Switzerland in the 21st century: democracy and equal access or patriotism and isolation?

While Europe is struggling to cope with one of the biggest mass migrations in recent history, Switzerland is preparing for the upcoming elections. It does that by looking backwards but ignoring the fact that throughout history, thousands of Swiss have moved overseas as a strategy to survive.

Switzerland hasn’t really been part of the solution or even the discussions surrounding the current migration streams that overwhelm Europe in all aspects. While some might find it disturbing that one of the richest countries doesn’t do more to accommodate people fleeing from war and crime, most of the world’s citizens don’t even know enough to judge the country. Apart from the watches or chocolate they find in duty free shops, global citizens hardly care for Switzerland or the fact that it is preparing for its next elections. Yet, although a cheap excuse, the upcoming elections might explain the lack of participation and solidarity, because in Switzerland elections are as serious as everything else.

Consequently and in contrast to times of Willem Tell when our heroic ancestors could simply raise their sword (or cut off the head of their neighbour) to come to a decision supported by the ‘majority’, nowadays elections use up all the energy and creativity of political parties and our members of parliament. The Swiss People’s Party, who for the 2007 elections disposed of an election budget that was between three to twenty times bigger than that of rival parties, has produced two youtube videos to demonstrate how close to the basis they are. True, the comments show that not everyone in Switzerland are total retards, nevertheless the mere existence of the video proves that something is wrong in the ‘Alpöhiland’. With a few exceptions, Switzerland has never been famous for its film industry, which might explain the poor quality, but can it justify such a faux-pas in times of global human crisis?

Well, the alternative would be to confront oneself with present and future, but that in itself is a contradiction to the Swiss understanding of democracy. From all the thousands of emigrants that left Switzerland in times of famine or simply because they didn’t fit into the narrow borders, only a small percentage will vote in 2015. And that is a good thing, because it might ‘distort’ the reality of the Alpen romantic and lift the mysticism smothering our bank secret in golden shine. Therefore we are told that the voting problem was of technical concern[1]. Still, the few skeptical tax-payers might already have guessed that it has rather to do with rent-seeking behaviour of IT companies and their patrons sitting in parliament.

Thus, the majority of Swiss living overseas won’t be able to vote this year. However, just as everyone’s vote is not something that supports democracy, Switzerland doesn’t like to talk about corruption. It is against our understanding of economic liberalism and it is definitely morally wrong to be blamed that FIFA chose to be headquartered in Switzerland. We are good bankers, that’s why they all come here. How could we tell who is good and who is bad….well, actually that is a good reason to close the borders right now, isn’t it? What, Sepp Blatter, is Swiss? Was he not the one blackmailing our parliament member Markwalder in the Kazakhstan affair?

Back to the Swiss People’s Party who is said to win again the elections this year. The fact that the ruling patriarch of this xenophobic association[2] is a descendant of German migrants might appear to be a contradiction, but in reality it proves that racism is not a question of nationality or cultural belief. Racism is the fear of the unknown. It is a strategy to cope with a potential change by avoiding confronting oneself with what is new. Racism is a concept that helps individuals to simplifying the complexity of the life they live. Racism proves particularly useful in complex systems such as a modern globalized world. By drawing a very arbitrary border and condemning everything beyond as ‘fundamentally bad’ while claiming that everything inside was ‘good’, conservative people and parties have maintained to win voters by targeting at their weakest point: fear.

It is fear of the unknown that drives Herr and Frau Müller into the arms of Blocher & Co. May god –or all the religious parties– forgive them for they don’t know any better. In any case forgiving is better than looking forward, because looking forward might mean discussing even such controversial topics as the ecological footprint of unwanted children which is not something a cheap youtube video can achieve.

Talking about ecology we have come to an option that Swiss voters should not forget on 18 October 2015. In a world where resources become more and more limited not least due to unstoppable population growth (thanks to all the conservative parties for being so insisting on anti-abortion policies) and in a time when citizens understand that we ALL have a right to participate (OK, some a bit more, I respect your lovely pool at Zurich’s ‘Goldcoast’, Mr. Blocher), we need parties that can cope with the complexity of the 21st century. All those who are serious about intragenerational and intergenerational justice as stipulated by the Rio declaration should thus vote ‘Green’.

Swiss citizens, who want to be respected in the 21st century and who like to emancipate themselves from Jodel and cow shit, should ignore their fears and also embrace the world that starts beyond the Albisgütli. Looking forward means being part of the solution, not turning our backs on the world and looking for a past that never existed.

[1] I’be been doing all my banking online for more than 10 years and wonder how difficult it can be to set up an e-voting system.

[2] He has been it for at least four decades, what can’t even be matched by totalitarian rulers in Africa or elsewhere.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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One Response to Switzerland in the 21st century: democracy and equal access or patriotism and isolation?

  1. Justin R-Sondergaard says:

    An interesting commentary. Not knowing much about the Swiss though, it appears that they too fit the current stagnation & corporatisation of our political systems. Portugal too is about to have an election – the ‘blithering’ of the centrist parties & the ‘babbling’ of those on the right & left continue, with each blurting out a discourse that lacks vision, purpose or even common sense. We are, as the proverbial saying goes, ‘watching Rome burn’, while those most responsible for the cause of the fire ‘fiddle’ with narrowly defined & short-term (unworkable over the long-term) concepts that are the direct cause of this ‘great fire’, namely social inequality, economic injustice & environmental unsustainability.

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