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Houellebecq

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From The Atlantic, an essay by Robert D. Kaplan that would make a good appendix to Houellebecq’s Submission:

How Islam Created Europe
In late antiquity, the religion split the Mediterranean world in two. Now it is remaking the Continent.

ROBERT D. KAPLAN MAY 2016 ISSUE GLOBAL

Europe was essentially defined by Islam. And Islam is redefining it now.

For centuries in early and middle antiquity, Europe meant the world surrounding the Mediterranean, or Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”), as the Romans famously called it.

In Michel Houellebecq’s 2015 novel Submission, the new Muslim president of France moves the capital of the E.U. from northerly Brussels to Rome to be closer to the center of a new/old unified realm in which the votes of the demographically vibrant Islamic world can outweigh those of infertile Europeans.

A daring aspect of Submission is Houellebecq’s unexpected intuition that the crucial betrayal of Christendom might not come simply from the brainless left (who in Houellebecq’s near future are recognized to be running on intellectual fumes), but from the conservative souls of the center-right.

Kaplan is a relatively hardheaded analyst, who has been everywhere, so this article of his is striking. (The possibility that Kaplan is trolling readers with self-parody can’t be dismissed.)

It included North Africa.

That might have come as a surprise to Herodotus, not to mention the Sons of Noah.

Look, the ancient world recognized geographic and cultural differences among Europe, Asia, and Africa. Herodotus’ seminal history of the Persian wars is built, of course, around a (no doubt biased and tendentious, yet highly relevant) distinction between Asian despotism and European liberty.

Rome ruled over parts of all three continents not because they were culturally identical, but because it could.

Indeed, early in the fifth century a.d., when Saint Augustine lived in what is today Algeria, North Africa was as much a center of Christianity as Italy or Greece.

There’s long been a theory that the 5th Century theological rivalry between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius of the British Isles reflects enduring ideological differences between the Middle East versus Western Europe. It popped up in the Clive Owen movie King Arthur.

But the swift advance of Islam across North Africa in the seventh and eighth centuries virtually extinguished Christianity there

In truth, extinguishing Christianity seems to be more of a 21st Century phenomenon.

, thus severing the Mediterranean region into two civilizational halves, with the “Middle Sea” a hard border between them rather than a unifying force.

Islam instituted a long era of conquest, piracy, and slaveraiding on the Mediterranean. Italian fishing villages are built on top of mountains to slow Islamic slavers from kidnapping them.

… In sum, “the West” emerged in northern Europe (albeit in a very slow and tortuous manner) mainly after Islam had divided the Mediterranean world.

Islam did much more than geographically define Europe, however. Denys Hay, a British historian, explained in a brilliant though obscure book published in 1957, Europe: The Emergence of an Idea, that European unity began with the concept (exemplified by the Song of Roland) of a Christendom in “inevitable opposition” to Islam—a concept that culminated in the Crusades.

The Song of Roland (and its descendant Orlando Furioso), along with El Cid, fancifully describe battles against invading Muslims in Dark Age Europe.

The scholar Edward Said took this point further, writing in his book Orientalism in 1978 that Islam had defined Europe culturally, by showing Europe what it was against. Europe’s very identity, in other words, was built in significant measure on a sense of superiority to the Muslim Arab world on its periphery. Imperialism proved the ultimate expression of this evolution: Early modern Europe, starting with Napoleon, conquered the Middle East, then dispatched scholars and diplomats to study Islamic civilization, classifying it as something beautiful, fascinating, and—most crucial—inferior.

But since Said’s time, we have learned that Islamic civilization is not inferior, and may be superior — see the latest ISIS video for proof.

A classical geography is reasserting itself, as terrorism and migration reunite North Africa and the Levant with Europe.

In the postcolonial era, Europe’s sense of cultural preeminence was buttressed by the new police states of North Africa and the Levant. With these dictatorships holding their peoples prisoner inside secure borders—borders artificially drawn by European colonial agents—

Uhm … I can think of two examples of Arab dictators not allowing transit of their countries by foreigners — Egypt under Mubarak and the latest dictator didn’t allow black Africans to walk into Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood did, causing Israel to build fences; and Berlusconi bribed Kaddafi to not let black Africans set sail from Libya. But, in general, Arab dictators had few objections to their own citizens migrating to Europe and earning hard currency.

Another way to look at this is that the anarchy encouraged by the West in the name of the Arab Spring broke down Syria and Libya, encouraging Syrians to head for Europe. But even that is overstated in that there has been little flow of Libyans rather than sub-Saharans coming through Libya; and the “Syrian” refugee crisis is overstated with large fractions of the “Syrians” making hegira to Europe actually being economic migrant impostors from other countries.

Europeans could lecture Arabs about human rights without worrying about the possibility of messy democratic experiments that could lead to significant migration.

