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An Alt Right Take on The Bridge Over the River Kwai

2,464 words [1]

Pierre Boulle
The Bridge Over the River Kwai [2]
The Vanguard Press, 1954

The Bridge Over the River Kwai – the novel, not the film [3] – contains so many contradictions that it’s hard to keep them all in one’s mind.

For the Alt Right today, this semi-fictional story, written by Pierre Boulle, can serve as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. In either case, the book, which was published in French in 1952 and in English in 1954, has become highly relevant to our current struggles and is an absorbing narrative in its own right. Of course, the 1957 award-winning film (entitled The Bridge on the River Kwai) will do as well, but the novel accentuates thematic opposition and racial and cultural identity in much starker tones. Where the film entertains with conflict, suspense, and the tension inherent in the story’s setting (the construction of the Burma Railway during the Second World War), the novel uses these tools to provoke thought as well as introduce a level of character development not found in the film. The novel, quite simply, adheres to the dictum Niels Bohr often repeated: for every great Truth, there is an opposite Truth which is equally great.

Thanks to the film, most of us are aware of the basic plot. A British battalion surrenders to the Japanese in Malaya (today’s Malaysia) and are taken to Burma, where they are to construct a bridge over the Kwai River that will allow the Japanese to establish a link from Bangkok to Rangoon. The conditions, of course, are appalling, and far worse than what was depicted in the film. The men suffer from starvation, overwork, exposure, disease, and unspeakably cruel abuse from the Japanese. The “Death Railway,” as it was known, took the lives of over twelve thousand Allied POWs and over a hundred thousand Southeast Asian conscripts. An excellent source on this topic is former POW John Coast’s Railroad of Death [4]. Boulle himself was a witness to hard labor during his time as a POW in Indochina during the Second World War. He had served as a secret agent and was captured by Vichy France loyalists in China. This betrayal and collaboration with the enemy plays an important role in The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

The story’s protagonist, Colonel Nicholson, is legendary throughout East Asia for his unyielding discipline and reverence for duty. He receives the order to surrender, which he does with a flourish before the astonished Japanese. He then resolves to make himself and his men model prisoners, believing that anything less would be tantamount to disobedience. While he oversees the construction of the bridge, a team of British commandos secretly plot to blow it up as soon as it is in use. The lead-up to the inevitable confrontation between Nicholson and the commandos makes for some excruciating suspense, and rather than spoil it for you, I suggest that you read the novel and experience it for yourselves (hint: the ending is not the same as in the film).

We see one of the prominent contradictions surrounding Nicholson through the eyes of his medical officer, Clipton. Shortly after arriving, Nicholson begins a battle of wills with the Japanese Colonel Saito, the petty-minded, short-tempered, alcoholic warden of the camp. Saito wishes to force the officers to work alongside their men like coolies, which directly violates the protocols of the Hague Convention. Nicholson flatly refuses and instead insists that the officers manage and lead the men. This recalcitrance earns him a horrific beating and a week’s confinement. When Clipton is allowed to briefly tend to his C.O., he sees the man’s physical deterioration and formulates the following elegant thought:

He wondered whether it would not be best to ask God to crown this dangerous lunatic with a martyr’s halo and admit him into His kingdom as quickly as possible, so as to prevent him from turning the River Kwai camp into a scene of frightful tragedy.

Is Colonel Nicholson a hero or a fool? The reader is tempted to believe the former as Nicholson, through his own tenacity and principles, slowly bends Saito to his will. Saito understands that his superiors will demand his suicide if the bridge is not constructed on time. And with the British officers and Nicholson in confinement, the men are languishing at the bridge site under the less-than-competent leadership of the Japanese. Saito tries compromise and leniency, and then flattery and bribes, all of which bounce off the incorruptible Nicholson like ping pong balls off a tank. Eventually, Saito gives in, and the British prisoners love Nicholson for it.

