Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ausländer RAUS!!

The Swiss are always looking for some excuse to kick those damn furriners out. Having lived there, I'm quite familiar with the attitude. Having lived in both Switzerland and Korea, I tend to associate negative views toward foreigners with the "mountain people" mentality—to wit, mountain folks live in valley communities and form tight circles of loyalty to village and immediate region. In Switzerland, this can be seen in cantonal rivalries and a general xenophobia; in Korea, you can see it in provincial rivalries (e.g., Gyeongsang versus Jeolla) and a general xenophobia. People who live in valleys tend not to wonder too much about what's happening beyond yon ridge, and they don't always welcome the arrival of people who hail from afar.

So it's with more amusement than surprise that I read this article about a new anti-foreigner campaign being sponsored by Switzerland's largest political party, aptly named The Swiss People's Party. From the article:

The campaign poster was blatant in its xenophobic symbolism: Three white sheep kicking out a black sheep over a caption that read "for more security." The message was not from a fringe force in Switzerland's political scene but from its largest party.

The nationalist Swiss People's Party is proposing a deportation policy that anti-racism campaigners say evokes Nazi-era practices. Under the plan, entire families would be expelled if their children are convicted of a violent crime, drug offenses or benefits fraud.

The party is trying to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on the issue. If approved in a referendum, the law would be the only one of its kind in Europe.

"We believe that parents are responsible for bringing up their children. If they can't do it properly, they will have to bear the consequences," Ueli Maurer, president of the People's Party, told The Associated Press.

Ronnie Bernheim of the Swiss Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism said the proposal was similar to the Nazi practice of "Sippenhaft"—or kin liability–whereby relatives of criminals were held responsible for his or her crimes and punished equally.

I personally never experienced outright xenophobia while in Switzerland—certainly nothing like what many foreigners, including myself, experience in Korea. This isn't to say that the Swiss are less xenophobic, however (then again, Korea's population is only 2% foreign while Switzerland's is 20%); many Swiss I know can be cordial to your face but show their true colors in private, especially after liquoring up a bit. I tend to think that, as in Korea, this trend is lessening thanks to the open-mindedness of the young, but I can't be sure; I haven't really been in touch with Swiss current events.

I do know, however, that many Swiss have long agitated, publicly and privately, for stricter immigration controls. I don't know enough Swiss history to know why this is so, but I suspect my "mountain people" hypothesis plays at least some role. On a material level, I suspect the Swiss know all too well that they've got a good thing: Switzerland is some of the most gorgeous real estate on earth, and while not exactly pristine, it is well kept. Who would want to see the land polluted by those dirty interlopers who keep slipping in year after year, getting into fights, stealing jobs, and corrupting the youth? Switzerland's historical neutrality is probably also ingrained in the culture, making the Swiss doubly wary of outsiders.

Later on, the article focuses on the "white sheep kicking out the black sheep" imagery in the campaign poster:

Commentators have expressed horror over the symbolism used by the People's Party to make its point.

"This way of thinking shows an obvious blood-and-soil mentality," read one editorial in the Zurich daily Tages-Anzeiger, calling for a broader public reaction against the campaign.

So far, however, there has been little popular backlash against the posters.

"We haven't had any complaints," said Maurer.

As soon as I saw that phrase, "blood and soil" (sang et sol, Blut und Boden, alliterative in French and German), I immediately thought of the Korean shin-t'o-bul-i (literally, body-ground-not-two, i.e., we are of this soil). Frisson. Swiss national elections are in late October. I wonder what's going to happen, especially to the strong Turkish presence in Switzerland.

Do make sure you read the linked article and take a look at the poster pictured with it. Foreigners in Korea who chafe at xenophobic political cartoons here will feel right at home.

UPDATE: I've copied the pic and uploaded it to my FTP storage space for posterity:

The news caption below this pic says:

Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss People's Party SVP, smiles in front of a campaign poster reading "create security", during a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, in this July 13, 2007 file picture. A proposal by Switzerland's biggest political party to deport delinquent foreigners has angered anti-racism campaigners who say it evokes Nazi-era practices and unfairly blames minorities for crimes. In the run up to October elections, the nationalist SVP's campaign poster showing three white sheep kicking out a black sheep "for more security" has heated the national debate over the proposal to expel whole families of children convicted of a violent crime and drug offenses. (AP Photo/Keystone, Peter Klaunzer)

I beg forgiveness of the copyright gods for having lifted the above image and text. The German Sicherheit means "security" (from sicher, meaning "sure" or "secure," and heit, a nominalizer ending like "-ity" in English), and schaffen means "to create, make, bring about." With the verb in the infinitive on the poster, I'd say "creating security" is a better translation than "create security," though I'm basing this more on my knowledge of French (where infinitives often function the way gerunds do in English) than on my admittedly poor grasp of German.


Charles said...

Even before I read your comment at the end, "blood-and-soil mentality" immediately translated to 신토불이 for me. I had no idea there was such an anti-foreign movement in Switzerland.

Do you know if there are any statistics showing that foreigners commit more crimes than natives? Or is this just general xenophobia?

Kevin Kim said...

re: crime stats

I don't know, but it might be fun to track them down.

When a foreigner moves into a particular Swiss canton, they have to register their presence at the local cantonal office in the section called (in francophone Switzerland) la police des étrangers. The Swiss keep watch over most foreigner activity on their soil, so I imagine there have got to be crime stats somewhere.


Anonymous said...






Kevin Kim said...

Ah, fond memories of the Götteron dwarf, his deep voice, and his little putt-putt cycle.