Vested interests make scores of our problems insoluble. The screeching brakes blocking modern societies tell how those who are allowed to pull ethical levers exploit guiding symbols. This dissident elite, which legislates attitudes and interprets values, wishes that our system fails. The capacity to hinder solutions is the upshot of the aggressive use of taboos. Accordingly, numerous countries find themselves helpless to confront challenges that exploit their values.
Such issues are:
(1) Welfare not to aid the unfortunate but the cheaters and which feeds the bureaucracy administering the programs;
(2) The illegal immigration of persons who do not flee persecution and that infiltrate in order to exploit welfare services;
(3) Sedition invoking democratic principles such as free speech/religious freedom;
(4) Leniency towards criminals who – often with the help of publicly funded counsellors – hide behind abused principles;
(5) The obligation to tolerate those intent to subvert the order expressing the majority‘s will;
(6) Under-reacting to the subversion of the international order by rogue states and to the opportunistic support of these by established powers. Those who dare to discover lines connecting these dots are doing the obvious.
Whenever the paralyzing distortions are unmasked, the mantra of “racist extremism” is invoked. The polls reveal that this is done with some effect. Oddly, many who go along admit privately that the abuse of the generosity extended in the name of tolerance for “diversity” is rampant. Nevertheless, finally their vote might go to parties that cover up the conditions that make citizens to stay home after dark.
Why this schizophrenic ambivalence? The thought police we allow to rule forbid that we articulate what is known to be true. Furthermore, “cultural leaders” have set up criteria that makes those submitting to a dictatorship of virtue the only “decent human beings”. As all dictates, this one, too, is based on synthetic merit and suppresses the evidence that challenges it by pointing to the harm caused. Those who see the reality that defies doctrine are, being unenlightened persons, unable to recognize the good of mankind that towers beyond their personal experience.
This is how far the essay, intending to acquaint the reader with Mr. Blocher and his century-old Swiss People’s Party (SVP) got. (Here a confession: during decades of residence in Switzerland the [classical-]Liberal Democrats, were the writer’s favoured crew. However, recently, the SVP’s willingness to speak the inconvenient truth led to a transfer of preferences.) Originally and pursuant to the introduction’s trend, insights regarding the SVP and Blocher were to follow. The purpose: to explain how these people became tagged as right-wing extremists by their local foes and the international press whose information ends with the chocolate-cow-secret accounts stuff. The extremist/fascist/racist label was to be dissected because through this local case, a general condition could be illustrated.
Unfolding history has a way to surprise us. The rule was confirmed. Switzerland faces a national election. Therefore parties organize rallies. The SVP planned a march in Berne, the capital. The rally was to proceed from the outskirts to the seat of the Federal Council – the executive – where also Parliament sits. Understating the matter, the ensuing events have been astonishing. Thereby, “interesting” news was created in a country that made its untypical good fortune by guaranteeing, thanks to a 700-year-old federal democratic tradition, stability and security through good governance.
Due to ignorance, bias and the skewed data from local informants, half of what was reported internationally was untrue. Most of the other half merely failed to fit the facts. Therefore, a corrective re-telling of the occurrences is warranted. The more so since the specific case and its news-management can be generalized. That makes it into a story that could have happened where you read this.
Before sketching “the troubles”, the reader should be introduced to the SVP. This is a fiscally conservative party, originally catering to farmers, artisans and small businessmen. Slightly inconsistently, the party is for agricultural price support. Its rationale is that neutrality obligates to armed self-defense, which is impossible without self-sufficiency. Here and elsewhere, not wanting to spend what you do not take in makes enemies. Some parties have clients that get something for nothing. Cutting off funding threatens the way of life of dependent groups that have time for violent mischief. Politically the party is pronouncedly for armed neutrality (internationally recognized since 1815), independence and self-sufficiency. Consequently, it is sceptical regarding the EU and its bureaucratic centralism. Within the country, the preservation of local self-determination, a product of centuries of federalism, is emphasized. By implication, the centralization of power desired by the Left that is addicted to redistribution is opposed. The most controversial component of the SVP pertains to aliens.