This all seems like great stuff. But we never forget, mostly through the perspective of Clipton – who serves as a kind of Sancho Panza to Nicholson’s Don Quixote – that all of the British colonel’s fine attributes are serving the enemy, the very people inflicting such a barbaric life on him and his men to begin with. This is the great Truth which runs counter to the equally great Truth of Nicholson’s noble and selfless behavior. This is also why the novel is considered satirical. For Nicholson, the universe is orderly. Men of genius and ability rise to the top with honest effort, while all the other men follow along faithfully, singing songs and never losing heart, despite whatever hardships they endure. Yes, the universe is functioning in perfect order as it careens blindly to its destruction.

Delving deeper into Nicholson’s nature, we find another contradiction, which addresses the reason why he provides such impeccable service to the Japanese. Yes, there are his rigid military principles. A soldier must respect honor and duty at all times. But Nicholson adds a new flavor to this Spartan stew: he wants to prove to the Japanese (and perhaps to God) that white people, in particular British white people, are superior to the Japanese. And how better to do this than construct “a proper bridge,” when the Japs could barely do better than drop logs and planks from one end of the river to the other?

It’s not just the design of the thing. It’s also about demonstrating the European genius for leadership and organization. Indeed, given their dire constraints (lack of resources, equipment, time, food, and medicine, to name but a few), the construction of the marvelous River Kwai bridge by Nicholson’s men should be considered one of the great accomplishments of the human race. Well, the white part of it, anyway.

Here’s Boulle describing Nicholson’s smug, yet well-earned satisfaction upon seeing the finished product. Keep in mind that this long paragraph consists of exactly one sentence [emphasis mine]:

With a clear conscience, at peace with the universe and with God, gazing through eyes that were bluer than the tropical sky after a storm, feeling through every pore of his ruddy skin the satisfaction of the well-earned rest that is due to any craftsman after a difficult task, proud of having overcome every obstacle through his personal courage and perseverance, glorying in the work accomplished by himself and by his men in this corner of Siam which he now felt almost belonged to him, light at heart at the thought of having shown himself worthy of his forefathers and of having contributed a far from common chapter to the Eastern legends of empire-builders, firmly convinced that no one could have done the job better, confirmed in his certainty of the superiority of his own race in every field of activity, glad of having furnished ample proof of this during the last six months, bursting with the joy that makes every commander’s effort worth while once the triumphant result is there for all to see, drinking the cup of victory in tiny sips, delighted with the quality of the construction, anxious to see for himself, and for the last time, the sum total of its perfection compounded of hard work and intelligence, and also in order to carry out a final inspection, Colonel Nicholson strode with dignity across the bridge over the River Kwai.

So, yes. Colonel Nicholson is an out-and-out racist. You get almost none of this in the film; perhaps just a little Yay-for-the-English kind of chauvinism, but that’s it. In the novel, however, racism goes deep. Of course, the Japanese are referred to many times as “savages,” “brutes,” “primitives,” and the like. Clearly, they are far less capable than the English in behaving like gentlemen, let alone in building bridges. Nicholson assesses that they have acquired civilization too recently and possess only its cheap veneer. But it gets far worse than this. On one occasion, Colonel Nicholson refers to the Japanese as “baboons,” as does one of the English prisoners. Clipton refers to them twice as “yellow baboons.” Another officer, Major Hughes, calls them “apes.” One of the commandos, Lieutenant Joyce, claims the Japanese are “monkeys dressed up like men.” Even the narrator joins in, twice describing Saito’s Korean bodyguards as resembling gorillas.

I’d like to consider myself a pretty hardened race-realist, but even I was taken aback by some of this.

Of course, the Japanese waged an utterly filthy war and deserve every ounce of hatred and resentment heaped on them by the people they victimized, even if most of the racist passages in the novel are unwarranted. I am by no means impugning either these characters or Boulle himself for their taxonomically dismissive attitudes towards the Japanese. I would like to point out, however, that from an Alt Right perspective, this attitude is not only highly contradictory but contains an important lesson that we should all heed.

People on the Alt Right tend to pride themselves on their race-realism. And this is all well and good, except when presented with evidence that race-realism can also be quite destructive, as in the case of Colonel Nicholson. In other words, Nicholson falls into the trap of racism for racism’s sake. He sees life as a big contest and wants his race to achieve victory, regardless of whether this victory is at all Pyrrhic.

