De Burkhas et Baguettes: Michel Houellebecq's Submission

It’s the current year. Tensions are rising in France as Islam has grown in strength, with nativists arrayed on one side, young Salafists on the other, and a clueless, lethargic general population in the middle. The National Front is growing in strength but the Left would rather side with Islam than allow them to come into power. If this sounds familiar it’s because it is the setting of Michael Houllebecq’s novel Submission. Submission is a satirical look into an increasingly Islamic future that helps illustrate certain truths about our present. Set in France in the year 2022, we follow the narrator through his everyday life in a France only slightly more bizarre than the real one, in which an actual Muslim Brotherhood Party is seriously contesting the office of the French Presidency and the streets are increasingly swamped with swarthy people speaking strange tongues.

Released early last year, the book’s publication could not have been better timed. The fact that it was released on the very day of the Charlie Hebdo attack—with a caricature of its author even appearing on the cover of the magazine!—is downright eerie. This eeriness extends down to the details in the book, which ring startlingly true, so much so that one feels he is reading an account of something that actually happened. There is for example an interesting passage involving a character with ties to the French “Indigenous Europeans” Movement, which one gets the distinct impression is in reference to Génération Identitaire:

They had a clear, unifying message: We are the indigenous peoples of Europe, the first occupants of the land. They said, ‘We’re against Muslim occupation – and we’re also against American companies and against the new capitalists from India, China, et cetera, buying up our heritage. They were clever, they quoted Geronimo, Cochise, and Sitting Bull. Above all, their website was state-of-the-art. It was really well designed, the music was catchy. It brought in new members, younger members.

Our narrator, François, a 43-year old disaffected and hedonistic literature professor at the University of Paris, is bored of life. But still, it is a bit early to check out, so he ambles through it, finding what little stimulation he can sleeping with his students. Describing himself as “about as political as a bath towel”, Francois nonetheless finds himself engrossed in the upcoming presidential elections, chiefly contested by the Socialists, National Front, Muslim Brotherhood, and UMP.

At the head of the Muslim Brotherhood is Mohammed Ben Abbes, a savvy grocer’s son running for the presidency, who knows the path to the top is best traveled by the patient. Unlike the typical Islamist street demagogue, Abbes comes off as sophisticated and knows how to reach the Western voter. He trumpets his humble origins as the son of a grocer, proclaims his patriotic gratitude to the country that gave him opportunity, and is quick to condemn the Muslim street violence. (Not that anyone would notice, mind you—French society has become desensitized to Arab violence: “Two years before, when the riots started, the media had had a field day, but now people discussed them less and less. They’d They’ve become old news.”) In what has to be the ultimate nightmare scenario, the election eventually results in National Front getting the most votes, but only to the point of plurality, with the Socialists and Brotherhood winning roughly a third each (UMP trails in the low teens).

Not dissimilar to real life, the National Front make a strong showing but are systematically excluded from power. The Socialists collude with another party in order to keep National Front out of power. Except instead of directing their voters to the UMP, they form a coalition with Abbes’ Brotherhood. Power sharing agreements and coalitions therefore require traitorous and unreliable partners such as socialist parties run by rent-seekers and cat ladies who can be counted on to sell out their own principles and beliefs, if necessary, in order to keep the Right out of power.

One of the running themes of the book concerns Europe’s failure to reproduce itself at replacement-rate levels. In a passage detailing a conversation between François and a student he is sleeping with:

“So you’re for a return to patriarchy?”

“You know I’m not for anything, but at least patriarchy existed. I mean, as a social system it was able to perpetuate itself. There were families with children, and most of them had children. In other words, it worked, whereas now there aren’t enough children, so we’re finished."

Abbes cunningly exploits this concern as a way to spin Islam as the solution to Europe’s problem. When it comes to his faith, instead of portraying it in revolutionary terms, as a jihadist would, Abbes seeks to paint Islam as traditional. In a society left spiritually desiccated, Abbes wisely frames Islam as almost a “return to faith”, a way for Europe to regain its own confidence and halt its slow drift toward geriatric irrelevance by reinstating gender roles.

One interesting aspect of the book is the dialectic between street violence and systemic political change, which can better inform our understanding of what non-White violence does to White societies. The violence works to the benefit of the invaders and traitors while still allowing them to claim the moral high-ground by condemning it. As described in the book, the Salafist street thugs are not officially connected to the Party and indeed, whenever they perpetrate violence, it is vociferously condemned by the Brotherhood. And yet upon Abbes’ ascension to the presidency, the French banlieues are suddenly made quiet. Likewise, the inner-city riots of the 1960s allowed the Jewish-controlled “civil rights movement” to play the good cop to the rioters' bad cop—“Look, America, you deal with us and make change within the system while you can, or you deal with these other guys who are far less patient than us and watch your cities burn.” While the violence and criminality of these groups can be partly attributed to biological factors such as low IQ and low impulse-control, in practice they function as the foot soldiers for whoever will represent their interests.

Those hoping for some kind of "alt-right porn", in which nativist forces engage in open battle against Salafists in the streets of Paris, may be disappointed: there are brief interludes of violence or action, but they are not the focus. In fact, the book is not really about Islam so much it is about how hollow and complacent postmodern man is and how absolutely venal and treasonous our elites are. Indeed, for the most part, Islam’s takeover is peaceful, with France’s elites willingly betraying their nation out of their own creepy detachment from the civilization they've been charged with protecting.

The whole book begins in foreboding and by the end is farce. In one absurd scene, Francois goes to meet with the university president at his house, only to be greeted by a 15-year-old girl who upon seeing him shrieks and runs off. As the president proceeds to explain, she had not been expecting visitors and hadn’t been wearing her veil. François, worn out and empty from his lazy pursuit of pleasure through sleeping with students and abusing alcohol, is a prime example of the vacuous detachment from reality that afflicts Western man.

The lesson we need to take from all this is that, although critiquing the Left makes up the majority of what we do on the alt-right, it may not do much to persuade the mainstream to take their own side. Direct appeals to emotion, self-interest, high-mindedness and signaling will more likely shift the Overton window back to the Right, and in doing so make our goals more achievable. The Muslims hate the Left, and they don’t spend any time critiquing critical theory or dildonomics. The grassroots approach, combined with deft political infiltration and maneuvering when the time is right is what delivers them their ethnostate. It also means putting mainstream politicking on the backburner. Although we shouldn’t ignore it completely, odds are we are not going to achieve power through the ballot box alone. Even if our favorite candidates get into office (Trump, Le Pen, etc.), it is likely that they will be compromised in some way, watered down by the very fact they have to exist in our current political climate, which is skewed heavily to the Left. That means building informal networks, it means organizing, it means street action, it means changing the existing culture on the ground and putting pressure on the system.

What we have in Submission is a society very much like our own, tired and complacent, slowly collapsing in on itself as it chases hedonistic distractions. Meanwhile, a virile and dynamic enemy is threatening to overwhelm it through spiritual and physical force. It perfectly illustrates the challenge we face: the need to wake our people from their enervated stupor of gibsmedat consumerism, hyper-individualism, and hedonism, while at the same time dealing with an enemy that is not only more confident, but more disciplined than we are. It is a well-written satire that, like all good literature, informs our understanding of a challenge through parable and story.