21% of “intolerant” Switzerland’s inhabitants are foreigners. (The EU average is 7%.) Most of these, the writer included, are useful members of society. At the same time, the majority of the criminals (drugs, prostitution, grand theft, armed robbery) are non-citizens. Most of these are illegal residents. Many request asylum fraudulently. However, they cannot be expelled because after their arrival by plane they claim to have no IDs and refuse to name their real country of origin and communicate their identity. The SVP stands for a hard-nosed approach to such abuses and criticizes the virtual immunity enjoyed by those illegal aliens that perpetrate crimes.
A related matter is that of naturalization. Historically the local communities’ popular assembly admitted new members. Once a candidate became a citizen of his village he was also a national of the canton and the country. This flow of power from below explains why Switzerland is governed by initiatives and referendums. A local argument against EU membership is that direct democracy that is government by the people, does no fit the EU’s pattern, which builds the community from the top down. The Left and the “parties of the center” wish to take the determination of whether someone is sufficiently integrated to be admitted to citizenship from the locals and desires to have government agencies to nationalize. Even if a town-hall assemblies continue to decide, two measures, opposed by the People’s Party, are advocated. One: a reason for refusal must be given. Second: an appeal to a higher authority is to be the right of aliens. (By this logic, all election results could be challenged claiming that the uninformed, uneducated and biased voters who revolted against their leaders had acted improperly. (Sorry, if in some places this sounds like déja vue.)
The difference between these positions touch upon fundamentals. Its stand has earned the SVP the charge of being “divisive“. Mr. Blocher, a “great communicator” articulates most effectively the case that there are undesirable aliens and that residency and citizenship are, no more than a driver license, an absolute right. Mr. Blocher is “Federal Councilor.” In the Swiss system this makes him a cabinet member and one of the seven that form the executive. This latter institution reminds one of the American Presidency divided between seven individuals. (The Fathers of the US system had copied Swiss federalism and, later, the Swiss copied the American system. However, they felt that the President had too much power and so the job was given to seven persons. Two socialists, two liberals, a Christian Democrat and two members of the People’s Party compose today’s Federal Council.) After a rags-to-riches career Mr. Blocher is the founder of a major chemical company. For his outspokenness, the Reds, their Green branch and the often-lame fractions of the “middle” call him “divisive”.
Indeed, Mr. Blocher and elements close to him are responsible for changing the character of Swiss politics. Until now, controversy was a privilege of the Left/Greens because they wore the dunce’s cap and since they really had a “position. “ For all others “consensual politics” applied as a principle. In practice, it meant self-censored positions and the soft-pedaling of differences. So, one party was “wishy” and the other “washy.“ As a result the majority stopped to vote. Parties, politicians and platforms were hard to distinguish and, as the average person tends to put it, they “made no difference.” The SVP has poured clear water into the bottle. It suggested that problems (big government, redistribution, bureaucracy, the abuse of social security and crime) are not solved by wrapping them into consensual silence. As a result, the SVP, previously a typical Swiss “niche” party, become with about 27% the country’s largest.
This happened with the support of simple people who cannot afford the luxury of exclusive communities, private schools and whatever the perks of status are. Many SVP voters are “switches. “ They used to support the classical Liberals and the Christian Democrats until they discovered that their representatives did not address their problems. Needless to say, the establishment of these groupings hates the SVP more than it opposes the Red/Greens. Interestingly, the support of the Reds and especially the Greens comes not from the “proletariat” but from the bored middle class and state-dependent elements such as functionaries, teachers and ministers. Not surprisingly, the SVP is doing well in working class districts.
Regarding the party’s rise, its stagnation or decline became the focal point of interest of the coming elections (October 21). A recent and terribly un-Swiss scandal will have much to do with the outcome. It will answer a question that has been raised for some time in numerous countries and chiefly in the USA. It is the response to “where is the real middle?” The scandal already alluded to adds spice to the pending decision.
