October 14, 2015
“Hope and faith work hand in hand, however, while hope focuses on the future, faith focuses on the now.” David Odunaiya
What must be going through the minds of the thousands of refugees and immigrants that are currently fleeing war torn countries? These inspirational words arguably express the mindset of the majority of refugees and immigrants that are currently searching and fighting for a better life across the world. The crisis of choice, or more accurately the lack of choice they are facing is unfathomable to the common men and women who live in the free Western world. In the present day and age there is a divide; people either live in relative safety or live in fear of their lives. The people of the Western world take the privilege of safety and relative indulgence for granted, a fact that is depicted perfectly in Jean Raspails’ 1973 predictive and apocalyptic novel The Camp of The Saints. This essay is not intended to be a literary assessment of Raspails’ novel in relation to the current crisis, but is instead intended to be an assessment of how his novel illustrates how we, as a generic Western people, view the plight of the refugee/immigrant forty-two years after he wrote his controversial but great and thought provoking novel.
Without doubt, the human race has and will always evolve through the gradual improvement in the conditions of society. Therefore, how can the people who live in war torn societies possibly improve the condition of their lives when the regimes they are forced to live under prevent them from doing so? The simple answer is they go in search of the safety and happiness they have the right to experience and participate in. The immigrants in The Camp of The Saints are in contrast portrayed as arriving in mainland Europe with the intention of invasion and eventually overpowering Western civilisation and their way of life. The novel is essentially apocalyptic, depicting the mass immigration of thousands of people from the third world, which ultimately leads to the destruction of Western civilisation, as people who have no desire to assimilate into Western culture. This is the threat that resonates emphatically throughout the novel. This theme is arguably seen as a threat in the real world today regarding the refugee crisis, which is being covered by the media, particularly seen by the refusal of the Hungarian government to allow refugees and immigrants to cross their borders. At last count there are estimated to be around nineteen million refugees worldwide and immigrants from war torn countries that include Syria, Honduras, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Eritrea and Myanmar to name but a few. The majority of these refugees and immigrants, in their quest for freedom, more often than not end up in camps that are overcrowded and unsafe. The crisis that effects the refugee and the countries that build these camps prevents integration and keep individuals and families in limbo for months, years and generations, no wonder they decide to march in their masses to find their promised land. Incredibly one in five Syrians have or are fleeing their country.
The boats that carry the refugees in the novel are replaced in real life by the human land train that is carrying them to the borders of European countries. In the novel’s first chapter the professor looks out to the horizon and observes “the incredible fleet from the other side of the globe, the terrible stench of latrines heralded the fleets arrival, like thunder before a storm.”
This passage of thought by Jean Raspail, comparing the immigrants in the novel to the toilet of humanity is unfair and controversial, yet somehow disturbingly correspondent to how refugees and immigrants are viewed by many suspicious people who live in the Western world. There is a deep rooted fear that the mass exodus and influx of refugees and immigrants will alter the demographics of Europe and adversely effect cultural identity, many people who live in the Western world are afraid that the comforting familiarity and the sense of community in their villages, towns, and cities will be lost forever. In an interview with Jean Raspail, conducted by Katherine and Gavin Betts, which was printed in the Social Contract Press, Raspail described the book as symbolic. Raspail explained his reasoning, saying “The third world invasion of the West is unavoidable. It is race that gives culture its mark in the beginning.” Certainly, the influx of refugees and immigrants has and is affecting the European culture, however it is controversial to suggest it is an encroachment on Western society. Raspail went on to say “race isn’t really a question of colour, its a whole mental outlook, a state of mind.” In my opinion, cultural differences, if given the chance, can merge naturally and actually compliment each other. Indeed, the root of the problem is probably the state of mind, meaning, how we see things effects how we react. The European reaction to the current crisis has maybe some indium of logic behind it, but the actions are most certainly unwise and unhealthy for everyone as a whole.
Islam versus Europe also printed an interview from the French magazine Valures Actelles with Jean Raspail. When asked if he believed it was possible to assimilate foreign people into French culture he answered with a resounding no! Raspail said “the model of integration isn’t working. It will not change the progressive invasion of France and Europe by a numberless third world.” Furthermore, when asked how Europe could deal with these migrations he said “There are two solutions, we accommodate them, and our culture will be erased, or we don’t accommodate them which means we stop giving a damn about these depraved human rights and take steps to distance ourselves to avoid the dissolution of our country into a métissage.” Jean Raspail’s opinion is arguably reflected in how some European countries are reacting to the needs of the refugees and immigrants. The information we receive via all forms of the media is largely understood and viewed in an emotional context thus influencing how we relate and react to other people. The great Oscar Wilde once said ‘an unbiased opinion is of no use to anybody.’ Raspails’ opinion is most certainly not unbiased but his opinion is of little use to the current situation. We should, as part of the human race, have a biased opinion about the welfare and safety of refugees and immigrants. We should not think or make decisions like the politician, who seem to first and foremost act on cold, inhumane facts, figures and numbers. We have an obligation to concentrate on relationships and values, putting the safety of those in dire need first.
We live on a planet that is abundant with resources, man made and natural. The decision to limit and deny these abundant supplies limits the potential of every human being to thrive and grow together as one race. We all have differences, but it is discovering and embracing those differences that ultimately define who we are.
Jean Raspail, although a brilliant and talented writer, is obviously reluctant to embrace different cultures into a French society he is keen to keep uniquely French. Unfortunately, his patriotism is fiercely intense, moreover, some would say, radically opinionated to the point of racism.
We could and should flourish together by helping each other, not because it is seen as the right thing to do, but because it is what we want to do. The current crisis will ultimately cause us to reflect on who we are as individuals and as a whole. It is such a pity that it takes inhuman suffering and a mass movement of biblical proportions from war torn countries to bring about our conscience and the opportunity to change.
However, it is encouraging to see that actions of brutality do not always instigate actions of retribution, which is evident by the fact that people would rather leave their homeland than retaliate with the same violence that has been inflicted upon them. This fact is evidential through the willingness to undertake arduous and dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea. The basic human instinct is first and foremost about self preservation, yet this is a double edged sword for refugees and immigrants. All of humanity is by nature and definition, equal, this being the case, we all have the right to live a happy and fruitful life, especially a life not marred by gratuitous violence. When people are forced or find themselves living in a society rife with pain and suffering they have two options, fight back or flee in order to preserve life. This is all the refugees and the immigrants want, to preserve their life regardless of the fact that at times they sacrifice their dignity. By seeking asylum from other countries far away, they often find their dignity in tatters. What kind of society are we to deny them the right or the chance to regain at least some of their dignity by gifting them a safer environment in which to live their lives.
I make no apologies for this essay because I have spoken from the heart, but I believe the current situation can be resolved if we all remember we are all the same, we are all equal. I will end this essay with a slogan from The Camp of The Saints. Towards the end of chapter thirty-two, printed in bold type, are the words, “Workers, Soldiers, Gangs, Refugees, United Against Oppression.” Even in this novel of apocalyptic messages, there is a ray of hope. As David Odunaiya said, “Hope focuses on the future.” Let us hope that the refugee and immigration crisis is resolved before the clock strikes twelve, for the sake of us all.