The Camp of the Saints

One of the most talked about books in conservative circles in the mid-1970s was The Camp of the Saints by French author Jean Raspail. It is a great read. I can remember galloping through it in a single day, caught up in the power of Raspail’s imagery. That’s what everyone thought of the book at the time, that it was imagery, an allegory of the impact of liberal internationalism on the soul of Western man.

I can’t remember any of the reviewers predicting that Raspail’s plot would actually become a reality in our lifetimes. It has.

The plot centered on an imaginary day in the future when over a million refugees from India’s poverty and squalor, on board hijacked ships, arrive off the coast of southern France. The starving and disease-ravaged Indians have heard the one-world rhetoric of the West’s liberal elites — the catchphrases about racism and colonialism being the explanation for the differences between the wealth of the West and the poverty of the Third World — and are ready to take the French intellectuals at their word. They are coming to France, to stay, to share the wealth. Sound familiar?

Raspail focused on the French reaction: Will they permit their oppressed Third-World brothers to land, and consent in the process to the remaking of their country into a society with few traces to its past? Or will they fire on the Indian immigrants to prevent them from coming ashore, just as they would an invading army about to take their country from them? But how can they do that? How can armed resistance be justified, if — elites inform us — the nation is a myth to be put aside in the name of universal brotherhood, the heritage of the Christian West is a shameful legacy of dead, white European males, and the wealth of the West the result of colonial and capitalist exploitation of the starving masses of the Third World?

At the time the book was published, the discussion centered on whether Raspail was right about liberal internationalism’s impact on the West’s perception of itself, about whether his allegory was insightful, or merely the perfervid ramblings of an Old World jingoist and xenophobe — perhaps a racist — undeserving of serious consideration. The discussion has reached a new level. We are no longer dealing with allegory. The story is the same, every day, in the United States, France, Italy, Spain: Third-Worlders from the south are coming to stay.

We see the stories every day now in our newspapers and on the nightly news, of scenes rivaling anything Raspail depicted in his novel, of Muslims in Britain and France remaking those countries in ways no one could have imagined just a decade or so ago, of boatloads of illegal immigrants of the coast of southern Italy too numerous for the Italian authorities to apprehend, of the Spanish government’s inability to stop the waves of immigrants pouring in from North Africa, of illegal immigrants from Mexico swarming across the border in the American southwest.

Raspail’s questions are now political realities we must confront: Are nations entitled to defend their borders and their cultural heritage? At what price? Is nationhood a morally defensible notion? Or is it a myth, a superstition to be overcome on mankind’s path to universal brotherhood and a world without borders? Can we say no the oppressed and impoverished of the world seeking to share in the benefits of our society, even if refusing to say no will lead to a national devolution, in material and spiritual terms?

These questions are real. They must be answered in our near future. But there is another question, one that has been settled as a consequence of these waves of illegal Third-World immigrants. We don’t have to wait for the future for its resolution. Case closed: We have seen the end of the cult of Third-Worldism, even if the death knell has not yet been officially sounded.

Anyone over the age of 50 knows what I mean by the “cult of Third-Worldism.” They can recall the priests in dashikis and bronze African medallions extolling the spiritual dimensions of sub-Saharan tribal life, college professors in sandals organizing student excursions to experience the natural lifestyles of the Indians in the mountains of Bolivia (South American wags called them “sandalistas” in reference to their preference for authentic Latino footwear), earnest young men in horn-rimmed glasses heading off to cut sugar cane in Cuba to help the revolution and experience the joys of proletarian communal life, women high school teachers in peasant blouses and denim skirts devoting large chunks of instructional time to how Mao’s Red Guards brought about an end to the alienation of youth in China, bearded and beaded college students brandishing copies of Carlos Castenada’s Journey to Ixtlan as an emblem of their determination to rise above Western rationalism through peyote-induced mysticism.

The message was always the same: The West is corrupt, materialistic, out of touch with nature and the life of the spirit, its people caught up in the rat-race chase for a corporate job and a home in the suburbs, its children alienated by the meaningless of their existence, seeking escape through drugs and Hollywood violence. And the Third World had the answer to all these problems. Its peoples were in tune with nature and their extended families, content with the joys of the simple life close to the soil, filled with a sense of community, open to the mysteries of life taught by their gurus and shamans. Remember the Beatles traipsing off to India to experience the “bubbling bliss” of Transcendental Meditation offered by the Maharishi Maheesh?

Well, all those simple Third-World folks in extended families living lives close to the soil now want to come here, to London, Paris, and Rome, to the capitalist hell-holes where people have forgotten what life is all about. And they are willing to endure great hardships, spend every penny they have and break our laws to escape the squalor, hopelessness and dreariness of life in the Third World. You don’t see them trying to sneak into Mexico, Vietnam or North Korea. Fidel Castro isn’t pondering the need to build a wall to protect his border. (Although he is an expert on maintaining a virtual wall to keep his people from sneaking out of his workers’ paradise.)

Look, I know it is no laughing matter that so many Third-World countries are now failed states, unable to provide employment or the basic medical and educational needs for their people. But there is a lesson to be learned from the phenomenon of so much of the Third World trying so hard to sneak into the xenophobic, racist, materialistic, soulless countries built by the dead, white European males that they, and their apologists in the press and the academy in the West, have vilified for over four decades now. “Yankee, go home!” has been replaced by “Yankee, let me in!”

That is precisely what they want, by the way, not reconquista of the American southwest. If the illegals were offered a deal that included a large chunk of the American Southwest being reunited to Mexico, in return for a guarantee that all illegals move there and never enter the US again, except as tourists, what do you think the answer would be?

James Fitzpatrick's novel, The Dead Sea Conspiracy: Teilhard de Chardin and the New American Church, is available from our online store. You can email Mr. Fitzpatrick at

(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)

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