It’s an oft-repeated cliché among the so-called alternative Right to say that while Britain once ruled a third of the globe, today it barely controls the streets of London. Those hit the hardest by Britain’s transformation (or, more accurately, deformation) is the working class—once the backbone of British industry and patriotism. Today, fed on the twin somas of sports and what little popular culture has to offer, the working class languishes in a post-industrial dystopia.
Derek Turner’s novella Displacement is a portrait of this Britain—a Britain of displaced workers, alienated elites, and a growing non-native population. It takes place alongside other social novels in the history of the British isles from Disraeli and Dickens to Orwell. But what separates Displacement from many works in this tradition is its non-didactic and honest portrayal of those whom it depicts.
Displacement’s protagonist, Martin Hacklitt, is the forgotten man of today’s Britain—an intelligent youth of poetic disposition, who finds his release from the drudgery and baseness of everyday life through practicing parkour in the streets of London. Parkour, or free running, is a sport that attempts to replicate natural obstacles. Using tall buildings, walls, and other bits of today’s urban jungle, its participants seek to bend their bodies to the world around them and find a sense of liberation from their banal lives below. At least this is how those ‘French books’ Martin reads on the subject describe it.
Martin, a quintessential Englishman, balks at the heady prose and philosophizing of the French parkour books he reads, and sees in it a way to keep fit. Outside parkour along with his poetry, Martin’s other main concern is his love for his on-and-off-again girlfriend Kate. They began dating in high school, where Martin stood up for himself to a gang of bullies. However, by the time of the events described in the novella, the two had grown apart.
Martin is eventually given celebrity status by a chance photograph depicting him performing parkour acts, with the tabloids referring to him as the ‘London leaper’. Who he is quickly takes on an ideological dimension, with left-wing presses seeing in him some exotic, rogue outsider, whereas the conservative media describe him as an enemy to public order.
Kate, recognizing Martin from pictures in the tabloids, contacts him and hopes to set up an interview with a posh, that is, upper class, journalist. Kate’s swift return to Martin—learning of his his celebrity status—will have most Radix readers instantly reminded of hypergamy and the work of F. Roger Devlin, as it should. One of the strengths of Displacement is its chilly realism. Indeed, nowhere is that more apparent than here. For instance, Martin’s inner monologue upon meeting Kate again after a long lull is reminiscent of many one would find in the sort of true-life ‘beta’ stories in the so-called ‘manoshphere’:
“Martin tries to take her hand and she withdraws it, but not abruptly. He will try again soon. It feels weird not touching her when she is so close. They always touched, held. But if she feels the same she is disguising it well. She looks so poised, he marvels, yet the speed with which she has rattled out her news shows she’s nervous. As so often over the intervening three-and-a-quarter years, he wonders how many boyfriends she’s had, and hates them all. But he cannot ask her that yet.”
Many readers, especially young men, will recognize some of the same thoughts that have gone through their minds in the context of today's feminized and deracinated society. But Kate is no villain—merely misguided and far too drawn by the pull of our age. Turner holds his vitriol for the real antagonist of the story—the liberal journalist Seb.
Seb seeks to write a story on the London leaper. For him, journeying to working-class Deptford is akin to traveling to an exotic Caribbean island. He is constantly taken aback by the boorish behavior of Martin’s football-hooligan brother and his staunch old-Labour, old-Britain father, who is constantly trying to hijack Seb’s interview. In addition, he is attracted to Kate and hopes to use this project to get closer to her.
However, when the story is published, it is more or less a hatchet job. Martin’s working-class background is viewed through the gaze of contempt by Britain’s 'Guardianista' cultural class. To Seb, the final version of the article was not meant to be this stereotyped, and, exasperated, he tries to excuse his less-than-positive story on Martin’s roots to Kate:
“I knew it! I knew it didn’t do you justice – I mean that it didn’t do Martin justice. But I only had very limited space. You know how it works!”
Indeed, this language should sound quite familiar. One only has to look at Jared Taylor’s recent run-in with the New Yorker to find another journalist, who hoped that he captured his ‘complex subject'.
Seb eventually attempts to buy off Martin’s loyalty by inviting him to edit a volume of Postmodernist poetry, the theme of which is outsider work edited by outsiders. In doing this, Martin is unwittingly making a deal with the devil, compromising who he is to be taken in by the cultural establishment that rules Britain and, indeed, the entire West. His football-hooligan brother says it best:
“Funny, ain’t it really – by having these published all you poetry plonkers become insiders, don’t you?”
Martin’s brother hits the nail on the head for many bright, poor whites, who go on to be educated at Oxford and Cambridge in the U.K., or the Ivy League schools in the U.S., or who achieve some status of cultural distinction by the current ‘Apes of God’, as Wyndham Lewis called the modern cultural classes.
What Turner documents is not just a ‘displacement’ of Britain’s indigenous population by foreigners, but, more important, its debasement of those, who have inherited the land and cultural institutions of their ancestors. Martin walks like a man on a tightrope between the void of today's West and the transcendence of participating in true art.
In the end, we see him compromised, but through his portrait, we also note an all-too-familiar tale of what happens to bright young boys from traditional working class today. Displacement gives those of us, who self-describe as Identitarian and thus find ourselves in the political fringes, a moving literary look into the heart of our forgotten people.