Thursday, July 16, 2015


Strange, strange place. I have known countless Swiss during the sixty years of my life, and they have all, without exception, been lovely, charming people, who speak several languages with interchangeable fluency, regard skiing as the principal activity of the gods on Mount Olympus (or should that be Mount Engelberg), and smile with ironic boredom when you ask if they possess a cuckoo clock (they all do).

But then you challenge them about their tradition of neutrality, about the universally-known truths of their banking system, which sees no evil, hears no evil, and therefore cannot be accused of practicing any evil, and they respond by describing the gun they keep at home for their annual return to reserve duty in the conscripted peacekeeping forces of their military (why does a neutral country need a conscripted army anyway?).

Or you ask them, why did it take until 2002 to join the United Nations; and why have you not joined the European Community (the answer to both questions is, again, neutrality, and banking)?

And then, because if you are me you like to press the most controversial and provocative of questions: is it true that the largest party in your multi-party democracy, in the European country which has the largest number (20%) of foreign nationals living in it, is the Swiss People’s Party, whose main platform is anti-immigration, and which approved the banning of minarets on mosques after a referendum in 2009? When the British Prime Minister, in a speech in the Australian Parliament in November 2014, announced his government’s intention to restrict immigration from certain parts of Europe, and former Prime Minister John Major gave the same speech on the same day, the head of the European Commission responded by saying it was illegal to do so under EC regulations; a 2014 referendum in Switzerland approved by a large majority precisely such a restriction. No wonder they haven't joined the EC - they'd be thrown out.

There is Switzerland, and there is Sweden, two European countries with high standards of living and excellent provision of all the civilised basics of life. One achieves it through a “socialised” economy, the other through isolationist racism, closed doors, and an economy driven by money-laundering, tax-havening, and the financing of terrorism. Two models. Take your pick.

Marks for: 314 (the number of pieces in Hans Meister's 1991 version of the Swiss Army Knife, claiming the record for the world's largest version of Switzerland's one and only true contribution to world civilisation, given that you can't really count the now-obsolete cuckoo clock)

Marks against: 1934 (the year in which the Swiss Banking Law was passed, establishing "account confidentiality" with legal protection. Click here for the case for the defence)

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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