Home/Rod Dreher/It’s Jean Raspail’s World Now

It’s Jean Raspail’s World Now

Could you turn them away? (OlegD / Shutterstock.com)

This just in:

Hundreds of angry and frustrated asylum-seekers broke through police lines Monday near Hungary’s southern border with Serbia and began marching north toward Budapest, while Britain and France pledged to take in tens of thousands more refugees to try to ease the crisis.

As European leaders debated how to share responsibility for the more than 340,000 people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who are already seeking refuge, Germany promised to spend billions of euros in extra aid for those already there and those yet to arrive. France weighed whether increased airstrikes against Islamic State militants would help to stem the flow of those fleeing Syria.

But the Hungarian prime minister scoffed at a proposed quota system for refugees in the 28-member European Union, saying it wouldn’t work unless Europe first secured its borders.

Hungary’s inability to control the flow of people across its southern border with Serbia was on graphic display Monday. Crowds who had grown tired of waiting for buses at Hungary’s first migrant holding center near the border village of Roszke tore down flimsy police tape, advanced down a country road and walked around and straight through rows of police trying to block them.

Police shoved individual migrants and fired jets of pepper spray, but it had little effect as about half of the 500-strong crowd reached the M5 highway that connects Serbia and Hungary. They headed north along the shoulder, raising their arms and chanting “Germany! Germany!”

There is no law there. There is no security. Buchanan wrote a couple of weeks ago:

Germany, which took in 174,000 asylum seekers last year, is on schedule to take in 500,000 this year. Yet Germany is smaller than Montana.

How long can a geographically limited and crowded German nation, already experiencing ugly racial conflict, take in half a million Third World people every year without tearing itself apart, and changing the character of the nation forever?

Do we think the riots and racial wars will stop if more come?

Former CIA agent Michael Scheuer is extremely bleak about the situation:

The leaders and bureaucrats of the European Union (EU) are fortunate that they have largely disarmed the citizens of EU member states. If the citizens of Europe had personal weapons, all officials at all levels of the increasingly authoritarian EU organization might well be under fire — and rightly so – for causing the horde of unwanted, unneeded, and non-assimilable migrants that is now inundating Europe.

The migrants will produce further lawlessness, a debilitating level of societal tensions, enormous increases in the expense of social services and public housing, and contribute nothing worth having to the nations of the EU. The migrants also will wreck the status quo in EU security as the many hundreds of thousands of incomers are mixed with a goodly number ISIS and al-Qaeda organizers, recruiters, fighters, and suicide attackers who will make the job of EU security and intelligence services even more undoable. Indeed, the only upside of the migrant flood is that elected and appointed EU officials will feel proud of themselves for spending the money of the EU’s wildly overtaxed citizens for a “humanitarian purpose” that, to anyone with commonsense, clearly carries the seeds of terrorism, the end of the EU, fascism, and civil war.

Scheuer is not happy with the Pope:

And then there is the Pope Francis who wants to get all the migrants possible into Europe and wants Catholics to defy the law and put them up. The mindless, do-gooding interventionism of this Pope will not be sated until he helps to turn the EU into a gigantic Greece, and ensures the impoverishment of the rest of the Western world, while the Vatican’s art collection and property holdings remain intact.

Read the whole thing. He blames the West’s thoughtless military interventions in the Islamic world for this refugee crisis.  And he calls for massive disobedience by the West’s citizens of their governments until those governments put a stop to an immigration influx that will permanently change the character of Western nations.

Very strong stuff. Ross Douthat, far more ameliorative, nevertheless says some profound issues of national identity are at stake in this crisis. Excerpt:

And the countries that have opened the door widest are places like Germany and Sweden, which are motivated by a different theory of moral obligation: A utilitarian universalism, which holds that the world’s wealthy nations have an obligation to accept refugees, period, regardless of whether their own governments bear any responsibility for the crisis that produced them.

This theory has the advantage of eliminating any messy haggling over who bears responsibility for what. When tragedy strikes, everybody above a certain level of G.D.P. just has to open the gates. (Or, perhaps, to have them open permanently.)

