Interpretation of “The Gods of the Copybook Headings”
A few months ago I stumbled over the poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” by Rudyard Kipling. I had never heard of the poem before, but the visual interpretation of the poem by filmmaker and author Lauren Southern put me under a spell. I watched it over and over again and even started learning the poem.
As a mostly reasonable person with political center-left libertarian views, I’m utterly frustrated with the ongoing global movement against reason that accelerated over the last 5 years. The poem echoes this feeling.
The poem was released into a deeply confusing and worrying time. The First World War had killed 17 Million people—Kiplings son one of them—and the Spanish flu killed additional 59-100 Million people between 1918-1920.
Disillusioned from the war Pacifism became popular, Patriotism unpopular, and religion and morality suffered a major setback.
The Russian Revolution had removed the Tsar in 1917 and many people looked at Marxist socialism as the solution to all humanity’s problems.
Kipling was not happy with the political developments. He feared that giving up morals and values would lead to people not trusting each other and result in the destruction of the civilization.
The poem is his warning.
Copybook Headings were lined pages with short wisdom, aphorisms, or verses at the top, used to practice cursive writing. The student was challenged to repeat the sentence a few dozen times on the page and by doing not only learned the handwriting but took in the wisdom and morals transmitted from one generation to another.
The poem was released in London on 26th October 1919 in the Sunday Pictorial. In 1920 it was released in the USA under the title “The Gods of the Copybook Margins”.
It is a poem with ten stanzas, each with four lines (Quatrains) with a rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD.
The poem is a conservative poem. Its basic message is that everything progressive and new isn’t new at all. It was tried before and it failed. It is a call to return to reason, values, and objective truth. Human progress is dependent on ideas, but few of them will survive the test through the Gods, the rest will be destroyed.
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
The poet travels metaphorically through different times and as different people and bows to the Gods of the Marketplace.
The Gods of the Marketplace, are those
temporary fads like Dutch tulip bulbs, dot-com stocks, mortgage-backed securities, and […] carbon credits, writes William A. Levinson. These gods are promises and ideas, social progress, and delusory ideologies that despise the truth. The 20th century had no shortage of these ideas, even though Kipling didn’t know about the harm that Socialism, Fascism, or Nazi ideology would unleash on the world.
And the new century has, unfortunately, no shortage of bad ideas: The resurrection of Postmodernism and Neo-Marxism, Identity Politics, Critical Theory, victimhood culture, the war on drugs, boys, masculinity, the nuclear family, merit, and market-based capitalism, or growth without limits, to name a few.
But all these bad ideas will fail and crumble and the Gods of the Copybook Headings will prevail, because they are
the nonpartisan, scientific, and implacable laws of economics and human behavior.[2:1]
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
The poet tells the story that these laws were there from the beginning. Early humans learned from the errors others made: Fire will burn you, poisonous berries will make you sick, a predator will eat you. This common knowledge became stories and turned into myths over time.
But new gods arrived that looked more promising: progress, money, wealth, or comfort. Humanity forgot the common knowledge and wisdom and moved on.
Not every progress is good for the individual. While agriculture led to an explosion in the growth of population, it resulted in declined health of humans and higher mother and child mortality. Less food variation resulted in malnutrition. Dense living conditions with other humans and animals, poor sewage, and waste conditions resulted in declined health. The bones and skulls of those humans were much smaller than their hunter-gatherer ancestors. We can see this even today, where most people need their wisdom tooth’s removed because they don’t fit in the jaw, because we don’t chew hard things anymore.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
The Gods of the Marketplace end civilizations that ignore common knowledge and objective truth.
Where the hunter-gatherer knew
if I hunt two monkeys today, I have to walk twice as long tomorrow, the humans that follow the ideas of the Marketplace don’t learn. Again and again, we can see them failing.
Be it Rome that fell through decadence and politics unable to defend the Empire against invading barbarians, or the Maya that created cities with millions of inhabitants, artificial soil, and streets but destroyed themselves with endless war and unrestrained extraction of natural resources.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
Denial of objective truth is one of the signs of a society’s downfall.
