On the 93rd anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch, the American people elected someone who publicly quoted Mussolini, was OK with being endorsed by the KKK and called just about every non-white ethnic group in the United States criminals, terrorists and the like. While most of the world is shocked about this “unprecedented turn”, in reality it’s just the United States going back to its roots. It is after all a country built on one of the largest genocides in human history, in which white supremacists fueled by religious fanaticism exterminated hundreds of nations. To some extent, America tried to come to grips with its past and evolve into a more humane society, but that rubbed many people the wrong way – they felt that what their ancestors did was the right thing, and nobody should say it wasn’t.
When people feel attacked, they lash out and don’t care who gets in the way. At a certain point, they just want to hurt everybody around them, even if they destroy themselves in the process. This is exactly what tens of millions of American voters did on this fateful anniversary, as an anonymous commenter so succinctly put it: “given a choice between two evils, people chose the greater evil”.
When the American people found out about the secret NSA programs, they were livid. For years afterward, Europe has been pointing and laughing at Americans for disregarding the warning of one of their Founding Fathers: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Yesterday, smack dab in the heart of Europe, in one of the freest, most liberal Western democracies – Switzerland -, after years of Snowden revelations, two thirds of voters opted for a state surveillance more oppressive than anything the United States government ever dreamt of. It was not created in secret. It was not implemented over the head of Swiss citizens. Instead, it was freely accepted by the majority of my landsmen.
For decades, the question on the mind of advocates of freedom and democracy was why people oppressed by authoritarian governments accept their rights being taken away. After yesterday, that question is academic at most, and the new question is why well-off people in a functioning democracy would sign away their rights and their freedom for no tangible return of any kind.
The answer is probably not that surprising after 15 years of fear-mongering (also called “The War on Terror”, probably because “The War for Oil, Heroin and Big Bank Bonuses” doesn’t have a great ring to it). The average Swiss citizen’s mind is obviously filled with terrifying images of bearded Arabs wearing suicide vests and charging straight into a classroom (never mind that it did not happen even once). And this blind fear robs them of their faculties, their ability to think clearly.
Because if years of Snowden revelations, Wikileaks and Anonymous taught us anything, it’s that sooner or later that government agency will be hacked and all that vacuumed up data will be available online, either for all to see or to the highest bidder. State surveillance is an illusion of security that is actually less secure than no surveillance, because the number one profiters will be criminals and maybe even terrorists. They will have to put a lot less effort into gathering intel for their attacks, because the government so kindly collected and organized it all for them.
Maybe if those trying to prevent the vote going so wrong would have used the argument “no matter how much you trust your government, do you also trust the criminals who will inevitably get access to the same data?”, people might have realized they can’t vote out of misguided fear. Then again, maybe not – their thought processes were probably more like “terrorists terrorists omg terrorists refugees terrorists terrorists refugees refugees omg omg please wise military protect us from those people who would take our lives or even worse our wealth omg terrorists omg refugees omg omg”
…this happens. Disregarding the extreme right which always prefers autarchy over international trade and the few old school diehards that still live in the mindset that Great Britain is a world superpower, the majority probably voted for separation because they truly believe they can make better deals with the US and the rest of the world if they are not part of the European Union.
Three quarters of a century ago, this messianistic belief already cost the Brits their empire and their economic prosperity. Winston Churchill was a prime example of a British politician who sincerely believed the Americans had nothing but the best interests of Great Britain on their mind. Roosevelt played Churchill like a fiddle and by the end World War II the UK was hopelessly broke and doubly dethroned as leading world power by both the United States and the Soviet Union. Decades of recession followed, just like they most probably will now.
Update 1, originally published on June 30, 2016
A big mouth with nothing to back it up
The probably biggest liar of the “Leave EU” campaign, Boris Johnson, announced he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring for the post of prime minister. Just another dishonest lying cheat in politics who soils himself at the first sign of trouble, the blame doesn’t rest on him so much than on the cattle that ate up all he spewed out.
I guess Brits can now stop making fun of Americans for re-electing a president they didn’t even elect the first time around.
Update 2, originally published on July 4, 2016
…and then there were none
With a pretext worse than a 10-year-old could have invented, Nigel Farage slunk off the stage as well, showing the world how little he believes in the very ideas he has been promoting for so many years. While it’s too late for Britain, maybe enough people will wake up all across Europe to the fact that the far right has nothing to offer beyond empty promises.
Who knows, maybe even America realizes the fact that electing a clown like Trump would be a really bad idea.
For the upcoming popular vote in the city of Zurich, there are four topics on the agenda:
Invest in education (new building for the city conservatory)
Invest in culture (a new exhibition in the state museum)
Invest in health (new bicycle routes and infrastructure)
Invest in our future (building new housing units targeted at families with children)
The Zurich fraction of the Swiss People’s Party obviously decided the show the world there is no limit to stupidity and shortsightedness and thus objected to each and every one of these projects, mostly for financial reasons.
So now they are all up for a popular vote, which costs millions.
A couple of weeks ago there was a petition to the Swiss “Bundesrat” (the governing body of Switzerland), signed by some 11’000 people around the world, demanding that Chinese people mustn’t eat the meat of Saint Bernards any more. Why? Because it’s the national mascot of Switzerland. According to petitioners, Chinese who are craving the meat of these dogs are “abominations of humanity” and shouldn’t be allowed to live out their “dark desires” for such “evil pleasures”.
When searching the web for a picture of a Saint Bernard for this article, I found an older news report about the same topic, maybe the very one that triggered this petition. You can read it at the European Vegetarian Union’s homepage.
Democracy: the magic is in the numbers
That vegetarians lobby against consumption of any meat is understandable. The trouble begins with this petition – the amount of collected signatures versus the measures it demands. 11’000 persons signed a petition that wants to force over 1’000’000’000 – a billion – people to do the bidding of these 11’000. That’s a ratio of roughly one vs one hundred thousand. No true democracy can even think about such demands in earnest – once it does, it’s no democracy any more. Only a totalitarian dictatorship would consider to force the will of so few upon so many.
“What, this is your holy animal? How funny.”
But the worst in all this is the reasoning behind the whole petition: Chinese people shouldn’t be allowed to eat Saint Bernards because this dog is the national mascot of Switzerland and deserves respect for this.
Time for a U-turn. For the Hindu religion, the cow is a holy symbol. This time we’re not talking about emotions or national pride – we’re talking about a religion and what’s holy for nearly a billion people. Ethically seen, that should weigh a lot more.
Imagine a minuscule percentage of these people – say, 0.1% of them – would sign a petition that people in the Western World shouldn’t eat beef any more. We’re speaking about a theoretical petition signed by a million people, not just 11’000.
What would happen if such a petition would indeed come to life? What would you say if some “ragtag brownskins from the third world” would try to forbid you to eat beef ever again? Would you want to miss out on your roast beef, beefsteak, entrecote or hamburger even once, save for ever?
Righteous or self-righteous?
If a handful of first worlders want something and the billions of third worlders have to bow to their whims, it’s not a free world any more.
Before signing such a petition, people should think twice – whether they truly want to go down the same path as the Crusaders, the Conquistadors and the Nazis before. Do they really think there is no other way to defend the rights of animals but to defy the rights of human beings in the process?