This morning, when I left my hip Parisian studio to go to work, there was a parcel waiting for me at the lobby.
It wasn't ticking, and it wasn't a surprise either. I had been waiting for it for weeks. It was Michel Houellebecq's latest novel, Soumission (Submission), which was released today. Soumission takes place in 2022 France. After Marine Le Pen's close defeat in the 2017 presidential election, a vast coalition, including all mainstream parties, yet led by a French Muslim, Mohamed Ben Abbes, puts the last nail in Front National's coffin. Now France's Islamization will be allowed to proceed, unchallenged. (For once, I won't make my usual — and yet never disproved... — point that Marine's FN is not challenging it in any meaningful way.)
This was enough for the chattering class to complain for weeks that the book might be offensive and lack sensitivity, even if they couldn't possibly have read it then. In our Age of Tweet, literary controversy, an old French tradition, doesn't even require that one reads the book they criticize. One just has to comment on the book's topic, or, in this case, title. As we know, the Arabic word for "submission" is... Islam.
I was reflecting on all that on my way to work, and I was already thinking about the mighty review I would post at Radix.
Later in the morning, one of my colleagues came to me and asked: "Have you seen what happened at Charlie Hebdo? There's been a shooting. At least ten people have died." The satirical weekly magazine's headquarters being only 2,500 meters from where I work, my first reaction was one of surprise. I had been hearing no police or ambulance sirens. The neighborhood was quiet, at least as can be in Paris.
Once I realized what had happened, one of my first thoughts was that this shooting coincided with Houellebecq's novel release. Another quick thought was that in Plateforme (Platform), published only days before 9/11, the story ended with an Islamic terrorist attack against a sex resort in Thailand. Houellebecq's prophecy was that Islamic terrorists would make their last stand against Post-Western Modernity before the Islamic world, like Southeast Asia, would be absorbed and neutered in our Brave New World Order. Four years later, in La Possibilité d'une Île (The Possibility of an Island) Houellebecq developed this point and predicted that Islamism would be, much like the Beatnik or Hippie movements, a fad, waiting to be swallowed and reframed by Modernity.
I still believe this point to be correct, though there might be some upheavals in the meantime. And that's what happened today at Charlie Hebdo.
And before I write negative things about this publication, I should state the obvious:
- Yes, what happened today is atrocious; any decent Westerner should express solidarity with the twelve victims and their families;
- Yes, Charlie Hebdo is free to criticize Islam, however it might upset the terrorists' sensitivities;
- Yes, said terrorists should be hunted down, shot dead, and turned into compost so they can be useful at last.
But have I said anything interesting here? Should I feel "brave" just because Charlie Hebdo's headquarters are only blocks away from where I live? Should I seek professional support to help me get over my grief?
When faced with such tragedies, the normal reaction should be the Walter White way. In the AMC series Breaking Bad, the chemistry teacher/methamphetamine "cook" unsuccesfully tries to call everyone to reason after the collision of two planes over Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A wrong analysis of this Breaking Bad scene would be that Walter White, being a sociopath, lacks empathy towards the victims and their loved ones. I would argue the exact reverse. The real sociopaths are the attention-seeking students and teachers who want to get the same sympathy as the plane crash casualties.
I am never comfortable with the inevitable public mourning when such tragedies happen. My feeling is that decency should force us to show restraint and discretion in front of the actual suffering of the victims' families.
Instead, what we have is an outburst of sentimentalism that not only clouds the mind but also, in my opinion, is disrespectful to the people who died. The crocodile tears shed on Facebook and Twitter are not meant for the assasinated journalists and policemen. Rather, people who post "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) memes want others to look at them cry. Am I the only one to find this wrong?
Symetrical to this feminine self-obsessed digital weeping is the macho posturing political over-reaction. On Identitarian pages I stumbled across, there were guys, comfortably hidden behind their pseudonyms, who were already talking about civil war while the bodies were still warm. Drawing on their Carl Schmitt for Dummies quote collections, they were calling everyone to transcend their ideological differences, however fundamental, to defeat "the Enemy." As if Schmitt's analysis still applied to an atomized, disintegrated world where there are not two sides but, at the very least, three.
From the fact that everyone shall express solidarity towards the victims, it does not follow that we should seek an alliance with the likes of Charlie Hebdo.
For one cartoon criticizing Islam, Charlie Hebdo has been publishing dozens outright insulting Christians, Whites, conservatives, and men. It's perfectly possible to defend Charlie Hebdo's right to publish such material without dreaming of a united "side" fighting against Islamic terrorism. Actually, it could even be argued that the latter is the mirror image of liberal Modernity. Jihad advances on the rubble of the Post-Western Experiment, and the Post-Western Experiment needs formidable enemies (Al-Qaeda and ISIS being more credible than the much-maligned "Far Right") to keep everyone in line. It's not our hill to die on, on either side of it.
Rather, what we should do is put our Julius Evola for Dummies manuals down and start applying to ourselves the slogans we drew from them. We are Men Among the Ruins who endeavor to Ride the Tiger, right? Then let's see today's West as it really is, i.e. a heap of rubble in the midst of which we must survive and whose dangers we need to overcome to create an alternative future for ourselves. There will be many tribes struggling for survival in these here ruins. The time for preservation and grand alliances is over.