OPINION

The heart of Europe

While Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) is swept by controversy over whether it should remove the term «democratic socialism» from its ideological platform, in France, Germany’s powerful neighbor, a nation in shock tries to estimate the death toll of its blistering heat wave. The 10,400 victims, the bulk of them old people, were born in the cradle of the liberal ideas of humanism. They died alone, abandoned and weak, in cheap hotels, in houses for the elderly, or in solitary Parisian apartments. Addressing his fellow party members on the need to modernize the SPD at a party convention last spring, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a pragmatist, asked them to think not with their hearts but with their brains. And this phrase, perhaps, is more important than all other reformist ideas circulating in the top echelons of his party, ideas that aim to reassure the conservative voters and the economic elite that socialists can also be tough if they have to. That is, they can think with their brains and not with their hearts… A caring heart, a soul to sympathize with their angst and frailty – that is all the old French men and women were asking for as they plunged ever deeper in the dark nightmare that fell upon the City of Light.