OPINION

Some look at the finger

First it was Austria, Denmark, Italy, Portugal and France. This time, it was the Netherlands. Most commentators have emphasized the domino effect that has done away with several social democratic governments in Europe. Many have sounded the alarm over the specter of a xenophobic, rightist extremism, which seems to capitalize on growing immigration and crime. These fears may all have a basis in reality, but the confession of Fanny, a 50-year-old woman from a small Dutch town, to the correspondent of Le Monde seems more illuminating. A former leftist activist, she made no secret of her intention to vote for the populist xenophobic party founded by the assassinated political maverick Pim Fortuyn. Why do so? «We have to punish those gentlemen in the capital who live in ivory towers,» she said. «At least Pim was human and authentic, like Elvis Presley or Princess Diana,» Fanny added. Millions of European citizens share her resentment of the «gentlemen who live in ivory towers.» In the past five years, political power has become akin to an electric chair. Centrist politicians have been subjected to relentless voter revenge. In France, the Gaullist president and the Socialist prime minister together mustered a mere 35 percent of the vote, while the three parties of the governing Dutch coalition lost more than a third of their previous total. The previously populist-rightist and far-left movements that question the political status quo and the Brussels bureaucracy are gaining ground. Faced with these tectonic shifts, the residents of the ivory tower have reacted in spasmodic fashion, resorting to the facile tactic of labeling their enemies as «fascists» or «anarchic communists.» Their preoccupation with economic indices prevents them from comprehending the social and democratic deficit of the European home. When a finger points at the moon, there will always be some people who look at the finger.