As the chairman, secretary and sole member of the Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, I feel duty-bound to defend Western culture whenever it’s under attack. After all, were it destroyed completely, people might take issue with the very notion of multiculturalism, which all progressive people cherish in their heart.
Charles Martel, you’ll recall, was a Frankish general who in 732 defeated the Moors at Tours. He thus made sure Europe still has more churches than mosques, though, if the present trend continues, this won’t last long.
Under the leadership of Martel’s grandson Charlemagne, the Franks, soon to become French or German, then went on to create the greatest architecture the world has ever seen, and masses of it. Later, to make sure that no ghastly foreigners would destroy their invaluable contribution to Western culture, they did it themselves.
The French revolution got the wrecking ball rolling but, popular misapprehension notwithstanding, it wasn’t solely responsible. Destruction proceeded apace throughout the 19th century, as assorted republics and monarchies alternated at kaleidoscopic speed. All in all, Régine Pernaud, France’s leading mediaevalist, estimates that about 80 percent of Romanesque (what the French characteristically call Gallo-Roman) and Gothic buildings were lost during that period.
The 20th century added its own penny’s worth first in 1914-1918, when the German descendants of the Franks shelled the very same cathedrals their ancestors had built, and then in 1940-1944, when Anglo-American bombers tried to finish the job. It’s testimony to the genius of France that what little of great architecture remained is still more than any other country possesses, possibly more than they all have together.
People tend to cherish the culture they regard as their own. When it comes to someone else’s culture, however, their attitude often ranges from cavalier to hateful. Thus you probably feel more reverence towards a Rembrandt portrait of Titus than towards a Japanese watercolour of a kimono-clad girl, with some hieroglyphics running down the side – this even if you don’t realise that these are often menus of services available at a brothel.
Conversely, barbarians, and I use the word in its original sense of ‘outsiders’, won’t think twice before pulling down a Romanesque church or converting a Gothic one into a bicycle parking area, as they did in Maastricht (of the Treaty fame). Such barbarians may not be outlanders, though they often are. What they are outsiders to isn’t necessarily Western countries but Western culture.
This gets us back to France, where hostility to Western culture has been state policy for two centuries. Western culture is synonymous with Christian culture, and that part has bothered French governments for quite some time. As far as the state is concerned, all those 12th-century churches can be reduced to rubble – la laïcité, separation of church and state, in effect means the state attacking the church, with the increasingly indifferent populace nonchalantly shrugging their shoulders in the background.
Not everyone is indifferent though. There have always been individuals desperately trying to preserve what they could. Prosper Mérimée springs to mind, the writer now chiefly remembered for his Carmen rather than for his much more valuable service to the West. In his capacity of inspector-general of historical monuments Mérimée saved a number of valuable churches and other buildings, including the great 12th-century basilica at Vézelay, now housing the relics of Mary Magdalene.
Yet most of those doing their best for the West remain anonymous outside their immediate areas. These are people who buy a ruined townhouse (hôtel particulier) or country castle (château) and dedicate their lives to rebuilding, restoring and refurnishing them to their past grandeur. They not so much own the buildings as are owned by them: theirs are lives of loving labour and self-sacrifice. Such people don’t just love their dwellings – they love the only culture that could have made such stone masterpieces possible.
The state doesn’t share such sentiments, choosing instead to act as the dog in a manger. It won’t do anything to save the buildings itself, and it would prevent others from doing so. Never mind that at the time they were bought the buildings were worthless ruins. After a lifetime of self-sacrificial dedication their owners have turned them into valuable properties, and this sort of thing can’t go unpunished in a socialist state.
It has to be remembered that all French governments are socialist because all their main parties are. Hollande’s socialism comes neat, Sarkozy’s watered down with non-socialist verbiage and Le Pen’s diluted with nationalism. Yet socialism is the common ingredient, and desire to tax the rich into penury the common urge. Hence the extortionist taxes driving people out of the houses they saved from extinction.
More than 43,000 French historical monuments are in private hands, but the hands become either tied by taxes or enfeebled by age. Witness the Château de Sauvan, a replica of Versaille’s Petit Trianon. Designated as an historical monument in 1957, the building is owned by two brothers Allibert, who bought it as a ruin. Since then they’ve not only spent most of their family fortune on restoring the structure, but have also tried to reacquire the original furnishings. Paintings, tapestries, furniture all came back home to stay, the brothers thought, for ever.
Now old men, they’re no longer capable of the physical exertion involved in keeping the castle in good repair. Realising this, they offered the château to the local council, free of charge. The council, however, disdainfully turned down the generous offer: ‘With our restricted budgets, it would be difficult for us to take charge of this monument,’ said their representative. ‘Of course,’ commented one of the brothers. ‘But they do have the money to pay those layabouts [he used a much ruder word] who play petanque and drink pastis all day.’
Desperate to save their lives’ work, the brothers are about to sell the château to Japanese businessmen who have been harassing them for 20 years. As they predictably don’t share the brothers’ love of the underlying culture, the Japanese plan to do their version of asset stripping by selling off everything of value: tapestries, chandeliers, paintings, furniture. Only the bare walls will remain, God only knows for how long. Perhaps the new owners may find a more profitable use for the 15-hectare property than letting it surround the old building. A business park might be a good idea, unless a supermarket would promise higher returns.
This isn’t an isolated case: most properties costing over €4 million, and 85 percent of those over €10 million, are being bought by the Japanese, Arabs, Russians, Chinese and Africans. Not all the buyers are cultural barbarians, but it’s a safe assumption that most are. In the very least, their hearts don’t go aflutter at the sight of a beautiful old house. They may like it but they won’t appreciate it. Thus what would be vandalism to a Frenchman or an Englishman may to them mean a sound business practice or else an innocent bit of interior decoration.
The state doesn’t mind. For example, having repossessed four hôtels particuliers in the centre of Paris, the government has started a bidding war between the Russians and the Chinese, hoping to squeeze €250 million out of them. ‘The French can’t afford the roughly €850,000 in taxes alone,’ comments the government spokesman. ‘And those who can wouldn’t be living in France any longer.’
Obviously, reducing, or doing away with, the tax isn’t an option. It’s much better to have a Russian mafioso convert the historical monuments into monuments to bad taste and venality. Now you don’t think this couldn’t happen at home, do you?