Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

There is lots of gardening going on in Switzerland.

I’ve never seen so much gardening. There are rows of planted crops in everyone’s backyard and if that (coupled with the potted geraniums on chalet balconies) isn’t enough, they’ve got personal garden plots people can rent!

These are big lots of land divided into chunks, each with a shack for tools, and a plot of land to plant and grow your crop. It's a better use of land than cemeteries, and I imagine these garden plots are used for many purposes. I presume this is where a cheating Swiss husband brings his mistresss:

“Back in a few hours, honey, I’m just going to the garden plot!”

“Can I tag along?”

“No, sweetie, I prefer to be alone with the soil, the rake and a...hoe.”

Somehow, I doubt that’s what the Swiss are up to. They say 'beware of still water', but in this case I believe the water really is still, without any spooky undercurrent. Everything is in neat little rows, all ordered, all given the proper amount of light, water and nutrients to grow. And I’m no longer talking about gardening. I’m talking about the Swiss way of life.

Imagine a place without noise; picturesque villages where people are well-behaved, educated, and where bicycles are the rule of the road, not the exception. The mechanized tick-tock of an expensive Swiss watch is an apt analogy. All kinds of little rules to keep it running on precision time.

They Swiss are civilized, but not progressive. For example, gays are allowed “civil unions” but not adoption. And if you are straight and want to adopt—well, if one of you is over 40, you can’t adopt because you’re too old. Swiss law figures a child is better raised by an orphanage than by a gay parent or (heaven forbid!) an older straight parent.

What about Switzerland’s chill policy of neutrality? This policy hasn’t stopped the Swiss from safeguarding the cash of corrupt rulers, or from laundering Nazi spoils. Swiss neutrality, argues my Swiss friend Rebekka, means protecting Swiss interests ---by whichever means necessary, excepting warfare, unless it should threaten the country directly. With that definition, “neutrality” looks more like flip-flopping complicity.

Did you know that women didn't get the vote in Switzerland until 1971? 1971! I imagine denying suffrage wasn't malicious government, but rather a testament to keeping things the way they are.

Which brings us to immigration. If your parents are foreign (working in the country), and give birth to you in Switzerland, you’re not automatically a citizen. You actually have to then apply. Still, conservative Swiss think it's too easy for outsiders to get in. Consider this poster (below) that's plastered all over the country.

A pile of Swiss passports being grabbed at by many hands. It’s political propoganda--for a law that would make immigration even more difficult.

Check out the hands. The one white hand looks hairy-is it, um, Arabic? And the yellowy ones? What about the brown ones, are they north you think MUSLIM, perhaps?

Despite its picturesque serenity, Switzerland to me feels strangely xenophobic. Could it have anything to do with all that gardening?


Dame Daxx said...

La Suisse ain't the only European country that wants to slow down the level of immigration. Holland, the most liberal of liberal countries, has for many years had the most, em, liberal immigration policies in Europe. But then they discovered that a lot of their new immigrants did not much like Holland's loose policies towards things like free speech and homo rights. So the Dutch are now rethinking their open borders. I don't think that makes them Nazis, any more than the Swiss.

Jesse Archer said...

Yeah, I think the dutch have been re-thinking a lot since that filmmaker was murdered.

Definitely not calling the Swiss Nazis! Just saying be mindful where things are headed, just as we must be mindful where things in the US are headed immigration-wise.

What the hell is that wall in Texas?

Jeffrey said...

That wall in Texas? Just trying to keep W from returning here next January. Seems reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with a wall, or any other means, used to stop illegal immigration. Instead of sending our troops to Iraq, to fight a mindless, stupid war, we should concentrate on keeping illagals, terrorists and drug traffickers out.

Jesse Archer said...

No wall has yet worked, and if one did, would it be for keeping others out or for keeping me in?