld don't understand Kipling's archaic language, so I promised them a verse by verse translation. It should be read in parallel with the original.

Keep schtum: admit nothing: the watchword is Plausible Deniability - okay that's two watchwords - they can't just say it : at the end of the day they have to prove it and produce evidence. Remember that witnesses can be bought or frightened off. Just stay cool and alert, sleep with one eye open and watch your back.

Make like there's all the time in the world: eventually they'll run out of patience and make a mistake. If they tell lies about you and you can prove it, sue the bastards. Love your enemies because that really annoys them. Don't let on how smart you are. Pretend to be nice.

Don't waste time on ideas that don't work out, be the first to recognise a lost cause. Remember, when the ship sinks the rats survive but the Captain drowns. Just bail out leaving them holding the baby. Many conmen sport fancy names and titles, don't let that fool you. If they get to you, don't get mad: get even - become the biggest mistake they ever made.

When newspapers misquote you and print embarrassing pictures act like you haven't a care in the world. Get your wife to stand by you looking like butter wouldn't melt between her buttocks: promise her anything in exchange, you have convince her you're her best bet. Be nice to her, it won't be for long and it won't kill you. She might, though. Keep your chin up and brazen it out. Admit defeat to yourself before they have the guts to publish it. Pre-empt legal action by putting everything in your wife's name and filing for bankrupcy: nobody's going to sue you if you're broke. People forget quickly, soon you can open again in a different name even with the same stock in the same premises. Capitalism's a great system: you've just have to know the rules.

Sometimes, if you have nothing left to lose and can't pay your bills you might as well raise all the cash you can and put it all on a horse. It might win - romp home and save your bacon - if it doesn't then scarper, do a moonlight flit, make yourself scarce. Be prepared to keep a low profile until people to forget your face: plastic surgery will help.
If you're forced to take desperate measures and get caught South America is a safe bet, even if you robbed a train and coshed the engine driver. They change their governments more often than you change your socks, nobody will stay in power long enough to complete the paperwork to extradite you. If you're a real hard case you'll be the local hero and get all the skirt you can handle.

Do anything rather than bottle out, become a desperado - they don't really know how dangerous you could be - just get a wild look in your eye, talk weird as though you're about to flip your lid. It makes 'em think while they're picking their kids up from school, "Do I really want to upset this crazy guy?"

When you're doing okay it's a worth nurturing the knack of speaking in public, making a good impression without actually lying, or boasting or making promises you might be asked to keep. And cultivating influential friends in high places, Westminster, the Palace even, without alienating the plebs and riff-raff that you might need to do your dirty work; all the while maintaining a Teflon shell that deflects both criticism and flattery and makes you impervious to what people think. Never forget that the guy most likely to run off with your wife and all your cash is your best friend or business partner. .

The good news is that if you keep running as fast as you can you can stay ahead of the competition, which is like owning just about goddamn everything, but the bad news is that you can't ever stop running so it's of no real use to you. However the REALLY good news is that then I'll admit that you're masculine and that I am really your father: I'll even stop calling you a sissy, admit I fixed the DNA test and marry your mother.


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