In Gold We Trust: A Reflection on Switzerland
You just have to finally acknowledge it. After all, we weren’t being greedy. We were just as cautious and responsible as we had to be. We weren’t hoarding gold and lamenting deficits whilst at the same time cashing in huge benefits: we were responsibly preparing for a crisis like this one that nobody had predicted. Our money will get us out of this because we haven’t spent as much money as the others. Contrary to them, we always knew we couldn’t spend more on development aid despite having pledged 0.7% of our GDP for that purpose. We couldn’t help families, despite larger numbers of single-parent households. We should not help the working poor we ignore, those so essential to keep the attractive cleanness of our country (seems that some of them can’t really find food these days, but don’t say it out loud). We even refused, by popular vote, two additional weeks of holiday; our economy would not have coped, it wouldn’t have been responsible. We couldn’t afford to offer more scholarships for students who wouldn’t study fields directly useful to our businesses. After all, our minister of education and the minister of economy are one and the same person.
We used to be poor, you know. A poor country of peasants with no natural resources which could count only on itself. By the grace of God (and the export of our youth as mercenaries for foreign armies) but also hard work, we became the comfortable and responsible people we are now. People like our products and our mountains – those effectively branded with a cross (no idea where that symbol comes from), and more often than not – it’s much cheaper – actually made in China. We generously let the wealthy tourists in and do everything in our power to prevent poor migrants from reaching our borders: why on earth would they wish to come to us? We can’t welcome all the misery of the world: after all, it would be too expensive. There is no reason we should share our hard-earned wealth. They should just work harder and be more responsible. Thankfully, we don’t have seashores like others, so we can save on expensive rescue operations at sea.
We have wonderful lakeshores, however, pure air (tax) havens of legislative laissez faire praised by the multinational companies, some of which dig, in countries far away, the gold we carefully refine and turn into gold bars safely stored away. By the way, we should probably always have kept the borders closed: you now see that viruses, not only begging Africans, cross borders.
We’ll face the challenges of the day. We can afford it. Our economy deserves it. We will give the companies who have just paid shameful dividends to shareholders all the help they ask for, and then refrain from requiring any accountability from them: after all, we know that our country is wealthy because it is liberal. We know landlords will act responsibly and wave rents for poorer tenants (really?). Health insurance companies sitting on billions of cash reserves won’t be induced to share in the common effort: this would be irresponsible to mingle within the private sector. Environmental irresponsibility notwithstanding, even our foreign-owned “national” airline will get her fair share.
A few things have recently changed, but hopefully won’t last long. Some ageing dictators can’t come to our clinics and reside in our palaces anymore. Neighbouring countries' custom's authorities even dared to stop face masks being delivered to our hospitals. So we put some pressure on these irresponsible functionaries, as we did on their governments to make sure they wouldn’t hinder their nurses and doctors to come to work in our hospitals every day. We figured it out long ago, you know: why would you spend money on training nurses if you can import your daily share of cheaper foreign workforce?
Now, it is true that some more remote areas of the country are slightly concerned: their factories haven’t been doing so well lately. Of course, some had said that selling scandalously luxurious watches to the corrupt elites of here and there was not a sustainable business model.
But be assured that better days will come. Just be responsible. It will soon be over. Back to normal.
In gold we will further trust.
Or? Wait a minute! What if instead we took the time to revise our understanding of what “being responsible” means?
What if someone had the courage to say this crisis shows gold cannot help us out of every difficult situation, uncertainty about the future, and existential angst?
What if we went back to the introduction of our very own Constitution in which responsibility is featured prominently?
See what we had agreed upon once upon a time:
In the name of Almighty God!
The Swiss People and the Cantons,
mindful of their responsibility towards creation,
resolved to renew their alliance so as to strengthen liberty, democracy, independence and peace in a spirit of solidarity and openness towards the world,
determined to live together with mutual consideration and respect for their diversity,
conscious of their common achievements and their responsibility towards future generations,
and in the knowledge that only those who use their freedom remain free, and that the strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest members, adopt the following Constitution.
We can condescendingly read this text as a romantic leftover of bygone piety, deploring the appeal made to a now widely ignored “Almighty.” Complain about the notion of a “creation” towards which we would have responsibilities. Resent the self-obligation to remain open to the world and the naivety of imagining that, really, “The strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest members.”
Or we can think again.
See if it really is responsible to deny our frailty that the virus has so eloquently shown to us all.
Wonder if the gold we have put our trust in is really able to set us free as we hoped it would.
Ask whether throwing away any notion of being creatures does do justice to our innermost feelings of aspiring to be taken care of, cared for, cried upon if we are to pass away. Of wanting justice, fairness, respect and consideration.
After all, somebody once said of somebody else that “He will not argue or cry out. No one will hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bent twig. He will not put out a dimly burning flame. He will make everything right. The nations will put their hope in him.”
Pondering this might be responsible.
Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on Unsplash