“No, no, no, no!” Thus quoth Lear to Cordelia near the end of the grimmest play Shakespeare wrote.
As my friend John Allison observes, Europe is acting a lot like Lear on his way to prison:
“No” said the Irish on February 25, 2011. They ejected Fianna Fail, the largest party in Ireland since 1927 and replaced it with Finn Gael.
“No” said the Italians on November 12, 2011. They sent away Silvio Berlusconi who served on and off for a cumulative 10 years from 1994 through 2011 and was Italy’s longest-serving Prime Minister ever.
“No” said the Spanish on November 20, 2011 to the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, two-term Prime Minister from 2004-2011, replacing him with the conservative People’s Party led by Mariano Rajoy.
“No” said Geert Wilders, Party for Freedom leader on April 21, 2012 to his coalition partner, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Liberal Party, sending Holland to a likely caretaker government and election on September 12.
Ditto the French and the Greeks. And this procession of negatives means —what?
One thing it means is that the gulf between the European people and the elites who presume to govern them is growing wider by the month. On the one side you have the Italians, Greeks, French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Irish, etc., etc. — particular peoples living in particular places with individual identities. On the other side you have Europe. Or rather, “Europe.” That airy abstraction, a brainchild of elites who think the term “country” is an atavistic abomination and that the facts of history, tradition, custom, and national identity are disposable holdovers from a discredited and discreditable past.
“These elites,” Allison observes, “have created an idea – Europe. They see it as a project on a one-way street toward the eventual and, in their eyes, historically inevitable United States of Europe. They see the euro as a piece of the roadway to that end. And they see the ordinary people and the parochial interests of individual European countries as flotsam and jetsam they have to navigate to get to the promised land. Like all those on a mission and with an agenda, the educated, professional elites of Europe are not really interested in people who might slow them down.”
The trouble is — well, part of the trouble is — all that flotsam and jetsam is not swirling obediently down the drain, as planned. It is increasingly recalcitrant. Which mystifies and irritates the elites who cannot understand why these troublesome statistics do not get with the program for utopia they have generously outlined for them. To them, the chorus of “No”s is only so much indecipherable static — tales told by so many idiots (to alter the Shakespeare allusion), signifying nothing.
Allison is right to advise us to listen more closely. No. No. No. It means something, all right, though exactly what we may have difficulty in discerning. “Against the huge push for the European,” Allison concludes, “the patter of nos at election time seem like so many ineffectual raindrops splattering against a huge, concrete dike. Maybe so. But if the drops of rain tapping out no, no, no, no, no, no is all you’ve got as clues to a popular storm that one day might kick up, better to listen than not.” Indeed.