Here is what happened. On October 6, the SVP followed a tradition shared with other parties and assembled for a walk through Berne, the capital. The largely folkloric march has been announced and was approved by the police of the Socialist-ruled city. It was to take people, often dressed in traditional costumes and ringing cowbells, from the outskirts to the seat of the government and legislature. The square before the “Federal Palace” was set up to host a BBQ with choirs, dancers and speeches.
What happened next can hardly be a surprise even if it represents a departure from the folkways of Swiss politics. An unannounced Green-led group decided to organize a counter demonstration to block the SVP’s march. Typically, following a script that is universally applied, the masked troopers of the “Black Block” – often foreigners who travel to disturbances – left the counter demonstration. It occupied the square before the Federal Palace, trashed the installations there, demolished stores in neighbouring streets and clobbered whoever got into their way. The SVP changed its route and ended its program at a newly designated venue.
Interestingly enough, the police failed to act commensurately. Additionally the place around the Federal building was left unprotected. Later the Socialist politician in charge of the police publicly admitted same snafus. When the statement was repeated before a gathering of policemen the cops booed.
The lack of police protection of an announced and approved gathering organized by the largest political party might be revealing. The more so as the threat to it was well known even if local government claimed to have been surprised. Even more telling of the condition of political culture and the state of the freedom of assembly is the reaction of other parties. Naturally, the Socialists were happy. The representative of the semi-legal counter demonstration that served as a tactical cover for the violence could hardly control her delight when TV asked for her reaction to the Black Block’s action. The Socialist party, which encouraged without directly endorsing the initial blocking action, issued a statement after the event. It regretted the use of violence without being sorry for the victim. While the smirking reaction of the otherwise ardent opponents of violence against adversaries was to be expected, the attitude of the parties of the middle are a surprise. The same goes for the press and a significant portion of my filed pages with letters to the Editor.
One Liberal member of the collective presidency compared Mr. Blocher to Mussolini because both had participated in a march. Ms Calmy-Rey, a Socialist member of the same body, deplored violence while noting that the divisive politics of the SVP are also to be blamed. Besides outrage about what happened, much of the press carries perfunctory regrets while the tenor is that the SVP has gotten what it deserved. Besides that, the point is made that the travelling thrashers of the “Black Hundreds” were provoked by the platform of the marchers. This made their violence a political act. Lastly, one is also told that, knowing that habitually violent elements are gathering, the SVP should have cancelled its election rally.
Now to the motives. The “Schadenfreude” of the political foe on the left is understandable. After all, the illegal “underground” branch of the above-the-surface movement carried out the action to obstruct and to intimidate. More surprising is the so-called centrist moderate Right’s secret satisfaction with the treatment of their successful competitor. Significantly, perpetrators and victims are made to share the blame. If this position is accepted then any action against the Left’s storm troopers becomes unnecessary. (Let the “bad” cancel out the “badder.”) This response might not serve the cause of public security and of a civilized political system. It does, however, allow one to avoid confronting a foe that does not accept negative verdicts meekly.
The country-specific occurrence not only allows its generalization but actually demands the extension of the insights. One point to make is that increasingly the reaction to the violation of the public order is judged according to the perpetrator’s background or political affiliation. Victim status guarantees immunity. The second one is that the political debate is undergoing a regressive development. This harks back to some countries’ history, a past that ended in a catastrophe. What we are witnessing is that increasingly a political cause’s chance to prevail depends not on the outcome of a civilized debate but on the fists supporting it. Party-events – or the activity of a cartoonist – depend on whether its safety can be guaranteed. The less likely it becomes that the police provides protection the more important it will become that security be provided by the groups own means. This will bolster the significance of militant members and give an advantage to those whose ideology stresses the role of force as a determinant of mankind’s destiny. The possibly reviving past has hurt us. Therefore, we must ask: Will we allow it to sneak up on us in order to be repeated.