After having been isolated at the foothills of the Alps for centuries, Switzerland slightly opened its windows to Europe (and hence the world) at the beginning of the 21st century. The outcome of a referendum will likely catapult the country back into the Stone Age.
Few people know much about Switzerland; apart from the chocolate and its infamous banks. Given the size (41’000km2) and the country’s location in a place nobody would voluntarily have settled ever, this doesn’t come at a surprise. What not even Swiss citizens know is that unlike in most developed countries getting access to higher education in Switzerland is a privilege and depends on the social class as much as the state (canton) one is born in, mainly due to one of the poorest scholarship programs in Europe. People who like me were forced to do an apprenticeship instead of going to university but who nevertheless have very high intellectual skills were only allowed access to certain universities after Switzerland was forced to open its higher education system as a consequence of the curricula harmonization among European universities and the so called Bologna Process in 2005. However, even if small steps have slowly changed the academic environment in Switzerland, Swiss citizens are still very much limited in their geographical range. For example, they aren’t allowed to participate in programs such as “working holidays” overseas, as members of so many other nations.
Being limited by mountains on one side and limited access to the world on the other, it is only logical that many Swiss seek to move overseas – individuals and businesses alike. For me, the country has always felt too small, be it for the narrow-mindedness of fellow-citizens or the limited visions of the state government in Bern, where I grew up. Having lived in bigger cities such as Geneva and Zurich and extensively traveled abroad, I took the first chance I was given and moved to Spain as soon as we were allowed to do so under bilateral agreements. With Switzerland eventually joining the Schengen agreements, it seemed that isolation was history and I never thought of having to bother with living near the Alps again. That all changed on 9th February 2014 due to the power of a small number of intellectually limited Swiss citizens.
Among the things people don’t know about Switzerland, direct democracy and the story about William Tell are probably the most ridiculous ones, at least in terms of their symbolism for independence. Both are myths and whereas latter is no more but a made-up story, former sounds better than it turns out to be in real life. For many years it has been argued by experts that nowadays policies are so complex, that their consequences are hardly understood even by many politicians. How impossible must it then be for ignorant citizens, many of whom don’t have the slightest idea of politics or our political system, to estimate the outcome of their vote? Whereas in Switzerland one needs to do a three-year apprenticeship in order to call themselves a barber, four years to work as a carpenter or hold a special degree to approve electric installations, anyone can decide about the fate of the country (and hence fellow-citizens) regardless of how ignorant they are (if that is not a contradiction to the high aspirations of direct democracy?).
The consequence is that voters don’t decide depending on content but rather on what people tell them to vote. And as it is, most influence have those with the biggest PR budget, who in Switzerland are the party members of one infamous Christoph Blocher a multimillionaire and isolationist who has dominated Swiss politics for decades. Using the same old ultra-right-wing slogans of fear, xenophobia and risk of unemployment again and again he has systematically manipulated the (limited) pro-Europe-pro-World efforts of a government that tried to protect the Swiss peoples from its own stupidity. Unfortunately, Blocher and his conservative friends have eventually succeeded and with their recent attempt will likely bring back Switzerland to where it started some 800 years ago: a tiny piece of land where conditions are so harsh that only losers would want to live there.
If Swiss citizens fear that European migrants who don’t even speak one of the country’s official languages pose a threat to their jobs they will be surprised that all the well-educated, open-minded and internationally competitive expatriates living overseas might be a bigger one, will they be forced to “move home”. As I am happy to sit in my seat and enjoy the trip when flying, ignorant voters should leave the piloting to the experts, which in their case are those with political understanding. I would never want to fly a plane with 220 people sitting in, nor do I tell cow-farmers how to milk their cows. Likewise, I expect that Swiss voters respect their fellow-citizens wish and right to be world-members, not grumpy creatures waiting for the next avalanche.
On 9 February 2014, Switzerland made a huge mistake. Citizens should now listen to the experts and quickly undo the damage before they become nothing more than part of a pitiable history.
 Given the harsh climatic conditions at a time when people didn’t have the comfort of central heating and insulation in their homes, one can only assume that those originally settling at the foothills of the Alps were tribes not strong enough to conquer or defend friendlier places, such as the Mediterranean.