Jean Raspail Speaks of "Big Other"
On February 3, 2011, Jean Raspail, author of The Camp of the Saints was interviewed by Frédéric Taddeï on France 3 Television. The interview was recorded on two YouTube videos of about fifteen minutes each. The Camp of the Saints has been re-issued with a new preface : "Big Other", a pun on "Big Brother", and an obvious reference to the massive immigration of the past thirty years.
The videos, posted at François Desouche, are too long to translate, but here are a few highlights from the first half:
The host goes through the list of books written by Raspail and his various accomplishments, before turning to the main point:
- (…) but your most famous book, the most explosive, the most controversial is The Camp of the Saints, written in 1973, and today re-issued with a new preface. The story was terrible, a million poor people seize a hundred cargo ships and drift towards Europe, this paradise, and land on the coast. What should we do? That is the question you asked back then. One answer was that we have to have the courage to shoot the whole lot. At the time that was regarded as racism.
- You have simplified just a bit. In truth The Camp of the Saints is a parable, written in 1972, published in 1973 about a million people from the Third World. They're weak, they're unarmed, women and children, they're poor, and they come in search of paradise. But, there's a million of them, they land on the Riviera, and behind them there are other flotillas with more millions ready to land according to whether or not France's response is positive or negative. The problem of The Camp of the Saints is very simple - there is unity of time, place, and action. Everything happens in twenty-four hours. What happens is they have a shipwreck, a million of them, unarmed, weak, they inspire sympathy, pity. But a million… and if the response is positive, there are a million more waiting. What do we do? That's the question posed by The Camp of the Saints.
- And is the question the same forty years later?
- The Camp of the Saints is a novel. It's purpose is not to send a message. I'm a novelist. I imagined this situation which is a bit like ours today except the arrival of millions of immigrants seeking paradise did not happen in twenty-four hours, but over a longer period of time.
And The Camp of the Saints ends badly… badly or well, according to your opinion. There are four hundred pages. Imagine all the questions it raises in our minds - on a social level, on the national level, but also on the inner level of each person. What do you do? If you allow in such a mass, what happens to the country? If you don't allow them in where is your Christian charity? Where is your pity, and many other things like that…
- What do you say about your hero, who is a writer, who resembles you, who is Christian and proud of the history of his country; he has his rifle, he knows he will have to defend himself, yet he's a Christian. Isn't there a paradox?
- He's not a writer, he's an old man, retired, who lives below the site of the shipwreck. He has a telescope and he says, "There! We're done for!" He doesn't shoot but he is profoundly shaken, he knows it's the end. It's a sincere book, but a dangerous one. I wrote it forty years ago. I couldn't do it today. I wouldn't be able to control my anger as I did then. I take back nothing that I wrote in the book.
- You even say in the preface that it would be unpublishable today. Are there laws that would prevent it?
- In 1973, freedom of expression on this particular theme - immigration, invasion of… people from another land is a very dangerous theme. Look at the trial of Eric Zemmour… The Camp of the Saints was written before the laws: Gayssot, Lelouche, Perben. But when you write on this dangerous theme, and there are millions who have come up from the South, from the Third World, naturally they are not ethnically like us. And there's a clash of civilizations. Excuse me, but there is a sort of ethnic opposition. But in 1973 immigration was a minor problem, later things worsened. And a succession of laws were passed to prevent the expression of thoughts that are not part of the universal conscience, not politically correct.
You said I was an explorer. I spent thirty years traveling among small peoples in danger of extinction. I know well civilizations that are about to disappear. When a minor civilization is in danger it must defend itself. If civilizations have disappeared it is because they were engulfed by the tidal wave of the more advanced newcomers. With us, the situation is the reverse. We have an old civilization in Europe, in France, and we find ourselves before gigantic masses of people. Europe does not have a billion people, yet we face hundreds of thousands, millions, billions. Logically, we should be forced to defend ourselves, but how?
- But one could say that a civilization at its apogee, strong, sure of itself, should not be afraid of the Other, should be able to integrate the Other.
- Political correctness has defined those arriving as the Other - you know, welcome the Other, smile at the Other, the look of the Other. It becomes a kind of awesome power like Big Brother. I entitled my new preface "Big Other". We are faced with - not a conspiracy - but on the whole, with false or true feelings, false or true pity, false or true Christian charity that says we must, a priori, welcome in the Other, the Big Other.
- That was true in 1973. That's why your book was so controversial then. But many things have happened since then.
- You find that many things have happened?
- In 1989, Prime Minister Michel Rocard, of the Left, spoke. Let's remember what he said. That was certainly a turning point.
At 14:25 in the video they show a clip from 1989 of Michel Rocard saying words that became famous:
"France cannot shelter all the wretched of the earth. France must remain what she is - a land of asylum. We signed the Geneva Convention to give asylum to those whose freedom of expression is repressed in their homeland. Nothing more than that. In 1988 we turned away at our borders 66,000 persons. Add to that the tens of thousands of expulsions."
- Jean Raspail, for you, is a strong society one that says "yes" (as they do in your book) "come in you'll be at home here." Is that a strong civilization, or is it like today, when more and more are saying "no, we cannot take in the Other, the Other arouses fear, we are the ones who have to become like the Other."
- The Other does not arouse fear. That is not the right word. The question is do we want to stay ourselves or do we want to accept… it could work out very well, but it means accepting a civilization that is completely mixed. What Rocard said, it's all very well but all the politicians have said the same thing - Giscard, Mitterand, Chirac. They have all said it and absolutely nothing has changed. These are words, probably for electoral purposes, and nothing has changed. Today, the influx of immigrants has completely exploded and in addition, the statistics are falsified. Now, you want to know how we should react? A civilization of "métis" (mixed blood) could function very well, but it would no longer represent the eighteen centuries that made France. It could work, but who would make up the population? In 2050 - I won't see it, but you will - in the urban zones of France, I stress "urban", the active population of young persons, between 5 and 50, will be more than 50% non-European. We could accept it, but you have to realize what is at stake. There are some who might find it normal, even generous, to live in a mixed civilization.
- They may feel it's better.
- I don't agree. I don't agree. I've been French for eighteen centuries, and I would like to stay that way completely. I can accept a certain number of invitations, if you like, but I don't want a total mixture. I don't want it.
Note: The interview leaves something to be desired. Raspail asks "how" do we get rid of them, but he never proposes that all immigration be stopped although it is vaguely implied when he criticizes the politicians of the past forty years for their empty words and insincere promises. He also seems to think that Christian charity would be violated if the millions were turned away. Catholic writer Bernard Antony responds forcefully to Raspail on this point. It is not in the name of genuine Christian charity that the immigrants are let in, but rather a deformation of Christian charity that leads so many Christians to a position much closer to bleeding heart liberalism and open borders globalism than to the traditional Catholic position. Nor should Christian charity in its true sense ever be abandoned because of the misunderstanding of its mission:
In truth, charity does not consist of opening our doors and our arms to invaders. No, it does not consist in returning the flags of Lepanto, as Paul VI did, to the Turks, who have no knowledge of repentance. It does not consist of kissing the Koran as Pope John-Paul II did, in an unfortunate gesture.
No, it does not consist in offering lands of our old Christian country, as the French bishops have done, to build mosques or worse, to accept the transformation of churches into mosques. That is the opposite of charity, a turning away from charity; it is inversion, subversion, corruption.
(…) Our neighbor is everybody who is far away that we can try to reach through thought and prayer, even if we cannot hold him in our arms.
In other words, being a good Christian cannot ever mean allowing the destruction of one's own Christian culture, out of pity for the Other.