In case y’all don’t know too much about Switzerland, besides what can be gathered from a Lindt packet, let me just tell you that she is not just a pretty face. This is a land of contradiction and controversy. Practicality, progressiveness and tradition sit side by side, somewhat harmoniously – just like the three languages which divide the people.
Now we all know that Switzerland is unique. An island in the middle of Europe, able to maintain its neutrality as war raged around it at every side during both world wars, able to enjoy the economic benefits of EU relationships without actually signing up and now, buoyant and unscathed despite so many countries around it being dragged under.
With the hope of not appearing too ignorant, let me just summarize by saying that it is the nation’s attitude of practicality, progressiveness and tradition that has seen her through rough waters.
Did you know that Switzerland is the only direct democracy in the world? This means that 4 times a year, citizens have the right to send in their vote on the issues that matter to them on a national or regional level. For example, the people voted against joining the EU. So they didn’t. Recently they voted to stop CEOs getting huge payouts when they leave a company, after a pharmaceutical boss gave himself a $70 million goodbye gift. Which regular dude wouldn’t vote against that?
It feels like the rest of the world needs to get a bit more Swiss!
And the law-making isn’t left up to politicians either. Anyone can start a petition on a law they want passed and if they collect a certain number of signatures in a given time frame, the process of getting it to referendum level can begin.
So of course the average Hannes, Jean and Giovanni here talk more about politics than your regular Joe. Because there is the feeling that what you think and want does count.
New laws are big news. There is much discussion and debate before the ballots are posted out. Back home in Oz, laws get changed while we’re watching the nightly news. We feel helpless to the powers that be.
Now I’m not saying that Switzerland is utopia – a lot of silly stuff goes on here too and let’s not forget the fog. But I had to get past all this background to clear the way to my main point.
There’s a new ‘movement’ or somefin’ to pass a law that everyone who wasn’t working would recieve $2,500 a month. Believe me, it’s not really enough to survive on here but it would mean that stay-at-home moms (and dads) would get paid and people who wanted to study or change careers would have a nice soft cushioning to do so.
Forgetting about all the problems that could arise (I’m picturing the junkies that flocked to Zurich during its experimental junky park phase) – if this worked then Switzerland really would be a utopian society and we would forgive the totally crap weather, no questions asked.
Because don’t you think we all should be doing the job we really want to be doing? I think we’ve reached a stage in our evolution where this is the case.
But for most of us, this isn’t the case.
Back in Perth, two years or so ago when I decided to teach only part-time I remember the shock of some people. They couldn’t understand why I would work part-time when I could work full-time – I mean, I didn’t even have any kids! This and studying seems to be the only reason someone is allowed to work part-time. What about enjoying your life? Does that not count?
Yes, I earned less money, but I also needed less. I had time to make birthday cards and make pictures for the walls of my home. I cooked and baked and took bike rides and wrote.
Sometimes when I worked full-time to cover another teacher, I found my need to consume peak again, especially on Friday afternoons. I wanted to reward myself and re-energise and make up for the free-time that I was really craving.
How many people in the world live like this?
Okay I know I’m talking about first world problems but here in Switzerland, I have two feet firmly stuck and cemented in the first world. So as I was saying…
If we stopped working so much, we might be happier with ourselves.
If we had time to breathe, we might find out what really lights us up.
Though it’s not just because of money that many of us are held back. Often times we don’t really know what we want to be doing and we get caught up in what we should be doing or what others expect of us.
Then when we do know what we want and if we actually go for it, we still have to try and entangle ourselves from others’ expectations.
Doing what others want is a bit like wearing clothes given as gifts just to be polite. Maybe I do look good in it, maybe the style and colour do suit me, perhaps even better than the clothes I pick out for myself – but damn I just don’t feel like myself! This just isn’t me!
There comes a time when you have to say ‘Adios!’ to what others think is best for you. You know like how some people argue that arranged marriages are a good thing because parents know you better than you do? Well, that’s a bit boring.
Yeah, maybe you will fall in love with him or perhaps he’ll turn out to be a complete wanker. And I know the counter-argument that left to our own devices, even the ones we fall in love with from our own ‘love match’ could also turn out to be a jerk, but at least you’ll always have the memory of the nice guy.
Maybe we will make mistakes, but that what living’s all about. To live and to learn. And it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. See, everyone agrees.
I tend to get a bit depressed when I realise I did what I thought I should or because it was logical or because it would make my mum happy, but it wasn’t what my gut was telling me.
These kind of choices make me feel like I’m in the wrong movie. I might be good at the role, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m only half living. These choices lead me off my path – it’s a dark path that I’m stumbling down but I’m just trying to find my way.
Luckily we are living in one of the best times ever for making choices. We each have the chance to carve out our own way, with or without the support of the Swiss tax payers, even if it seems impossible, even if it’s hard and lonely at first.
And I know it feels like we are living in the Matrix sometimes, but this too is just one version of reality. We can choose to see it that way or not. You get to choose your world everyday by what you choose to buy, read, say, listen to, hang around, write, feed yourself or watch and most importantly, respond to….or not.
More power to the people. Amen.