We live in a time filled with lies that deny objective truth and create pseudo-realities that can eventually lead to Totalitarianism. If enough people believe a lie, societies become unable to solve their problems and fail.
Large parts of the world honesty believe that Black people are hunted by racist police in the streets. Instead of researching the topic to get to the truth, the self-proclaimed social justice warriors replace their profile with black images to show solidarity. This doesn’t help to solve the structural problems of Black communities but gives a quick way of feeling self-righteous and morally superior.
But when investigated the stories begin to crumble quickly. The “Black Lives Matter” organization was founded on a lie repeating the mantra
Hands up, don’t shoot of the Michael Brown case. More worrying is that the organization was founded by confessing Marxists. The founders have ties to the radical-left terrorist organization “The Weather Underground” which bombed buildings like The Capitol and Pentagon in the 60s and 70s.
Until recently they stated one of their goals was the “destruction of the nuclear family”. The organization is used every four years to help the Democrats win elections. It is used to transfer billions of donations through dubious channels to political agitators, most money will likely never reach Black communities. Even the mother of Breonna Taylor, a victim of a police shooting, called the organization a fraud. The co-founder however grew exceptionally rich for a Marxist since she started the organization.
While they claim Blacks are hunted in the streets by racist cops, the real number of shot unarmed Blacks for 2019 was between 13-27 (depending on the database), the numbers for Whites are slightly higher. Taken the crime and murder rate to the proportion of the US population these numbers are easily explained.
Though each shooting is tragic, it’s far from being a major problem considering that the police conducts over 300 million checks each year.
The big elephant in the room on the other hand is regularly ignored by everybody: 93% of Black murder victims are murdered by Blacks.
Murder is the leading cause of death for Black males between 15-34. The absence of a father in the home is one of the reasons for the high crime rate in Black communities. 72% of Black children (in some cities more than 80%) are born out of wedlock. The Father Absence Crisis is the major problem of the Black Community.
The riots and looting of 2020 and the defunding or abolishing of the police in some cities in the USA resulted in massively increasing murder rates (Portland reported a 2,000% surge) and destroyed communities for decades. As Thomas Sowell noted, many black ghettos are still desolated decades after the race riots of the 60s.
Ironically, it’s mostly white progressives who want to abolish the police in Black neighborhoods, 81% of Blacks want the same level or more of policing.
Another worrying pseudo-reality is the denial of biological sex. Allowing the most radical activists to determine the discourse can lead to bad outcomes.
Women’s sports are in the progress of being eradicated by biological males competing with biological females and dwarfing their records everywhere. Trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox broke recently the skull of a female opponent twice to win a match.
Aggressive male criminals can self-identify in California as female and are transferred to women’s prisons where they are put together with biological women. Soon women’s shelters might be forced to take in biological males, that self-identify as female.
Gender dysphoria in Swedish teen girls is up 1,500 percent since 2008. Teenage girls are insecure and prone to social peer pressure which explains the sky-rocking numbers with whole groups of girls coming out as ”Trans” or “Non-Binary”. In some countries, it’s possible to use puberty blockers or even sex reassignment surgery without the consent of the parents. This results in irreversible damage that can’t be reversed should the child change their mind later. 
Radical activists try to compel speech and intimidate others to recognize the 70+ made-up gender pronouns while it is perfectly possible to respect any transgender with the existing two pronouns.
The denial of objective truth shows itself in the invention of words like “birthing person” (mother), “chest feeding” (breast feeding), or in statements like ”men can menstruate and give birth” or “a trans-woman is a woman” which are objectively false.
Attacks on scientists of biology or evolution biology increased in the last years. Multiple scientists retracted their papers out of fear of being canceled. Naval Ravikant said in a recent interview:
Biology will suffer the most. Synthetic biology, for example, a lot of this will end up in China, because you won’t be able to map facts and reality and actions together.
