Whenever I hear someone brag that America is “the greatest country
on earth,” I want to ask, “Have you ever been to Switzerland?”
Well, I have. I spent a whole week there once. Very dull. No war,
no international crisis, no crime, none of the things that give life
its savor for red-blooded people like us. Nobody even knew who the
president of the country was. The Swiss have never even had a great
president. Their national hero is still that guy with the crossbow.
Their national pastime is yodeling.
I don’t intend the blasphemous suggestion that Switzerland
is the Greatest Country on Earth, but it has a fair claim to be the
sanest. It has had less history over the last thousand years than most
African countries have had in the last generation. You know the old
Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” The
Swiss have no memory of interesting times. They have a proud history
of not making history.
Switzerland sat out two world wars, for which it is resented by the
sort of people who think war is a duty. The Swiss seem to feel that
the rest of the world can enjoy mutual slaughter perfectly well without
them. They have never joined the United Nations, NATO, or the European
Union. They are content to hunker down within their sheltering Alps,
while Americans will cross two oceans, simultaneously if necessary,
to get into a good war. Nor do they have troops, battleships, submarines,
and military bases around the world. And no nukes.
In short, the Swiss are what all right-thinking people have learned
to call “isolationists.” They have stubbornly maintained
their independence. As a result, an awful lot of Swiss didn’t
die violent deaths in the twentieth century.
Oh, by the way, the Swiss aren’t afflicted by terrorism. Osama
bin Laden has probably never heard of Switzerland, unless he stashes
his money there. It may not be the Greatest Country on Earth, but nobody
calls it the Great Satan, either.
Not that the Swiss aren’t ready to defend themselves. The men
are required by law to serve in the militia and to keep firearms in
their homes. But when they say “defense,” they mean defense — not
empire, not New World Order, not “global leadership.”
They have a federal system of government, and in Switzerland federal still, oddly enough, means decentralized. Each canton treasures its
independence. The national president has little power, little opportunity
to achieve “greatness.” The Swiss franc is one of the world’s
most stable currencies. Swiss banks are the world’s most secure
Naturally, a country like that, free, peaceful, and prosperous, isn’t
going to be left alone. A few years ago there was an outcry against
Switzerland as a repository of “Nazi gold,” which turned
out to be a scam, an attempt to blackmail the Swiss. They were given
a choice between coughing up billions or facing international opprobrium
and sanctions. It later transpired that the Nazi gold was mythical,
the accusations a cynical smear campaign.
Independence is always hated by centralizers and internationalists.
The papacy is hated because the Pope, unlike politicians and journalists,
can’t be bought or bullied. Switzerland is hated because it remains
aloof from the “international community.” I’d offer
other shining examples of resistance to the pressures of internationalism,
if I could think of any.
Switzerland has enjoyed the kind of history Americans once hoped
for. But while America has been drawn back into the quarrels of the
Old World its people had hoped to escape, Switzerland has in effect
managed to secede from that world’s strife without leaving the
continent. If you want excitement in Switzerland, you just have to
roll your own; the state won’t provide it for you. You can sum
it up by saying Switzerland is a country that has lost more lives in
skiing accidents than in war.
The story of Switzerland is the greatest political success story
of the modern world, yet we never hear about it. Why not? Because it
puts all other states to shame. Most rulers want to Americanize their
countries; but if they really cared about their people’s welfare — lives,
liberty, property, and all that — they would try to Swissify.
It’s a sign of the times that I am forced to coin this indispensable
Copyright © 2012 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on December 13, 2001.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
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