Friday, September 07, 2007

les Suisses et la xénophobie

I found a very interesting article in the Independent about what many see as a looming threat to the Swiss culture and economy: codified xenophobia.

As I mentioned before, I don't find this surprising. Having lived in Switzerland, I've known folks who narrowed their eyes at the approach of foreigners. My own Swiss mother (host family mom), bless her, would never wish harm on foreigners, but I remember that she did get exasperated when yet another article about foreigner shenanigans would appear in the local paper. "Pays d'accueil, pays d'accueil," she'd mutter. "Pourquoi est-ce nous le pays d'accueil?"*

I do, however, agree this current political move is sinister. To some extent, parents are indeed responsible for the conduct of their children, but that responsibility becomes more diffuse as the child reaches his or her teens. Firstly, as is true in most Western societies, the teen takes on a lot more responsibility for his/her own conduct. Secondly, other institutions share, along with the parents, responsibility for caring for the child (think of the physical and legal responsibilities of a boarding school or university that houses students on campus). Once a child is a teenager, it becomes very difficult for a parent to monitor everything that child does. One would hope that basic values, such as discipline, trust, etc., will have been inculcated at a much earlier age. If, however, a willful teen chooses to go against parental authority and hang with the wrong crowd, how much should the parent be expected to do? Is it fair to expect the parents to exercise absolute control over their children?

So, no: the policy being advocated by the SVP (Schweizerische Volkspartei, the Swiss People's Party: the largest party in Switzerland) strikes me as unfair, and does raise urgent questions. Tightening immigration policies is one thing; kicking out a family for the sins of one relative is quite another.

*Translating pays d'accueil literally as "the country of greeting/welcome" (the verb accueillir means "to greet" or "to welcome") sounds a bit strange. For those who don't spreak or read French: Maman is bemoaning the idea that Switzerland has been perhaps too welcoming to foreigners. In her opinion (and it was back in 1989 that I heard this), Switzerland is full up.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This should help keep the Eurabia debate alive...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
countries have NO rights

global village idiots
must control the debate

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
hate living in peaceful lands

destroy your new homes
make them like ones you fled