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Defeating Defeatism:
A Review of Derek Turner’s Sea Changes

4,007 words

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Derek Turner (Foreword by Tito Perdue)
Sea Changes
Whitefish, Mt.: Washington Summit Publishers, 2012

Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange . . .

Derek Turner’s nod in the direction of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, also a tale of persons stranded on an island, the island of Great Britain in the case of this novel, and the sea changes which are overtaking England, begins with that opening scene of so many castaway adventures, namely with bodies thrown up on a beach. In Sea Changes, they are the bodies of illegal immigrants who have attempted to reach England; all but one of whom have perished in the attempt. The image of the corpses on the beach is likely to remind the reader of a picture which went viral in 2015, showing a three-year-old Syrian boy lying dead on a beach near Bodrum in Turkey. That image became a symbol of the “human tragedy of the refugees” and was projected as such around the world, a death exploited to urge Europe to welcome all migrants. The publication of the picture of the dead child was followed soon afterwards by the German Chancellor’s illegal decision to welcome a million migrants into Europe.

Sea Changes echoes in many respects Jean Raspail’s classic novel The Camp of the Saints, published in 1973. Both novels portray the inability of an effete West, worm-eaten by guilt and self-doubt, to effectively resist mass non-European immigration. In both tales, the West is surrendering not to an armed foe but to emotional blackmail. The West collapses not in the face of a challenge from outside but because it is fatally weakened by its enemies within, the liberal bleeding hearts who wail, warble, write, and whine in the name of “humanity” for charity, love, anti-racism, and understanding, urging the indigenous population to abandon all misgivings and welcome as many people to the West as may wish to come. In The Camp of the Saints, which described not the time when the dystopian novel was written, but rather an ominously impending future, the West collapses in an instant when faced with the sudden challenge of a “last hope armada” from India, consisting of boats carrying hundreds of thousands fleeing from famine, huddled masses who simply take ship and set out for Europe. Derek Turner’s novel describes no such moment of sudden collapse; instead, it offers a glimpse of a gradual process, a steady sea change in the English nation.

Jean Raspail’s book, in which religious symbolism abounds, is a presentation of Armageddon, replete with biblical references. The hordes of unwashed Third World masses are, like Tolkien’s hordes of Mordor, speechless, and intent on the enslavement and destruction of the land they are conquering. The anonymity of the immigrants in The Camp of the Saints could confirm the multiculturalist belief that “racists” cannot or will not understand that immigrants are real people who are “just like us,” at heart, people “like you and me” fleeing persecution and terror, desperate refugees who cannot pose any kind of threat to their host country, and whose only threat, if threat there is, is the threat to prejudice itself. “Racists” and doubters, who are easily daubed racist as well should their doubts become too insistent, are blinded by prejudices to “our common humanity”; they regard the world through the jaundiced, distorted vision of their provincial backyard. Those who cannot accept the changing world of globalism are regarded as embittered souls who grind their teeth and glower at what they cannot understand, the faceless “other” from across the seas who is in fact a human being just like us. This is the liberal multicultural narrative, and if a liberal were to read The Camp of the Saints, he would probably find that narrative confirmed.

It would be impossible for an “anti-racist” to lay such a charge of incomprehension or blindness at Derek Turner’s door. Far from regarding migrants in the abstract, Sea Changes traces the adventures of one very human, very real, very believable young migrant, Ibrahim from Basra, Iraq. Ibrahim is no faceless or speechless orc, neither is he a fanatic, nor a terrorist; he is not very political, nor even a very devout Muslim. He is an unremarkable Iraqi youth with a fistful of dollars and a heart full of hope on the way to find a better life in Britain. A considerable part of Sea Changes is taken up with a vivid, intensely realistic, and believable account of his trek, with help from human smugglers, from Iraq to the beach on England’s North Sea coast, where at the beginning of Turner’s story he lies unconscious, half-drowned and wounded by gunshot. Turner’s account of Ibrahim’s journey is graphic, sympathetic, and convinces by its authenticity, remarkably so given that the writer has presumably not experienced Ibrahim’s journey or anything like it. That comment is not intended to be facetious, for it is an outstanding merit and remarkable achievement of Sea Changes that it provides an account of a migrant’s illegal journey to England that is so sympathetic and believable that did one not know otherwise, one might suppose that someone like Ibrahim had indeed written it.