Some Europeans did worry about significant migration.

Significant migration is inevitable as long as other parts of the world are crappier and faster growing than Europe and Europe unilaterally ideologically disarms itself of having any concept of the right of collective self-defense. Yet, the experience of Israel, which is geographically much more vulnerable to migration flows than is Europe, shows that all it takes for a modern state to defend itself against hegira is self-confidence.

Precisely because the Arabs lacked human rights, the Europeans felt at once superior to and secure from them.

Islam is now helping to undo what it once helped to create. A classical geography is organically reasserting itself, as the forces of terrorism and human migration reunite the Mediterranean Basin, including North Africa and the Levant, with Europe.

Except for Israel. Funny how that works …

Today, hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have no desire to be Christian are filtering into economically stagnant European states, threatening to undermine the fragile social peace. Though Europe’s elites have for decades used idealistic rhetoric to deny the forces of religion and ethnicity, those were the very forces that provided European states with their own internal cohesion.

Meanwhile, the new migration, driven by war and state collapse, is erasing the distinction between the imperial centers and their former colonies. Orientalism, through which one culture appropriated and dominated another, is slowly evaporating in a world of cosmopolitan interactions and comparative studies, as Said intuited it might.

Or, perhaps, to know the cabdrivers of Rotherham and Malmo is to become disillusioned with the pleasant Orientalist fantasies of Delacroix, Kipling, Mozart, Verdi, and Byron?

Europe has responded by artificially reconstructing national-cultural identities on the extreme right and left, to counter the threat from the civilization it once dominated.

Or, more accurately, European elites have scored a massive own goal on their own peoples.

Although the idea of an end to history—with all its ethnic and territorial disputes—turns out to have been a fantasy, this realization is no excuse for a retreat into nationalism. The cultural purity that Europe craves in the face of the Muslim-refugee influx is simply impossible in a world of increasing human interactions.

Except for Israel …

“The West,” if it does have a meaning beyond geography, manifests a spirit of ever more inclusive liberalism.

Or maybe not. Perhaps “liberty” and “inclusiveness” are contradictory? The Roman Empire, for example, was long on inclusiveness and short on liberty.

Just as in the 19th century there was no going back to feudalism, there is no going back now to nationalism, not without courting disaster.

One striking Dog That Does Not Bark is the word that never gets mentioned by those saying Europeans can’t go back to nationalism because that will lead to the resumption of wars among Europeans countries: continentalism. Why not encourage Europeans to unify in self-defense against hegira? Rather than the Chancellor of Germany stabbing the other nations of Europe in the back on a whim, why not encourage European states to work together to build perimeter defenses of the Continent?

But European continentalism is unthinkable because it’s tantamount to European racialism, which is the worst thing in the world. The worst fear imaginable is that Christendom rediscovers its identity.

The question is thus posed: What, in a civilizational sense, will replace Rome? For while empire, as Said documented, certainly had its evils, its very ability to govern vast multiethnic spaces around the Mediterranean provided a solution of sorts that no longer exists.

Europe must now find some other way to dynamically incorporate the world of Islam without diluting its devotion to the rule-of-law-based system that arose in Europe’s north, a system in which individual rights and agency are uppermost in a hierarchy of needs. If it cannot evolve in the direction of universal values, there will be only the dementia of ideologies and coarse nationalisms to fill the void. This would signal the end of “the West” in Europe.

Well, there is one set of universal values that would be satisfactory to the migrant masses from Asia and Africa currently making hegira into Europe: Islam. Obviously, the migrant Muslim masses don’t seem to be in any hurry to give up their version of universal values. Perhaps if Europeans are lectured hard enough that Resistance Is Racist, then universal values can rule all sides of the Mediterranean.

That’s the solution at the end of Submission: the Roman imperium is restored via the Islamification of Europe.

Like I said, there’s a good chance that Kaplan is trolling, and that resemblances to Submission are intentional.

 
• Tags: Books, Houellebecq 
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Following up my review last week in Taki’s Magazine of Submission, Michel Houellebecq’s novel about a future Islamic takeover of France, here are some other reviews:

Houellebecq

- Noah Millman argues that Submission is not satire but Houellebecq’s personal fantasy of arranged polygamous marriage. But why can’t it be both at the same time? Top writers do more than one thing at once. Houellebecq has devoted many years to developing an image of himself as a distressing person. A novel explaining that he’s the kind of opportunist who would collaborate with a Muslim takeover is not exactly good PR for a Muslim takeover.

- Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld argues that Houellebecq’s hero has a point.

- Aaron MacLean in the Washington Free Beacon: “At Least It’s an Ethos.”

- In the New York Times, Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard offers a characteristically long review of Submission. Knausgaard, the author of a six-volume autobiography entitled My Struggle, is one of the leading lights, along with Houellebecq and the late David Foster Wallace, of the Hapless White Guy genre in recent literary fiction that has served as a sort of covert White Male Pride movement.