I truly believe that this kind of self-serving race-realism is what motivates many white Left-wing globalists today. They wish to impress the manifest superiority of whites upon non-whites by stringently adhering to their grandiose principles. For example, when answering a complaint about Somalian migrants raping Swedish women, a Swedish politician once said that he saw no reason why Swedish women were better than Somali women. He then pointed out that Sweden was saving Somali women from the rape these migrants would have committed had they remained in Somalia. Therefore, immigration from Somalia to Sweden is good.

Such suicidal and yet sound reasoning (absurdio ad suicidum?) is quintessentially Nicholsonian. Create a beautiful edifice for the benefit of the outsider who wishes to harm you, forego any expectation of the outsider equaling such an edifice, and then bask in the glory of not only having created the edifice but also achieving the bloody moral high ground. Such reasoning requires Christ-on-the-Cross levels of self-sacrifice, and accomplishes nothing tangible other than Clipton’s “martyr’s halo,” which really isn’t all that tangible if you think about it.

In the case of Colonel Nicholson, this edifice is symbolized by the bridge over the River Kwai, obviously. But for our Leftist, globalist elites, it is the politically correct Cultural Marxism which has led European leaders to abjure all traditional, nationalistic, and racial ties in favor of a convoluted leveling of humanity, as well as the kind of ingeniously-constructed syllogisms which place the Third World proletariat on equal terms with the European – or, really, white – bourgeoisie. Such an intellectual achievement, and the principle and discipline required to apply it in reality, is every bit as “white” as Nicholson’s bridge. And, like Nicholson, our globalist elites either do not realize or do not care that such behavior will ultimately lead to our destruction.

Although less racist, what we call “cuckservatives” suffer from a similar delusion. They hold up their great edifice – a smaller, weaker construction consisting of conservative-libertarian ideals – for the benefit of the liberals they claim to oppose. They know that such a flimsy thing will do little to stop the march of liberalism against the traditionalist, Right-leaning masses which make up the bulk of humanity. They will even join the liberals whenever the Right puts up too much resistance. The behavior of many so-called conservatives during the 2016 presidential election campaign provides a great example of this. Perhaps Colonel Nicholson was the world’s first cuck?

The Bridge Over the River Kwai is indeed a man’s novel. There are no female characters. Women warrant hardly a mention. The novel’s primary concern, beyond depicting Nicholson’s gradual ascendancy over Saito and the back-breaking construction of the bridge itself, deals with how the three British commandos – Shears, Warden, and Joyce – will ultimately blow it up. As they prepare to do so, Boulle enumerates many technical and surprisingly dry details on how to plan a clandestine mission in the jungle, how to prepare plastic explosives, and, most interestingly, how to slit throats:

The knife had to be held palm downward, with the nails underneath, the thumb running along the back of the blade to ensure proper control; with the blade itself held horizontal and perpendicular to the victim’s body. The thrust had to be made from right to left, firmly, but not violently enough to turn it off its course, and directed at a certain point an inch or two below the ear. This point, and no other, had to be aimed at and hit to prevent the man from crying out.

We on the Alt Right are these commandos, and we need to start slitting (figurative) throats. Our aim should be to destroy the great edifice of Cultural Marxism. We also need to know who our enemies are, and they are not merely the teeming hordes of blacks and browns who crash through our borders daily and commit horrific crimes in our ancestral homelands. They are also the self-serving racists, our globalist elites, who wish to prove to God and everyone else how wonderful white people are.

“How wonderful are we?” I hear you cry. “So wonderful that we assist our enemies as they rape and kill us,” responds a beaming Colonel Nicholson as he strides with snobbish dignity upon his precious bridge. “We can even rape and kill our own better than our enemies can!”

This is the hideous realization of the self-serving racism to which Nicholson succumbs in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. We are the innocents living to the west of that bridge, now with nothing standing between us and the swarming armies of our enemies who are hell-bent on rape and murder. With such an attack imminent, we have no choice but to blow up that bridge, all the while keeping our thumbs running along the backs of our blades.