The denial of objective truth will not only endanger women and children but drive all science of biology into foreign countries, resulting in a huge scientific knowledge drain.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
The Cambrian is a reference to the welsh Lloyd George, prime minister during World War I. He negotiated the peace treaty in Versailles in 1919. The disarmament of the Germans was negotiated but at the same time the disarmament of the winners. The peace didn’t hold for long and Germany rearmed in secrecy.
This stanza is a warning to believe anybody that promises lasting peace. A country needs to ensure it’s always able to defend its values and borders (if needed with violence) against aggressors or it will cease to exist.
If you don’t, you will get conditions like France, where 226 people where killed by islamic terrorists between 2011 and 2021. The parallel societies grew so dangerous in the past years, that the police doesn’t go anymore into some cities districts. 20 retired generals and 1,000 soldiers warned in April 2021 in an open letter, followed by another warning, signed by 130,000 people, that a civil war might soon break out.
It is important to be able to defend oneself, because
a harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man, who has that under voluntary control, as Jordan B. Peterson stated.
One can become worried about the security of Western values and way of life when reading that the US military ends gender-neutral fitness tests for soldiers to be more inclusive or starts implementing woke ideology while Chinese soldiers train in harsh weather and the government works on genetically enhancing their soldiers. A recent joke goes like this:
When the Chinese soldiers invade, the US soldiers will ask them what their pronouns are.
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
The Feminiam Sandstones is a reference to the emancipation of women. The stanza is also a reference to relaxed sexual morality.
The results of the sexual revolution and women in the workforce are positive for the individual. But the plumbing birthrates in most Western countries are a serious threat to these countries. If the fertility rate falls below the replacement level, a population is unable to recover and will die out. Problems arise much earlier with an aging population because social security systems and retirement plans stop working.
The stable nuclear family is in decline, with one-person households increasing dramatically. Senseless One-Night-Stands, pornography, girls making their income as prostitutes on OnlyFans are a side-effect of constantly lowered sexual morality. Finding a partner is reduced to dating apps, where people get “swiped” by their looks.
Children are hypersexualized and objectified in TV shows like “Cuties” or “AJ, and the Queens”, indoctrinated into the idea that sex is a “spectrum”, that women and men are biologically the same and are exposed to porn long before they reach puberty.
The rate of STDs in the USA hit a record high for the 6th year in a row in 2019, with 2.5 million Americans having either chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis infections. Less than 20 years ago these infections were at a historic low or close to elimination.
Secularism is on the rise and people search for meaning in substitute gods like money, fame, identity politics, or social justice.
As Martin S. Spiller writes:
Without sexual morality, the traditional social contract based on trust between the sexes would vanish, and the people would eventually abandon marriage. Without marriage, the family, the most basic unit of any civilization would wither and die.[1:1]
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
This stanza is a reference to lending money to pay off debt or handing out free money which is the common way of many countries these days to deal with problems. This will not work for much longer, inflation (or even hyperinflation) will be the result. Rich people already move their money into cryptocurrencies and other assets to prevent the devaluation of their assets.
As Elon Musk put it in quite harsh words on Joe Rogans Podcast:
Now let me just break it to you, the fools out there. If you don’t make stuff, there’s no stuff.
Socialism is again high in favor in Western countries, particularly by the educated, bored, upper-middle-class that live everyday a comfortable life through the means of capitalist production while at the same time rail against it.
It seems we never learn from our past. More and more people want to destroy the current way of life. Everywhere people talk about a restart of “how we live” or a “Great Reset”. These ideas always end in bloodshed and millions of dead people, because you can’t create a society on the drawing board.
Communism doesn’t know how which is why it fails each time. 100 million dead people should have been enough to learn that it won’t work, but it seems like it doesn’t.
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four—
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
When an idea or dogma is failing and it becomes obvious how bad it was the liars either double down and try to keep the lie alive for as long as possible or they disappear.