But it has the disadvantage of being completely unworkable over the long run, as Europe is beginning to discover. The utilitarian theory is blind to the realities of culture, the challenges of assimilation, the dangers and inevitability of backlash. It takes what is a deep, long-term issue for European society — one way or another, over the next century the continent will have to absorb large numbers of new arrivals, from Africa especially — and brings things to a crisis point right now. And then it tries to evade that crisis by treating dissent as illegitimate, which only works until it doesn’t: One day you have a pro-immigration “consensus,” and the next a party with fascist roots is leading Sweden’s polls.

So prudence has to temper idealism on these issues. There may be a moral obligation to accept refugees in wealthy countries, but there cannot be a moral obligation to accept refugees at a pace one’s own society cannot reasonably bear.

Reading all the coverage from the past few days, I couldn’t help thinking of a notorious novel I had never read: French author Jean Raspail’s apocalyptic The Camp of the Saints (1973). I found an English translation for free online, and spent a couple of hours this afternoon reading it.

It’s easy to see why the book has been denounced as racist. Every few pages or so there’s language that makes one cringe. It is offensive to read how Raspail depicts all non-Westerners as faceless, frightening hordes. Yet beneath the ugliness of that, the novel makes some hard to ignore points. From what I can tell so far — and I’m only about a quarter of the way through the novel — the book is not about race, but about culture, and the West having become too broad-minded and humane to protect itself from an unarmed invasion by people who do not share its culture, and who do not want to adopt its culture, but only want to peace, security, and prosperity of the West.

The villains of the book are do-gooders in the European establishment — government, academia, media, the church — who have come to hate their own civilization, or at least not love it enough to defend it from a flotilla of a million Third World migrants sailing towards Europe. They are coming ashore on Easter Sunday, and all of France is in a panic. At this point in the novel, the government has decided to welcome the migrants, because the alternative is too cruel for them to contemplate. This passage, from early in the book, gives you a sense of the thing, in both its moral ugliness but also its crude realism. The speaker is a Belgian consul in India, whose government had put forth a policy of adopting Indian children as a way of easing poverty and overpopulation, but who found that there were far more Indians eager to come to Belgium, or at least to send their children, than the country could handle:

“You and your pity!” the Consul shouted. “Your damned, obnoxious, detestable pity! Call it what you please: world brotherhood, charity, conscience … I take one look at you, each and every one of you, and all I see is contempt for yourselves and all you stand for. Do you know what it means? Can’t you see where it’s leading? You’ve got to be crazy. Crazy or desperate. You’ve got to be out of your minds just to sit back and let it all happen, little by little. All because of your pity. Your insipid, insufferable pity!”

The Consul was sitting behind his desk, a bandage on his forehead. Across from him, some ten or so figures sat rooted to wooden chairs, like apostles carved in stone on a church façade. Each of the statues had the same white skin, the same gaunt face, the same simple dress—long duck pants or shorts, half-sleeve khaki shirt, open sandals—and most of all the same deep, unsettling gaze that shines in the eyes of prophets, philanthropists, seers, fanatics, criminal geniuses, martyrs—weird and wondrous folk of every stripe— those split-personality creatures who feel out of place in the flesh they were born with.

One was a bishop, but unless you already knew, it was quite impossible to tell him apart from the missionary doctor or the starry-eyed layman by his side. Just as impossible to single out the atheist philosopher and the renegade Catholic writer, convert to Buddhism, both spiritual leaders of the little band … They all just sat there without a word.

“The trouble is,” the Consul continued, “you’ve gone too far! And on purpose! Because you’re so convinced it’s the right thing to do. Have you any idea how many children from the Ganges here have been shipped off to Belgium? Not to mention the rest of Europe, and those other sane countries that closed their borders off before we did! Forty thousand, that’s how many! Forty thousand in five years! And all of you, so sure you could count on our people. Playing on their sentiments, their sympathy. Perverting their minds with vague feelings of self-reproach, to twist their Christian charity to your own bizarre ends. Weighing our good, solid burghers down with a sense of shame and guilt. … Forty thousand! Why, there weren’t even that many French in Canada back in the seventeen-hundreds. … And in two-faced times like these, you can bet the government won’t admit what’s really behind that racist decree. … Yes, racist, that’s what I called it. You loathe the word, don’t you? You’ve gone and worked up a race problem out of whole cloth, right in the heart of the white world, just to destroy it. That’s what you’re after. You want to destroy our world, our whole way of life. There’s not one of you proud of his skin, and all that it stands for …”

“Not proud, or aware of it, either,” one of the statues corrected. “That’s the price we have to pay for the brotherhood of man. We’re happy to pay it.”

