The World’s Belly-Button

This morning, it seems, Switzerland is at the very centre of things. BBC World Service radio news has featured three Swiss stories: the triumphal inauguration of the Gothard base tunnel (two tubes of 57 km—longest, deepest and best in the world), the lady who walked 900 kilometres to Geneva collecting peace-in-Syria messages, and the Swiss-German village that has voted to pay rather than take in nine refugees.

The tunnel success story I regard as my own personal triumph. My federal taxes over the past 17 years have paid for the technology, the machines, the workers, and even the ribbon-cutting politicians.

gothardSo, Europe, you’re welcome! May you put your Gouda cheese on the train in Rotterdam, and send it straight as a non-polluting arrow down to Genoa. There may it be unloaded, and replaced with Parmesan cheese to be sent right back to Holland. This is the Europe that we have come to know and love.

The second story was about a lady called Katherine Davies who has just completed a walk from London to Geneva to tell diplomats at the UN to stop the war in Syria.  To help her in this quest, she has collected messages—both real and electronic—from people she has met along the way to tell the diplomats to stop the war in Syria. She feels that if enough people do this, then the diplomats will stop the war in Syria. She was interviewed, and she feels very optimistic.

I wish her the very best of luck.

So far, so good. However, every belly-button, no matter how well-kept, has a bit of lint at the bottom. And so it was with story number three.

This concerns an unpleasant situation in a small pleasant village called Oberwil-Lieli which is near Zurich.  The unfortunate set of circumstances includes: a right-wing mayor, a homogeneous population (only 10% foreigners), wealth (10% of the inhabitants are millionaires), and a crime-free population of 2,200 people.

Last year the mayor refused to take in a handful of refugees (“Le Village Suisse qui Choque l’Europe”le Matin 25.09.2015) and a recent village vote has given the no-refugee crowd a very small majority.

The BBC interviewed a reasonable-sounding young woman from the village, and she explained that it was the “old people” who were responsible for the “bad vote” as they didn’t want crime, rape, bedlam, or having non-German speakers about. Taxpayers and individuals are ready to cough up the 290,000 Swiss franc fine instead.

So, Katherine, you’ve come to the right place.  I don’t think you should stop in Geneva (we have lots of refugees and asylum seekers here) but keep on walking over Oberwil-Lieli way. It’s not that far (248 km / 52 hours) and it sure sounds like they need all the help they can get.



Joy Kundig

Joy Kündig-Manning est née en Angleterre et a vécu au Canada. Spécialisée dans la littérature anglaise du XVIIIe siècle, elle a travaillé comme traductrice, enseignante, et écrivaine. Mariée à un Suisse, elle est venue à Genève en 1977. Elle est très contente de tenir le premier blog du Temps en anglais!