Knausgaard looks like Houellebecq being played by Brad Pitt

The late John Updike was blithely unconcerned that many of the more literary members of Official Victim Groups feel oppressed by the fact that white men continue to make up a wildly disproportionate fraction of the most talented writers. Updike’s combination of overwhelming talent and well-adjusted Middle Americanness was particularly enraging to the rising powers.

The new generation, in contrast, has been acutely aware of being hated for who they are, with varying impacts: defiance in the case of Houellebecq, conflictedness and depression in the case of poor Wallace.

Update: From The Local:

Knausgård savages the ‘Cyclops’ Swedes
Published: 20 May 2015 15:25 GMT+02:00

Norwegian literary star Karl Ove Knausgård has launched an extraordinary attack on the Swedes, damning them as a race of narrow-minded “Cyclops” who cannot tolerate ambiguity, have no understanding of literature, and are “full of hate and fear”.

The bitter 3,000 word rant, published in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, is a response to an article in the same paper by the feminist Ebba Witt-Brattström, which described Knausgård’s first novel ‘Out of the World’, just now translated into Swedish, as a type of “literary paedophilia”.

But it also mercilessly tears apart what Knausgård sees as Swedes’ black and white approach to race, immigration, gender, and sex, lampooning the nation’s tendency to repress complex or difficult ideas, and its fear of moral uncertainty.

“The reason there’s so much hate among the Cyclops and so much terror I believe is simple,” he writes. “The Cyclops don’t want to know about that part of reality which isn’t how they think it should be.”

Knausgård has now lived in Sweden for some 13 years, moving to Stockholm in 2002 when he began a relationship with the Swedish poet Linda Boström, after which they moved first to Malmö, and then to a village in the Skåne countryside.

But he does not appear to have learnt to love his adopted countrymen.

In his article, he attacks Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for describing the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats as a “neo-fascist party”.

“Everyone knows it isn’t true, but that doesn’t matter because if they think differently on such a sensitive question, they must be fascists,” he argues.

“The Cyclops believe that their picture of reality is the same for everyone, and if there’s anywhere which doesn’t agree, like for example their neighbours Denmark, they get angry with the Danes.”

Within hours of Knaugård’s article being published, Jonas Gardell, a Swedish comic novelist and high profile cultural figure, had attacked him in Expressen newspaper for “suddenly and without warning defending the Sweden Democrats”.

He complained that Knausgård had called the Sweden Democrats a ”legitimate” party, and mocked Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for calling them neo-fascists.

It’s clear that Knausgård doesn’t approve of the Swedish consensus on immigration, but he is perhaps at his most offensive when he gets onto the Swedes’ relationship with literature.

My impression is that as political correctness increasingly clamps down on free expression, more of the creative talent is showing up on the right. It’s hard to tell for sure because it can be a career killer for these guys to be too explicit, but that seems like the trend.

 
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With my review currently up in Taki’s Magazine of Loren Stein’s terrific translation in English of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, I think it’s timely to repost my version of Houellebecq’s scenario for how the the second place Muslim finisher in the French Presidential election of 2022 would form a grand coalition to defeat the first place National Front.

In Houellebecq’s telling, by offering to let the Socialists and Sarkozyites have the important ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance, while the Muslim Brotherhood contented itself merely with Education, the wise and moderate Mohammed Ben Abbes disarms French Establishment concerns about the Islamists being imprudent. On January 8, 2015, the day after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, I posted “How Plausible Is Houellebecq’s Submission?

I don’t see Muslims getting their hands on education policy right away. White people care a lot about their children’s educations. On the other hand, Muslim politicians in France getting their hands on immigration policy would be the more likely camel’s nose in the tent, as it were. After all, immigration policy is increasingly seen in the respectable world as a subject for moral grandstanding, while education is an area for nuance. …

Houellebecq, as he pointed out to an interviewer, largely left immigration policy out of Submission.

To make this more historically plausible, however, I’d stretch this political process out into a two stage process taking place over five years across two presidential elections, and combine Submission with Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints (and Bertolt Brecht’s 1953 poem The Solution).

In 2022, Marine Le Pen easily wins the first round with, say, 40% of the vote. The mediagenic Muslim party candidate, who finishes fourth with 9%, announces that he will advise his followers to not vote in the final election, unless the coalition of Establishment parties give him control of one area of policy — but not of education as in the author’s scenario, but of immigration and citizenship as a moral rebuke to the anti-immigrant hatefulness of the National Front.

The establishment / Islamist coalition ekes out a 51-49 win over the National Front, helped along by some mob violence and election tampering. A secular centrist Frenchman becomes president. Marine Le Pen retires as head of the National Front in favor of her even more popular and charismatic daughter, who instantly becomes the frontrunner for 2027. The Internet is full of observations that Likud lost eight straight general elections before becoming the dominant party in Israel.

