The Orange County Register
Summer is usually a time for light reading, and for the most part, I indulged the usual array of historical novels, science fiction as well as my passion for ancient history. But two compelling books out this year led me to more somber thoughts about the prospects for the decline and devolution of western society.
One, “Submission” by the incendiary French writer Michel Houellebecq, traces the life of a rather dissolute French literature professor as he confronts a rapidly Islamifying France. The main character, Francois, drinks heavily, sleeps with his students and focuses on the writing of the now obscure French writer, J.K. Huysmans. Detached from politics, he watches as his native country divides between Muslims and the traditional French right led by the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.
Ultimately, fear of Le Pen leads the French left into an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, handing power over to an attractive, clever Islamist politician. With all teaching posts requiring conversion to Islam, Francois in the end “submits” to Allah. Francois motives for conversion merge opportunism and attraction, including to the notion that, in an Islamic society, high prestige people like himself get to choose not only one wife, but several, including those barely past puberty.
The other declinist novel, “The Family Mandible” by Lionel Shriver, is, if anything more dystopic. The author covers a once illustrious family through the projected dismal decades from 2029 to 2047. Like the Muslim tide that overwhelms Francois’ France, the Brooklyn-based Mandibles are overwhelmed in an increasingly Latino-dominated America; due to their higher birthrate and an essentially “open border” policy, “Lats” as they call them, now dominate the political system. The president, Dante Alvarado, is himself an immigrant from Mexico, due to a constitutional amendment — initially pushed to place Arnold Schwarzenegger in the White House — that allows non-natives to assume the White House.
Collapse is from within
Some critics have lambasted author Shriver as being something of a Fox style right-wing revisionist while others have labeled Houellebecq as an “Islamophobe.”
But these books are far more nuanced than orthodox Muslims or progressives might assume. For one thing, neither book blames the newcomers for the crisis of their respective societies. The collapse, they suggest, is largely self-inflicted.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.