If you replace “white” with “Western,” it become easier to grapple with the consul’s point.

I’ll keep blogging about the book as I make my way through it. The Camp of the Saints is an unnerving book to read. Despite being badly dated in parts — it was written in the 1970s, and shows it — it is uncannily reminiscent of today’s headlines. If you can hold the episodic crudity of its language at bay, Raspail is confronting the existential dilemma facing Europe today with this invasion by the Third World. In a 2013 interview in a French magazine, Raspail says:

Many will be naturalized.

This does not mean they will become French. I’m not saying that these are bad people, but “naturalization papers” are not the heart of naturalization. I can not consider them as my compatriots. We must drastically toughen the law urgently.

How can Europe face these migrations?

There are only two solutions. Either we try to live with it and France – its culture, its civilization – will disappear even without a funeral. This is, in my opinion, what will happen. Or we don’t make room for them at all – that is to say, one stops regarding the Other as sacred, and we rediscover that your neighbor is primarily the one living next to you. This assumes that you stop caring so much about these “crazy Christian ideas”, as Chesterton said, about this erroneous sense of human rights, and that we take the measures of collective expulsion, and without appeal, to avoid the dissolution of the country in a general miscegenation [métissage, a word that in French carries more the sense of the English words “multiculturalism” and “diversity”]. I see no other solution. I have traveled in my youth. All peoples are exciting but when mixed enough is much more animosity that grows that sympathy. Miscegenation is never peaceful, it is a dangerous utopia. See South Africa!

At the point where we are, the steps we should take are necessarily very coercive. I do not believe and I do not see anyone who has the courage to take them. There should be balance in his soul, but is it ready? That said, I do not believe for a moment that immigration advocates are more charitable than me: there probably is not one who intends to receive at home one of those unfortunates. … All this is an emotional sham, an irresponsible maelstrom which will swallow us.

Right there is what is both urgent and appalling in Raspail. I found this blog post featuring translated highlights of an interview he gave on French TV in 2011. Here, in less provocative terms, he frames the essential moral and civilizational question posed in The Camp of the Saints:

The Camp of the Saints is a novel. It’s purpose is not to send a message. I’m a novelist. I imagined this situation which is a bit like ours today except the arrival of millions of immigrants seeking paradise did not happen in twenty-four hours, but over a longer period of time.

And The Camp of the Saints ends badly… badly or well, according to your opinion. There are four hundred pages. Imagine all the questions it raises in our minds – on a social level, on the national level, but also on the inner level of each person. What do you do? If you allow in such a mass, what happens to the country? If you don’t allow them in where is your Christian charity? Where is your pity, and many other things like that…

More:

You said I was an explorer. I spent thirty years traveling among small peoples in danger of extinction. I know well civilizations that are about to disappear. When a minor civilization is in danger it must defend itself. If civilizations have disappeared it is because they were engulfed by the tidal wave of the more advanced newcomers. With us, the situation is the reverse. We have an old civilization in Europe, in France, and we find ourselves before gigantic masses of people. Europe does not have a billion people, yet we face hundreds of thousands, millions, billions. Logically, we should be forced to defend ourselves, but how?

True enough: there are unprecedented masses of both war refugees and economic migrants moving from the Middle East and Africa to Europe in boats. If Europe lets them all in, it will soon no longer be Europe. How do those nations defend themselves against invaders who come unarmed, seeking charity? If one is a Christian, what is the Christian response? Keep in mind that you are not simply giving over your country to the Other, but are giving over the country of your children, and all your descendants.

It is not a question that can be satisfactorily answered by denouncing Raspail and his sort as heartless racists.

Like I said, I’ll blog a bit more about this novel as I work my way through it. I do not love this book. But I respect it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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