We can see this now regarding the Corona crisis. The crisis will not be remembered for its virus, because the death rate is only around 0.13%. It will be remembered, because of how incompetent, corrupt, and authoritarian our political leaders, news media, the science community, and Big Tech reacted to the crisis.
I remember how everybody rallied around ventilators in spring 2020. Buying ventilators was the most important political topic for weeks. Sick people were put on ventilators early on. The image of ventilators was used as a tactic to intimidate people into social distancing and masking. A few doctors knew all along what is now known: Putting people on ventilators kills them in 50% of the cases (regardless of their condition). There are much better methods without ventilators that result in a drastically reduced death rate for intensive care patients. But the specialists were silenced, censored, or removed from social media. Hundred thousand died needlessly by wrong medical care. Politicians moved sick elderly back into senior homes everywhere, where they infected each other and died. These were not COVID-19 deaths, but deaths caused by incompetent politicians.
Masks and lockdowns were presented as the one perfect solution to prevent infections, but the data after a year shows countries without mask mandates or lockdowns had similar death rates.
Drugs as Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin were (and still are) rejected by large parts of the medical community, even though the doctors could see the results of their effectiveness in their patients. Especially Ivermectin has proven itself highly effective in multiple meta-studies as a drug for prevention, treatment, and possibly even to treat Post-COVID or vaccine side effects.
The further the time will progress the more scandals around COVID will come to light. Sharing the “right-wing” Lab Leak Hypothesis one year ago could have gotten a person de-platformed, and now it’s a broadly accepted hypothesis. Big Tech and media prevented this story from discussing. Now they retroactively stealth edit old articles, push forward all kinds of reasons why they got it so wrong, and blame others. 
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:—
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
This stanza is a depressing realization that humanity will not learn from its mistakes. We will repeat them again, and again, and again.
Bad ideas like socialism, communism, or fascism are kept alive or are revived. It’s 2021 and we have again concentration camps in China and the world pretends nothing happened because we don’t want to risk our business opportunities with China.
Racist, sexists, anti-scientific, anti-reason, postmodernist ideas like Critical Theory are pushed into the education system and companies and destroy these institutions unless brave people stand up against these toxic ideas. 
People get segregated by race, have to disavow their “whiteness” or acknowledge their “privilege”. People of color that don’t subscribe to these ideas are labeled “race traitor”, “Uncle Tom”, “or not being authentically (race/sex/sexual orientation)”.
Identity politics divide people into smaller and smaller sub-categories that fight each other. Discourse is shut down with compelled speech codes, trigger warnings, or safe spaces. People are bullied into compliance, are harassed, doxed, or fired from their jobs for disagreeing.
And a lot of progressives don’t understand the ideas behind these movements that look often appealing. We won’t learn unless we burn our fingers again.
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
The last stanza is the 4th thing that is certain from the previous stanza. It is a closing loop to previous stanzas. The brave new world is a reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act V. scene 1 line 183. The title for Huxley’s Brave New World derived from Shakespeares’ play. The utopian novel has a lot of references to our times.
The conservative commentator Michael Knowles was recently asked by Chris Williamson on his podcast, if we live currently more in Brave New World or 1984. He answered that we live 10% in 1984 and 90% in Brave New World.
Reaching for Utopia (greek “not a place”) results always in a Dystopia (greek “bad place”). Utopian ideologies are psychopathic and arise from the inability to live in the reality.[5:1]
There will be no war, that ends all wars, no “Great Reset”, no restart without getting rid of millions of people that don’t subscribe to the idea.
All zero-point ideologies were devastating and always resulted in totalitarian systems or totalitarian thinking, stated Prof. Nobert Bolz in a recent podcast. He fears that the Western world is again in a situation where serious intellectuals are thinking about whether we could go back to zero, construct a new form of society and economy, a new human nature.
The pandemic or climate crisis offer convenient reasons to justify authoritarian or totalitarian ideas for “the greater good”. The German Supreme Court already hinted that massive personal restrictions might be justified to reach the climate goals. So be prepared to have fewer (or no) flights in the future, to lose your car, and be restricted in your movement and freedoms.