Ibrahim’s anxieties and sufferings, lucky turns of fate, and mishaps could all be any man’s, and this is in effect a journey of Everyman, down to the “gut gripe,” bad food, long queues, thirst, hunger, and the smells and pains which such a journey entails. Ibrahim is a sort of anti-pilgrim, Bunyan’s Christian travelling in the wrong direction. The notion of “Everyman” recalls not only John Bunyan but also James Joyce. Sea Changes abounds with Joycean expressions and the same wry, close, and ironic observations of the small things in life which characterize James Joyce’s writing make Sea Changes colorful and vivid, too. Here is an affectionate and detailed scene depicting an English farmer at home (the farmer, Dan Gowt, later to be exposed by the press as an “evil racist”):

Jackdaws were chak-chaakking in the chimney, fidgeting in their dust-dry nest, occasionally dislodging a twig to fall ding into the iron lion-and-unicorn fireback inserted in the bedroom fireplace by an ancestor to commemorate the Stuart accession. His diminished descendant stretched clickingly to his full modest height, encased his stocky frame in old clothes, and sluiced his weather-punished face and white-wispy-haloed head with slightly brown water from the old fashioned bathroom taps with the COLD and HOT the wrong way round. (pp. 30-31)

Foreigners to this day are likely to both complain about and marvel at the eccentricities of traditional English plumbing arrangements! Turner’s writing is characterized by a sharp eye for telling true-to-life detail, and he displays deep affection for an original and traditional England, the England of the “little man” championed by Nigel Farage.

So what is this England that Ibrahim has reached? He has imagined England as a utopia, a treasure island, certainly a better place than the war-ravaged hell he has left behind, and who can blame him? Probably not the readers of this book. Of course, Ibrahim is doomed to disappointment. England, he discovers, is a land in many ways much like any other: corrupt, not the utopia of his dreams, and as he slowly comes to realize, not home and never likely to become a real home. At the end of this sad tale, Ibrahaim begins to regret the home which he fled, for Iraq, a war-ravaged and hopeless land though it is, has the supreme merit of being his land. Too late, at the end of the story, Ibrahim begins to realize this:

At least the house at home had been theirs – and they had been members of a community. He remembered countless casual, inconsequential encounters in Basra – serendipitous street meetings, everyday conversations, shared jokes and complaints – thousands of tiny, previously unnoticed nothings that in retrospect had amounted to something as undefinable as it was unmistakable. (p. 431)

The liberal Left, which denounces the racism of a society which does not greet Ibrahim with open arms, exploit him for the purposes of their own careers and their agenda, which is to force “sea change” on what remains of a real, that is to say traditional, England, and then they discard him after using him and leave him to his own sad devices. Rightly, Turner describes these liberals as a “repellent crew.” Ibrahim has arrived in a land governed by the pusillanimous and hypocritical, in which opinion-makers are hypocrites and haters of their own country, one whose indigenous population is under the misrule of careerists and cowards, whose Orwellian speech must be all too familiar to the reader. A chance remark in reaction to the bodies found on the beach by the aforementioned local farmer is picked up by an unsympathetic journalist, and this unleashes a stream of brow-beating and accusations of “racism,” the guilt ritual which has become the hallmark of Western Europe. Here is one of the many reactions to the deaths of all but one among the group of migrants which had attempted to reach England:

