CALGARY, Alta. April 9, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Romantic poets such as Shelley claimed to be the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Shelly exaggerated. But poets and novelists are often in touch with political, intellectual and spiritual currents long before the rest of us are.
In the early 1970s, for example, Jean Raspail wrote a novel about massive and uncontrolled immigration from the Third World to France and the West. [popup url=”http://amzn.to/22k0f6l” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]The Camp of the Saints[/popup] was a creepy and apocalyptic cult book. The migrants, from India not Syria, did not want to become Westernized; they wanted Western stuff.
Liberal critics (even French ones) denounced Raspail as a racist. Others, not all of them right-wing crazies, said it gave voice to taboo emotions that would only grow more bilious when suppressed. Raspail raised a question with which Europeans are now compelled to deal.
In real life today, the religion of the immigrants arouses additional anxieties. Once again, raising the question is denounced as racist, even when the one doing the raising is filled with compassion. And likewise, the issue of religion is denounced as Islamophobia even when the one introducing the issue has neither fear nor dislike of Islam.
This is the context for another French novel, published last year. In Michel Houellebecq’s [popup url=”http://amzn.to/1NgvZlZ” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]Submission[/popup] the focus is on the degeneracy of France and the West, not the misery of migrants.
Submission is complex, often obscene, even pornographic, but also funny, charming and insightful. The widest context is provided by an observation of Arnold Toynbee that civilizations are seldom conquered. Mostly they commit suicide. His message: Western degeneracy is suicidal.
Now, “declinists” are just the mirror image of progressives. His hero, Francois, is an academic authority on the rather odd decadent 19th-century novelist, J.-K. Huysmans. Francois teaches at a second-rate section of the Sorbonne. He is also the spineless embodiment of the dead-end of the Enlightenment, the apparent triumph of secular reason and sensual indulgence over faith, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Unfortunately for him (as Hegel explained in a similar situation two centuries ago) such a predictable life is utterly boring.
When Francois tries to relieve his boredom with sex, drugs and rock and roll, his boredom deepens. “Europe had reached a point of such putrid decomposition that it could no longer save itself, any more than 5th-century Rome could have done.”
All this is reflected in French politics when, in 2022, the Muslim Brotherhood wins the presidential election because the Socialists preferred to keep the nativist National Front from power and formed a coalition with the Brotherhood, led by Mohammed Ben Abbes. He was inspired to turn the European Union into a new Roman Empire based on the restoration of family life, the end of the welfare state, of moral decadence, and of humanism. He would unify the entire Mediterranean basin.
For France, which alone in Europe was an Atlantic, a northern and a Mediterranean power, this meant a return to glory. There was only one condition for persons such as Francois: he would have to convert to Islam.
For him, this was no problem. His life would have direction. He could still drink. He had access to several young wives. He received a promotion, could conduct his abstruse research, and live happily ever after. Such are the pleasures of submission.
Again in real life, not everyone agreed. A few hours after Houellebecq’s novel was published, Charlie Hebdo was attacked and his publisher’s office had to be surrounded by armed guards.
Both Jean Raspail and Michel Houellebecq may not be legislators of the world. But their poetic sensitivity does enable them to evoke.
Barry Cooper is professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
Barry is a Troy Media [popup url=”http://marketplace.troymedia.com/our-contributors/” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]contributor[/popup]. [popup url=”https://www.troymedia.com/become-a-troy-media-contributor/” height=”600″ width=”600″ scrollbars=”1″] Why aren’t you?[/popup]
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.
[popup url=”https://www.troymedia.com/submit-your-letter-to-the-editor/” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]Submit a letter to the editor[/popup]
Troy Media Marketplace © 2016 – All Rights Reserved
Trusted editorial content provider to media outlets across Canada