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13 Dec 2007

Christoph Blocher out, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in

filed under: journal  :: politics  :: swiss life

As I said previously, I rarely talk about politics but the last couple of days have been just, well, exciting.

The charismatic leader of the far-right SVP (People's Party), Christoph Blocher, and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who was a member of the SVP (but of the rather more tolerant Grisons section) is in as the Justice Minister. The SVP has thrown her, and the other party member who was elected to the Bundesrat, out of the party, and the SVP itself has pulled out of the government in protest. There's infighting going on within the party, and the news media here are calling it the biggest shakeup in Swiss government in 50 years and things like that.

I was going to write a whole thing about this to explain it to non-Swiss residents, but the SwissGuy has done it far better than I could.

It's not comfortable as a non-white person to live in a country where a small but very vocal minority with xenophobic and racist and protectionist views is prominent. Sure I may look harmless but, and I am, but still. I had to pass by those black sheep posters all the time. I ain't no black sheep! (I could be a cuddly light brown one maybe.)

In any case, this is really great news and I hope it does signal a turn in another direction for this really otherwise nice country.

Comments on this post:

Japan

Absolutely Japan has a load of problems with racial discrimination, and has had historically for a long time. I suppose that it's not as in-your-face as a political campaign poster with a couple of white sheep kicking a black sheep off the flag of the nation, but it's certainly there. And I think the fingerprinting and photo requirements for all foreigners entering the country are simply horrendous. (Almost sillier is that Japanese nationals leaving the country have to have a sort of re-entry visa stamped and stapled into their passports! If they lose it can they not go home? Absolutely stupid.) Unfortunately unless something drastic happens, I see the ID thing spreading to other nations. And for that matter, racism exists in the US too of course. Every country has those problems I suppose. It's more unusual to see political forces rise up dramatically against such attitudes, which is what makes the recent and current maneuverings in the Swiss government well, dramatic.

Similarities and differences to Japan

Reading that BBC link about the black sheep, I'm not sure Japan is much different. It's just not shoved in our faces with rude posters. If you commit a crime in Japan and aren't a citizen, I think you get shipped out (after your prison term is up, if you get one). I don't know if they ship out your whole family. And I'm not sure if it's different if you have permanent residence. Actually, you can get shipped out if there is a minor problem with your visa or alien registration card. I missed my renewal date by three days and had to grovel by writing an apology and be subjected to a grueling interview. My workmate missed his by a few weeks, and he was summarily sent to South Korea. They let him back in after he completed a new visa application there. We both benefited by being employed by one of Japan's largest corporations (whose general affairs department got involved) and being Americans, I'm sure. Citizenship is not granted just because you were born here, as it would be in the United States. I don't think it is necessarily that hard to get Japanese citizenship, but Americans tend to consider citizenship more of an innate identity, rather than something to be changed for convenience's sake, so few take Japanese citizenship. On the whole, I feel foreigners are well treated in Japan. I'm not so happy about the new fingerprinting and photo requirements at NRT, but that's more because I can no longer whisk through the same short line as the Japanese on the way back into the country.

Switzerland, Japan and Foreigners

Hi Makiko I just activated trackbacks on my blog an have seen that you have linked my blog on yours. Well I guess you could see how I feel about Mr. Blocher and his ousting in my blog... Reading your post about the subject reminded me of the fact that I have often thought that Japan and Switzerland are in many ways very different yet at the same time very similar. I think this also concerns how foreigners (gaijins) are looked upon and treated (by a minority of) people both in Japan and Switzerland. I always found that quite idiotic, because I am open minded and tolerant and also because I think that cultural differences enrich us rather than being a threath! As for me, Japan has always fascinated me and you are welcome in Switzerland!

Japan vs. Switzerland

SwissGuy, I totally agree that there are a lot of similarities between Japan and Switzerland in many ways. I should write about that eventually :)

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