Fifty-one eminent sociologists courageously co-signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, saying that events grew out of the downplaying of a hidden interracial hybrid consciousness and culture . . . [O]ur notions of “race” have been constructed out of a repression of the interracial, driven by a government which seeks to make use of fear rather than facts to promote its own agenda. Racism is more than prejudice plus power; it is also partly a medical condition, caused by a loss of mental faculties in the frontal lobe. We will purge it from our actions by purging it from our thinking. (p. 245)

There are three principal English characters in Sea Changes: the hapless farmer Dan Gowt, who becomes the whipping boy of a liberal media and everyone obsessed with racism; a career journalist, John Leyden, the son of a well-to-do liberal pastor, who embodies several vices; and a defiantly reactionary journalist, Albert Norman, who denounces the ways of the world from the position he has retained on a newspaper which is otherwise “moving with the times,” a Peter Simple/Peter Hitchens sort of character who is foil to the aforementioned progressive journalist, John Leyden. This is Turner on John Leyden:

John had never made the mistake of sending money to charities. What was needed was revolutionary reform rather than palliative care. Everything was linked; all boats must rise at the same time. His parents had never indulged in such deep analysis, or attempted to view the world’s wrongs as different aspects of a universal problem. He had often tried to explain this to them, but it had been a waste of time. He had left all this behind as soon as he could, and by the time he had finished Oxford, he felt he had effectively resigned from his compromised class and joined the Conspiracy of Us – the alert, liberal, open, noble, generous, cultured, committed and courageous – just a few who saw the big picture, and brave enough to say what must be said. (pp. 193-194)

Here is John Leyden writing about the farmer’s home town:

Crisby is by no means unique. All across these islands, there are similar places, living in the past, fearing the future, basking in complacency and furtive fascism. These villages are emblematic of the way all of England used to be, class-ridden, hanging monkeys as Frenchmen, and now venting their spleen against desperate refugees. One can feel strangely sorry for country people whose horizons extend no further than the edge of their territory. In a way, they too are victims of education cuts. (p. 207)

John Leyden and his photographer colleague use the common trick in media reporting of twisting words and reproducing speeches accompanied by photographs in the light which suits their purposes. There is an old joke which captures this journalistic legerdemain well. The Pope is visiting a country for the first time, say, Costa Rica. On touching down in the capitol, the first question a reporter asks him is, “Will you be visiting a nightclub during your stay in Costa Rica, Holy Father?” “Are there any nightclubs in Costa Rica?” replies the Pope innocently. The next day the newspaper headlines read: “Pope’s first words on arrival: Are there any nightclubs in Costa Rica?” John Leyden is adept at this kind of journalism. Once the domain of the gutter press, it has in recent years indeed become a tool of the liberal Left, and Turner’s depiction of how such tactics are used against the hapless Dan Gowt ring sadly true.

Perhaps Turner protests too much in his relentless critique. John Leyden is beyond redemption. Most liberal media journalists of the “quality press” do not write as blatantly as this (“basking in complacency and furtive fascism”) and do not veer quite so close to self-parody. When Turner describes the objects of his loathing, John Leyden and others, he strains to make his villains the vehicle of his scorn and rejection. It is as though Turner had been presented with a psychological assessment, or a character sketch for a job interview, and finds that the candidate is his worst enemy. “List John Leyden’s weaknesses.” Turner can then let rip: John Leyden is a hypocrite, a social climber, callous, snobbish, cold-hearted, ruthless, unscrupulous, humorless, supercilious, ungrateful. Leyden is allowed no redeeming virtue. Perhaps there is humanity lurking deep in him, for Albert Norman senses at the end of this story that Leyden is a haunted man with possibly deeply-buried misgivings about what he is doing, but that is all that is allowed him; and the other villains, apart from one Workers’ Party MP, are no better.

