How fortunate we are here in Switzerland to be free of any Xenophobia or related diseases. But then, we are not part of the EU, so maybe that's the reason we are spared this; immune to such excesses.
Bad jokes aside, I cannot judge this matter on a level that would concern France and France only. Every now and then, the more serious newspapers (there's only one, actually), would mention and try to explain this phenomenon in France. If it's any help or relief, it doesn't happen in your own place only, as you surely know.
We had this infamous vote a fortnight ago, which turned us suddenly into a sick, xenophobic, racist, anybody-hating nation overnight. Or so it seemed to the outside world. The truth of the matter is this: while any xenophobic idiot surely said yes to the idea of abandoning the free flow of people within Europe, including Switzerland, most tried to make this point: a small place like ours is cannot sustain a net-immigration of 80'000 heads a year, not counting asylum seekers. This equals a city like Lucerne or St. Gallen each and every year. You surely know that England is groaning and complaining about immigration on a scale too big to handle. But comparably (size-wise), England faces only about a third from what Switzerland has to handle.
This vote was, for most of the people, a vote concerning growth. Do we want quantitative growth, or do we want qualitative growth? A 50,3 percent majority has chosen qualitative growth. Me, I was a no-sayer, but first and foremost because this initiative has come from the far-right corner. They are evil bastards, but unfortunately, they have a knack to put their dirty fingers on the sores in the peoples skin.
This topic will have to be discussed further in the future, and not in Switzerland only. Quality or quantity? We cannot grow forever. Or as I sometimes say, the human population grows, but Planet Earth does not. So, what to make of this clearly incompatible situation? More business, more goods, more farming, more people - ever more people? Well, if it's that, we can only loose. And big time.
You know my awareness of anything happening in Switzerland, so I definitely didn't have only France in mind here. I followed this vote, and no matter what the rationale behind people's vote, I think that they should keep in mind what the vote can mean and tell, what it meant to whom initiated this. I won't have a say about what is good and bad for the Swiss economy, yet I am upset to have a xenophobic initiative that gets a lot of attention. Here in France, we have local elections next week, and the Front National (xenophobic populist party) has managed to have candidates in most cities - and a lof of them are young. Everywhere in France, you will find people ready to stand for xenophobic ideas, and you will get more people ready to anonymously back up these ideas. By the way, this party asks for a vote similar to this of Switzerland. I have also in mind the recent protests against gay marriage - 40000 people in Lyon a month ago, more than that in previous protests. It is a form of xenophobia and ostracism too. We have over the last two years heard people saying things always worse - as if they had hidden their xenophobic ideas for years and that these protests had open the door to "freedom of xenophobia". These protests are full of young people - can you believe that the anti-gay protests in France are led by YOUNG people?? And who stands up against that? We need a French resistance again. We need not only the extreme right to stand for ideas. Life in not only about feeling good with my new SUV, my new iPhone and my cooking TV show, it comes also with some duties.
It comes with some duties, you are right. It comes with actually many duties. But people are people. In times of need and crisis - even if it is needs and crisis imagined and really not very real and imminent - people tend to think of their own advantages first, all others come second. Bertold Brecht understood that very well when he penned "The Threepenny Opera". A character in this play states, that "first we eat, morals come second". And that's what is happening. Subconsciously, a great many people feel that our beloved free market economy cannot last when considering the fundamentals it is built on. You don't have to be a genius to KNOW that. Even simple mathematics can make this very clear. And I believe for this reason people get jittery in a great many places. They may not know how to express their discomfort and sudden insecurity, but they feel that it won't really need a lot for all our dreams to come tumbling down. Ha, in nearly biblical dimensions, probably.
I'm aware what is happening in France at the moment, at least mostly. That it is young people who stand in the first line when it's against foreigners and homosexuals and so on is a heavy blow. It is the very one part of the population I expected more of. But the Le Pen toxins there and the SVP concoctions here are deadly cocktails, so easy to swallow, but hard to digest later on. If it's not too late by then.
Still, I would like to state once more that the outcome of our vote here in Switzerland was absolutely not a voice against any people from whatever country (some forever-xenophobic idiots excluded here). It was a voice of discomfort about a seemingly lightning fast development, a development nobody seems to know how to handle sensibly. With sensibly I mean to handle this situation in a way that is more or less just for anybody involved.
Carol and me, who must count as old folks by now, we have some young friends who were born in the ex-DDR. Them having dogs and we having Timmy, we met by coincidence and go on very well since. These guys and girls do an outstanding job here, and everybody who gets to know them agrees that they are a real asset. Like so many other coming from foreign countries. We here do not take lightly to the Germans, of most any nation you could think of, they are the most mistrusted. Even me, I have that in my blood. Germans - and I'm suddenly wary. But hey, as any place else on earth, there are good people and there are bad people. I'm very happy we met good people, and should they ever think of leaving Switzerland, it would be our loss, economical and personal. And we are by no means the only ones who feel this way.
In the late eighties of last century, Carol and me migrated to Australia. They have been choosy bastards, these official Australians, but they have been very fair as well. It was kind of "if you're willing to play our game, then you're welcome, if not, then maybe Australia is not the right place or you". We tried - and much to our economical disadvantage, because wages in Australia have been ridiculously low compared to Swiss standards. But then, it wasn't about money, but about trying to build a new life in a foreign place. This we did as best as we could, gained Australian Citizenship and a little of respect. Too bad we run headfirst into a heavy economical crisis, jobs were suddenly very scarce, and unemployment the order of the day. When we were down to 200 Australian Dollars in our account, we knew we had to rethink our position. So what did we do? We became economical refugees, leaving Australia for the better performing Swiss economy. Of course with the benefit of having a Swiss passport, so we couldn't be denied.