In desperation to stop the next onslaught of the FN in 2027, the combined establishment parties accede to the suggestion of their most brilliant young politician, Mohammed Ben Abbes, that to prevent the people from electing a new government in 2027, the government must elect a new people.

A media campaign of white guilt over French colonialism and the Crusades is ginned up. A ship loaded with illegal immigrants founders spectacularly in the Mediterranean on television.

Looking back from the fall of 2015, I’d say that’s not a bad guess, but the reality turned out that the precipitating media moment for The Campo of the Saints was not a lot of people drowning, but one child drowning. As Stalin supposedly said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

A new law is rammed through offering, in effect, open borders for four years to all countries victimized by French imperialism and the Crusades (in the fine print, populous Egypt is included for having suffered the indignity of the French building the Suez Canal). A one year residency requirement for voting is introduced. A senile Pope Francis issues an encyclical denouncing immigration restriction as the great Satan of the 21st Century. A few false flag operations whip up a frenzy of hatred against the FN.

The Camp of the Saints of course proves a vast disaster for France, which only intensifies establishment anger at dissidents for pointing this out. Muslim and/or African car-be-ques appear to be headed out of control, but Ben Abbes demonstrates an impressive ability to turn them off at his command. In desperation, the Socialists and Sarkozyites turn to Ben Abbes as the one man who can permanently end the FN menace, while also calming the street violence spilling from the banlieues to the arrondissements. Of course, after Ben Abbes takes out the FN, the French insiders reason, he can easily be squeezed out himself.

And so on January 30, 2027, a few months before the scheduled election, the sitting president resigns in favor of the temporary expedient of Ben Abbes as President.

Several weeks later the Louvre burns down. A retarded white soccer hooligan is arrested nearby holding a can of gasoline.

FN leaders are rounded up. A North Korean computer hack reveals to the world the names, addresses, and license plate numbers of FN voters, some of whom suffer rough justice for their hereditary guilt stretching back to the Crusades.

NATO leaders invoke Article 5 as applying to NATO member (since 2009) France and applying to an attack from inside the country by nativists. President George P. Bush, at the suggestion of U.S. national security advisor Prince Bandar, deploys the 82nd Airborne to the NATO base at Avord in central France to back the Ben Abbes government in maintaining law and order. Secretary of State Chelsea Clinton announces, “Lafayette, we are here!” as the U.S. sets up drone patrols over rural France.

In a magnanimous gesture praised in world capitals, President Ben Abbes announces he is not delaying the scheduled election. Although in preventive detention, after the first hour of vote counting in the primary round in April 2027, Mademoiselle Le Pen appears to be headed toward a smashing majority, making her President without a runoff. But a computer outage takes vote counting off the air for the rest of the evening and when the count resumes in the wee hours, it’s found that she only won 48% and must face two weeks later Ben Abbes, who is then anointed the defender of all that is right and holy in the multicultural modern era.

And thus we can pick up again with the story line in Submission.

Having finally read Submission, however, I can now see the genius of Houellebecq’s less plausible, more quietist version in which Islamist rule is accepted by the French people as a sort of Streamlined Catholicism. Houellebecq threads the needle of not offending too badly either Islamists, of the kind that murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, or of the French leftist cultural gatekeepers, while creating an insidiously subversive fable.

 
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From my column in Taki’s Magazine:

Reactionary author Michel Houellebecq’s novel about an Islamic takeover of France, Submission, was published the day of the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo. In fact, the satirical publication’s cover that bloody morning was a cartoon of the notoriously decrepit-looking Houellebecq prophesying, “In 2015, I lose my teeth. In 2022, I observe Ramadan!”

Perhaps continental Europe’s most talked-about novelist this century, Houellebecq (a complicated-looking name pronounced, simply enough, “WELL-beck”) is representative of the rise of the right as a cultural force. The editor of the leftist Liberation newspaper complained that Submission “will mark the date in the history of ideas on which the ideas of the extreme right made their entrance in high literature.” Houellebecq has described himself in his usual half-joking style as “Nihilist, reactionary, cynic, racist, shameless misogynist: to lump me in with the rather unsavory family of ‘right-wing anarchists’ would be to give me too much credit; basically, I’m just a redneck.”

In reality, Houellebecq is an autodidact with an immense love of French literature. But he missed out on the usual educational and career path of French intellectuals, instead studying agronomy in college and going to work with computers, which he hated. In his 1990s novels, Whatever and The Elementary Particles, he more or less introduced to literature the now familiar character of the sexually frustrated computer programmer. Houellebecq has been a major influence on the sexual realist wing of the American blogosphere, such as Heartiste.

Read the whole thing there.

 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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