We are presented with a rogue’s gallery of liberals and Leftists, all hypocrites and ne’er-do-wells with not a good word to be said for the lot of them. (Even Jean Raspail allowed his Leftist a moment of “authenticity” in the scene when he attacks a tank with a Molotov cocktail.) Turner shifts easily from satire to propaganda, and where propaganda appears, literature suffers. I am reminded of the unidimensional “anti-industrialists” and socialists who fill the rogues’ gallery of altruists in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, or the interchangeable comic book heroes of H. A. Covington’s The Brigade. The reader will recognize the traits, but may feel that is not quite authentic to pack them all into one human being relentlessly. They do not ring true, they are not quite an accurate reflection of reality, and they are too bad or too good to be true. The reader will be right. The one-dimensional man or woman is the hallmark of propaganda. Turner ignores a more widespread and insidious kind of “anti-white” than the targets of his opprobrium in this novel, namely the reasonable opinion-maker in our midst, the one who encourages us to ignore what is happening, the one who paints the simple as “complex” and undermines the determination of those willing to resist, not with cynicism, violent criticism, or denunciation, but with apparently sweet reason, who may if need be promise that “something should be done and will be done,” knowing all the time that nothing will be done. The trimmer and prevaricator are absent from Sea Changes, but they are highly active in the West today, destroying confidence and the will to say “No!” and they arguably undermine, weaken, and destroy more than the Leftist proselytizer who wears his colors on his sleeve.

The curious fact is therefore that the depiction of the migrant Ibrahim in Sea Changes rings truer than the depiction of the liberal and Leftist English who exploit him. Turner intensifies the impression of being distanced from immediacy in describing England by choosing not only a fictitious town for his story, which is understandable, but less understandably, a fictitious county, one he calls “Eastshire” (in fact, most English shires are named after towns and points of the compass named after English tribes: Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Essex, Norfolk, etc.). The political parties are also fictitious, and instead of Conservative and Labour, we have CD and WP. That is a minor point, but one which adds to an element of fictional distancing which runs through his depiction of England, and that element of, to my mind uncalled for, distancing is juxtaposed uncomfortably with the realistic descriptions of Ibrahim’s journey, English country scenes, and the precise references to contemporary events in Iraq.

The top-heavy presentation of only liberals and the Left as being the voice of public opinion in contemporary England is reinforced by the absence (the colorful “Peter Simple” character of Albert Norman aside) of a critical media. But in contemporary England, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Express are three popular newspapers highly critical of open-border policies which frequently ridicule or denounce generosity to illegal immigrants. Additionally, there are several prominent journalists and commentators who, in their various ways, are obviously skeptical or openly critical of modernizing trends and liberalism, in short of the sea changes taking place in England: Nigel Farage, Peter Hitchens, Katie Hopkins, and Jacob Rees-Mogg come to mind. And what of the doubters like David Goodhart, the founder of the middle-of-the-road Prospect magazine, whose article in 2004 in his own magazine entitled “Too Diverse?” put the case that the price of diversity was a decline in social solidarity? Goodhart has recently published a book called The Road to Somewhere, which is apparently on The Sunday Times (!) bestseller list. Such critics and doubters of the benefits of multiculturalism are absent from Sea Changes, so the impression that the book gives the reader is of a situation which is worse than bad, which is hopeless. It is as though The Guardian, The Observer, and Sunday Times were the only daily newspapers and their journalists all went to school in the offices of Socialist Worker, and nobody commented on current affairs who did not share the opinions of Julian Barnes, Searchlight magazine, or Dennis Skinner – and even that ultra-Left MP broke internationalist ranks by supporting Brexit. I find Jean Raspail’s pinpointing of apolitical consumerism as the most considerable foe of ethnic survival more persuasive than Turner’s rogue gallery of liberals and Leftists.