So we worked again here in Switzerland, saved money, and in 2004 we tried our luck again in Australia, under much better economical conditions than then. Everything would have been fine. If only Australia hadn't turned into such a dull place in the meantime. Because of an economy running under full steam, employed Australians got - probably for the first time in their history - a decent wage for their work. Which allowed them to save money, buy nice things on a scale never imagined before. The other side of the coin was this: these once so outspoken, unruly Australians were so afraid that things might change back to the old badly-paid days, that they weren't willing to speak their mind anymore. Any discussion about local politics, nationwide politics, refugees (and their mistreatment), damage to the environment etc was practically impossible. They would not answer or turn their back on you. I really hated it. I've never been as bored in my life than during this time.
And I would like to make a point again about their treatment of so-called illegal immigrants. They were - still are - put behind guarded fences, way out in the middle of nowhere, in blistering heat, with nothing to do, with no right to go anywhere, with no rights at all, and this for years and years - without having committed any real crime. The children of couples born in this captivity with no right to attend a public school, the guarding of such prisons left to private security personnel - it's horrible and completely inhuman.
That's why it kinda hurts when we here in Switzerland are seen as the bad guys only by the international community. Here, asylum seekers are not treated this way. And we have tens of thousands each year. Which is much, much more than Australia has to face. Australia's landmass is 7,617,930 square kilometers. Switzerland's land mass is 42,000 square kilometers.
So this tiny blot is suddenly the dark tower on the map of planet Earth, the birthplace of all evil and greed beyond comprehension. Well, it is not true. We have our healthy part of idiots here, and we'll never get rid of them. But overall, despite all oddities, we try to make sense and try to be as fair as best as we can. This "best" leaves much to be desired at times. But we are aware of it. Always having been slow, we really need time to adjust. I mean, in such a small country, with four official languages and cultures, you have to think a lot before you make a decision. Because it cannot be that whatever part of the country the current issue is about that this part will be left out. We have to fight hard here for that, and whoever wins an argument or a political agenda knows THIS very well: the loser shall not be made to feel offended, humiliated and disrespected. Despite the differences, he shall feel that he is still part of the whole. So no easy solutions here.
Who would have ever thought that one day I'll end up defending Switzerland? Having been critical of it all my life, having grown up at the bottom of society with all the hurt that comes with it, having escaped that place to start a new life far away from its constrictions and oddities - I find myself doing something I never meant to do: speak up in favour of my birthplace. This probably means I'm a complete failure.
Uh, JD, I have to ask you for your forgiveness. I was so carried away by my own sermon, and still loaded with the heated discussions of the last few weeks, that I completely forgot to comment on your own work. It actually depicts perfectly what our right-wing, evil-doing SVP-party wants: to blot out, to annilhilate anything foreign to the (artificial) idea of what Switzerland is. If they were allowed to use your work here for their own ends and means, they would be only too happy to make use of it. Clearly, it would be completely contradictory to your very own intentions. Not that they would care, of course. Exaggerated, one could say that you've just served both sides, albeit unintentionally.
Me, I'm only concerned with quality-growth. If this quality means less Swiss, more foreigners, I do not care that much. Well, that's not the full truth. I DO care. I don't want to eat potatoes and bad sausages the rest of my life. I want real food. And more often than not, it's the so-called foreigners that make sure that our nightly dinner is bliss and not bleak.
Bruno, that's exactly what I was hoping for, I wanted people to think! I understand your arguments. But let me use science to illustrate how I see things. Physics is always looking for balance. If you have high pressure some place on earth, and low pressure next to it, wind will blow from high to low to equilibrate the pressures. Wealth is the same way. If you want to keep very wealthy people next to poor people, it will take a lot of energy to avoid transfers of money. A good example is for example the gated communities in the USA: you can be wealthy among poor people, but it takes a wall, it takes security guards, and it generates more bitterness for those outside. And one day, they are going to step over the fence, if the un-balance is too high.
This is an intriguing theory, nay, it is more than that. It is actually a fact, and therefore not just theory anymore.
While I'm the first to stress that balance is what we should strive for, that balance is the one thing keeping us from doing the worst, it is also a fact that this very imbalance we are talking about is the thing that keeps human kind going - for better or worse. If we should ever achieve a state where everything is balanced out - money needs, food, love, justice - then we would freeze in time. We would have no need anymore to invent new things, no need to develop, because development has come to its final end, no need for new goals, no new horizons to discover, because there would be no need for it ... we would be in paradise. But that's exactly the one thing we couldn't handle. Our ever querying mind would have nothing to feed on anymore. Which would simply mean the end of human existence as we know it.
We should strive - and work hard - for a balance. Why this should be so, and why this is important, you laid out beautifully in a scientific sense. But we also should hope to only get close to this goal, but never achieve it. That is, if we mean to live on, and be what we've always been: bloody curious, inventive, querying, conquering bastards, never satisfied with what we know, but always looking for more knowledge, trying to get ever closer to the final truth - whatever this truth is made of or may mean. Let's face it, we suffer from a feeling of inferiority, that's why we want to be like God. Godlike. And once achieved, we'll better even Him. In time.