Stephane Hessel's ideas are lived on by Europe's new, fringe political parties. Will they stain or sustain his legacy?
"Death is a great project." Serene but also mischievous, France's Stéphane Hessel made this observation shortly before passing away last week at the age of 95. He was right: No project is greater than one's own death. But as the celebrated author of "Indignez-vous" -- translated in the U.S. as "Time for Outrage" -- Hessel was our age's most inspiring defender of solidarity, urging Europe's youth to undertake the project of creating a society of greater political and economic equality.
Coincidentally, Hessel died at the very moment Europe (and the world's financial markets) witnessed the birth of Beppo Grillo's Five Star movement in
Italy. The so-called "Grillini" channel the same outrage to which Hessel first gave voice in his three-euro pamphlet slapped together with staples and
stacked like party favors at bookstores and supermarkets. That was three years, and several million copies, ago. Since then, throughout Europe, from
Greece's Syriza Party to France's Front de Gauche (and, of course, our own Occupy Wall Street), political movements like the "Grillini," having taken the
time for outrage, are shattering traditional political arrangements.
No one can say how the shards will be rearranged, or where this trans-European phenomenon will lead. But it might well be a future that Hessel himself, a true European, would not wish to recognize as his own. Though Hessel never offered a blueprint for the future, his own historical experience was one informed by war, occupation and resistance.