This is not to say that England is not undergoing the kind of agenda-driven sea changes depicted in Turner’s novel and that the appeals to “realism,” “moving with the times,” and the dedication to multi-racialism, multi-conformism, and ethnic blindness are not a potent and active force of anti-national subversion. They are and it is. An especially ominous case and example of a sea change in the sense of Turner’s book was the recent denunciation of “racism” by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, in the course of iterating Parliament’s wish not to invite President Trump to address them. By denouncing “racism,” John Bercow exceeded his remit, and the fact that he was applauded for doing so rather than suspended or even dismissed for a flagrant infringement of the impartiality which his job demands of him bodes ill indeed for democracy in Britain. Nevertheless, Sea Changes, resembling The Camp of the Saints in this respect as well, is pessimistic to an extent which exceeds by far timely warnings of ominous developments and decay. The “last hope armada” of Raspail’s novel and the declining England of Sea Changes are both presented as inevitable. The message of both writers seems to be, “There’s nothing you can do about any of this.” Adam Norman sinks into depression at the end of Turner’s story, struck by the sense that all his efforts and all his writing was in vain. When Calguès shoots the hippie in The Camp of the Saints, he knows that his gesture is futile and says so.

A. K. Chesterton wrote in The New Unhappy Lords that there was no word in the English language which he hated more than “inevitable.” Not only are many things not inevitable which appear so (I remember in my youth being assured that the triumph of socialism was “inevitable”), but to describe an unwished-for development as “inevitable” is defeatist. As I see it, defeatism can only be justified when three preconditions are fulfilled: 1) further resistance is objectively and demonstrably futile and would increase destruction and suffering to no advantage to anyone; 2) honor is not served by further resistance; and 3) further resistance would not be chronicled in history, would leave no mark for those who come after, and would be neither an example nor inspiration nor role model to ensuing generations. If one of these conditions is not fulfilled, then a partisan or rebel is not only entitled, I would say he is duty-bound, to continue his struggle and should ignore, even defy, any consideration of an “inevitable” defeat. In the case of the challenge to Europeans, I do not believe that a single one of the above three conditions for tolerable defeatism is fulfilled, let alone all three of them. I reproach both Derek Turner’s Sea Changes and Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints for their pervading sense of cheerless fatality; a pervasive atmosphere of helplessness that pervades both novels and implies that anyone who dislikes what is happening might as well hoist the white flag and hang his head in silence and despair.

Despite this reproach, I believe Sea Changes remains a remarkable and admirable achievement. What is more, the very act of creation involved in writing this carefully constructed novel, written against the Zeitgeist, in vivid and memorable prose, this creative act of Turner’s and the cause this novel passionately serves, belies the writer’s own pessimism. There is a contradiction, after all, between writing about the inevitability of defeat in masterful prose and the act of creative effort needed to so write. Composing a good novel is an awesome challenge. What strain, sleepless nights, stream of caffeine, crumpled balls of paper, and exhaustion; what blood, sweat, and tears I can imagine must have visited Derek Turner in the course of writing Sea Changes, and all the anguish of “the artist at his papers / Up there alone, upon the alps of the night.” Such effort in itself constitutes a militant reason for struggle, a denial of the very premise of defeatism. The act of creation defeats the message of defeat. The true defeatist will not, after all, go to the effort of writing a novel. Sea Changes deserves all the publicity it can be given, it deserves to be widely read; it is eloquently composed and depicts urgent truths, truths of which many more people should be consciously aware. They should be more aware of the imposture and outrageous hypocrisy of the wealthy urban liberals preaching tolerance to the less-privileged masses and all the hypocritical and foolish acolytes of the new world being forced down the throats of the recalcitrant multitude. Moreover, it is highly important that such books as Sea Changes be written and read as a sign that there are alternatives in the arts to the anti-culture of the multicultural mayhem promoted by upholders of the currently-favored gospel of self-immolation. The writing and publishing of such a novel as this is one more stone in the building of a cultural alternative.

The reader of Sea Changes should not feel so downhearted as the lugubrious Alfred Norman. Sea currents are unpredictable. The pessimism of the book can also act as a prompt to induce a counter-impulse. And who is to say what the next sea change might bring? Surely the only certain lesson we can learn from history is that we can be certain of nothing. What rich and strange changes may yet come about, emerge out of the waves and foam, what weird and wonderful creature of the deep, benign or otherwise, may rise to the surface to destroy or restore? Who among us can foretell for sure?