Sometimes things pop into my head that I’d forgotten for years. This morning it was actually two things, but the similarity of the titles is likely the reason. They were both children’s stories, from about the first grade:
One was http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/rtt.html “Rikki Tikki Tavi”, a dramatic piece from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” about an heroic mongoose and an evil cobra; the other was “Tikki Tikki Tembo”, a cute little story about an ancient Chinese custom and how it came to be changed. The latter was the one I was really thinking about, so I sat down and did a little http://www.google.com/search?q=Tikki+Tikki+Tembo google search to see if I could find the story. I found a number of references, but was fairly disturbed by the discussion and commentary accompanying references to the story.
Simply put, the story is a cute way to demonstrate how strict adherence to rules and tradition is not always the wise course. By forcing the younger son to recite his older brother’s ridiculously long name correctly (over and over again, out of breath from running for help), the adults nearly caused the death of the older son. It uses oriental characters, and a tradition that may or may not have ever actually been in practice.
The disturbing thing is that, by reading the various discussions about this story, folks are concentrating on the oriental characters and the names/traditions, assuming the story has some mean-spirited lower meaning. In this age of political enlightenment and multicultural awkwardness, people are no longer able to simply appreciate a story for it’s lesson. Society, namely ours, is in a constant struggle to find all the potential flaws in itself. When we can’t find real flaws, we overexamine the simplest of things to make flaws that we can condemn.
No wonder the rest of the world is worried about becoming more like the “enlightened” West. While we should be extolling the virtues of Democracy and Capitalism, we’re demonstrating a self-defeating knack for introspective criticism. Thanks again, you liberal bastards… you’ve stomped all over yet another childhood memory.