All these endeavors ignore human nature, reason, personal liberty, and self-determination. To achieve a reset one would have to suppress, intimidate, incarcerate, reeducate, or even kill millions of people. I don’t think any sane person would like to live in a totalitarian, digitalized surveillance state like China is currently building.
We have to call out and shame people that push for these ideas before it is too late.
Reality will always win, eventually. The question is to what price. A lie doesn’t become true, because everybody wants it to be true. The Gods of the Copybook Headings can’t be ignored, without paying a high price.
Jordan B. Peterson (2017): 2017 Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (University of Toronto) ↩︎
Darren Curnoe (2017): Was agriculture the greatest blunder in human history? ↩︎
Kerry J. Byrne (2021): Breonna Taylor’s mom slams BLM chapter in Louisville as a ‘fraud’ ↩︎
Isabel Vincent (2021): Marxist BLM leader buys $1.4 million home in ritzy LA enclave ↩︎
Kevin McCaffree & Anondah Saide (2021): How Informed are Americans about Race and Policing? ↩︎
Linda Qiu (2014): The No. 1 cause of death for African-American males 15-34 is murder ↩︎
Louis Jacobson (2013): More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock ↩︎
Zachary Faria (2021): Portland cut police funding and got a 2,000% surge in murders ↩︎
Thomas Sowell (2013): Intellectuals and Race, Basic Books, Pos. 1037 ↩︎
Nick Gillespie (2020): 81 Percent of Black Americans Want the Same Level, or More, of Police Presence: Gallup ↩︎
Libby Emmons (2020): Biological male who broke a woman’s skull named “bravest athlete in history” ↩︎
Alexandra Desanctis (2021): The Washington Post ‘Reports’ on Biden Policy to Let Men into Women’s Shelters ↩︎
Decision Magazine Staff (2020): Gender Dysphoria Cases Rise 1,500% Among Teenage Girls in Sweden ↩︎
Jane Robbins (2018): Why Puberty Blockers Are A Clear Danger To Children’s Health ↩︎
Mary Jackson (2020): Study: Effects of puberty-blockers can last a lifetime ↩︎
The Associated press (2020): A timeline of extremist attacks in France in recent years ↩︎
BBC News (2021): Anger as ex-generals warn of 'deadly civil war' in France. ↩︎
Daniel J. Mitchell (2018): Welfare Spending Did Not Decrease Poverty, Capitalism Did ↩︎
Hans Rosling (2015): ‘How To End Poverty in 15 years’ Hans Rosling – BBC News ↩︎
Matt Margolis (2020): Did a WHO Official Admit that COVID-19 Has a Death Rate Similar to the Flu? ↩︎
Dennis Thompson (2020): Are Ventilators Helping or Harming COVID-19 Patients? ↩︎
Post Editorial Board (2021): New report details even bigger lies by Cuomo to cover up nursing home scandal ↩︎
Ryan McMaken (2020): The Evidence Keeps Piling Up: Lockdowns Don’t Work ↩︎
Bret Weinstein & Pierre Kory (2021): COVID, Ivermectin, and the Crime of the Century: DarkHorse Podcast with Pierre Kory & Bret Weinstein ↩︎
Headline USA (2021): WaPo Stealth-Edits Report That Said Wuhan Lab Leak Theory was ’Debunked‘ ↩︎
Paul Joseph Watson (2021): Vox Stealth Edits March 2020 Article “Debunking” Lab Origin of COVID ↩︎
Pete Pachal (2020): Coinbase Has Drawn a Line in the Sand for Its Activist Employees ↩︎
Chris Williamson & Michael Knowles (2021): Michael Knowles – The Problem With Political Correctness | Modern Wisdom Podcast 331 ↩︎
Thomas Escritt (2021): Germany must tighten climate law to protect young people’s future, court rules ↩︎