Markus Stocker bio photo

Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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First there was the black sheep. Then the black ravens. Then the black minarets. The message is always the same. Provocative to say the least. Offensive is more to the point.

The right-wing populist, national conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is the political locomotive of a train that has had 29% of votes in 2007, the highest any party has ever recorded in Switzerland. The three mentioned posters carry the party’s signature and highlight black on red a rhetoric of xenophobia.

I have nothing against having one’s own country at heart. It is the land that holds firm one’s roots. It is the land with the culture one grows into. It is the land that nurtures much of the Weltanschauung one grows up. Just like most trees expand their leaves, one must, however, grow out. Mentally. Growing into, not growing over. Growing out, into, to fill the space between the leaves, windows to the world of, may she be Muslim, one’s fellow earth citizen. There is light for both and more filled space for understanding.

The three mentioned posters are a failure to grow out.

I wanted to tell a short story. I believe it supports my personal opinion that much of the SVP rhetoric on immigration is plain and simply false. One of the claims by SVP is that immigrants will en masse devour Swiss welfare. I’m an immigrant to Finland with permanent residency status. Finnish welfare is granted, at least to me, only on the condition of an employment contract that must fulfill a minimum requirement in wage, working hours per week and, therefore, taxes. Further, the grant expires on the exact same day as the contract ends.

Admittedly, I have never been, and unlikely ever will be, an immigrant to Switzerland. Therefore, I have never gone through the same process in Switzerland. That said, I believe bilateral agreements between European countries are not written out in utter disfavor of one party. Thus, I assume similar conditions apply to European immigrants to Switzerland, as for me to Finland. (Non-Europeans likely having harder conditions, just like for me as an immigrant to the US.) Now, can someone on the SVP train explain me their claim? I simply fail to imagine an en masse overrun of Swiss welfare unless, perhaps, Switzerland turns into a miraculous job-creating machine. Even then, the claim wouldn’t hold, as all those immigrants would have jobs, pay taxes and, therefore, are granted Swiss welfare, just like citizens.

What amazes me is that the idea of freedom to move seems to be frightening, not empowering, to many. Some prefer to guard the walls, trade freedom for the golden cage, and from behind the bricks never pause to consider that it wasn’t merit but, instead, pure luck to have one’s roots planted on the bright side.