February 8 was Enoch Powell’s death day, God rest him. I observed it by reading his Collected Poems, a stately little volume published in 1990. The poems, too, are stately little things: perfect, self-contained aesthetic objects, completely dispassionate, as Eliot would have it. My favourite, ‘Brynhild’s lament’, begins:
Siegfried, Siegfried, soon to die, Siegfried, ever born again, Born again to die again Forever…
When I was at the University of Sydney I half-jokingly started a petition to have a statue of Powell erected in the Quadrangle. Objectively speaking – not that objectivity counts for anything these days – Powell was Usyd’s greatest son, having been appointed Professor of Greek there in 1937. A full professor at only age 25, the youngest ever except Nietzsche, he taught Classics to Gough Whitlam. Powell resigned from his post at the outbreak of WWII to join the British Army. He rose from the rank of Private to Brigadier, one of only two men to do so. Widely referred to as ‘the greatest prime minister Britain never had,’ his queer admixture of traditionalism, libertarianism, and nationalism continues to exercise a strong influence on conservatives across the English-speaking world. In fact, there are more than a few echoes of Powell in the Trump phenomenon – not least in their gift for turning hippies into homicidal maniacs.
Of course, the petition could never have amounted to anything. Our culture is so thoroughly depraved, so shot through with Judases and Cassiuses (Cassii?), that patriots like Powell could never receive any sort of public honour. One must absolutely loathe Australia, the West, and the legacies of Empire; straight, white males must also subject themselves to daily public floggings by Filipino Muslim transvestites. Then we’ll make you Aussie of the Year and say what an inspiration you are to this country.
Of Powell’s many sins against the nouveau régime, the gravest was his Rivers of Blood speech. Considered the most impressive bit of racist rhetoric since the fall of the Third Reich, like all today’s conventional wisdom, that’s utter bunk. Ever the classicist, Powell was quoting a passage in the Aeneid. The Oracle of Delphi tells Aeneas, who’s leading an exodus of Trojans to Rome, that she foresees ‘bella, horrida bella, et Thybrim multo spumante sanguine cerno’: war, horrible war, and the Tiber foaming with much blood. This, Powell warned, was the consequence of mass immigration when the migrants’ interests are material, not cultural – when they’re indifferent to where they go, so long as they’re no longer where they’ve been.
Aeneas goes to Rome, Roger Scruton says in an essay on that infamous speech, ‘carrying his household gods and a divine right of residence.’ As Sir Roger points out, no well-socialised adult today could conceive of denying a migrant’s ‘divine right’ to settle in our cities. We saw this in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the stay on President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. They effectively ruled that all manner of alien have Constitutional rights – certain unalienable rights endowed by their Creator – which necessarily includes the right to freely enter the United States. And heaven forbid we should stop them at the gate and ask them to turn over their idols, or any of the macabre rights that attend them.
Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, they say. Angela Merkel used the German people as lab rats to test this theory, and it held up. She let in 1.2 million ‘refugees’ from the Middle East – and in doing so visited a wave of violence, sexual assault, welfare abuse, ghettoisation, Balkanisation, and religious and cultural desecration on her own people. Now it’s been announced that Frau Bundeskanzlerin is offering millions of dollars to migrants simply to go home. She’s effectively bribing them to leave her country, which is almost as absurd as their being in Germany to begin with. But not quite. John O’Sullivan, my old boss at Quadrant, made a prescient comment on Twitter: ‘This was Enoch Powell’s proposal, “Voluntary repatriation,” in the 1970s. Quite a turnaround from the Welcome culture.’ Indeed – and not a moment too soon. In fact, it may be several too late.
Who are the losers in Merkel’s debacle? Germans, for sure, but also the migrants themselves. It was cruel to invite them to Germany, knowing full well (as she must have, at some level) that the social and economic strain would be too much. It’s worth remembering that the Oracle was warning Aeneas of horrible war, not the Romans. She cautioned the migrants themselves against mass immigration, not the hosts. Likewise, Powell wasn’t warning against occasional abuses of Britons’ generosity, or even random acts of violence. He was talking about the complete breakdown of the civil order.
I’d like to think that this will be a turning-point in human history. I’d like to think that our society, which prides itself on its intelligence and compassion, could at last admit that mass immigration is ruinous for absolutely everyone involved. But then I turn on the radio and hear Cory Bernardi being called a racist for wanting to reduce immigration by 50 percent.
Those who learn from the past are doomed to look on, helpless, as others repeat it. Powell was right all along, and we’ll go on learning that lesson the hard way. Siegfried, Siegfried, soon to die…
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