Or, at the very least, Geneva.
Morgane is freshly bruised from a vicious scooter fall, knee and hip nicely swollen and bumpy, and we apply one of the best remedies known to man–a little TLC in the form of chocolat and sweet meringue clouds–and a bit of window shopping and real shopping for Morgane’s boy, Christmas presents in the form of new fangled concept, the button down.
We are in Geneva, pounding the pavement, waving an afternoon hello to the cathedral and to the Calvinists, a pilgrimage route I like to take whenever I visit this fortress town of international magnitude, its walls thick with history, struggle, victory, and more, a tiny tot of a town with massive appeal and prestige.
Switzerland is Europe’s oldest confederation of states, a conglomerate dating back to the 12th century. It served as inspiration for the US’s Declaration of Independence, Switzerland’s unique and long history of collaboration a precursor for the American democratic republic and today, Switzerland enjoys a form of democracy entirely its own, a mandate for total collaboration from each and every one of its citizens: As in Belgium, every citizen is expected to contribute to elections, voting a form of civic duty one takes very seriously, the Swiss voting on every single proposition that could potentially concern them from the village level to the canton to the country. This deliberate interaction and collaboration is a double-edged sword, as giving voice to everyone and everything moves things at a snail’s pace in this landlocked country, and sometimes, being here is like being in slow molasses.
But, the flip side is that the Swiss are thoughtful, intentional, practical, at peace with their reputation as conservationists, ready to let another country or region boast the first to do this or that, happy to let them be the incubator babies for a new idea or application while they sit by and watch it unfold, seeing if the test of time reveals the idea true or false. It’s a very pragmatic society, one that understands the pros and cons of micro- and macro- decisions, one where the citizenry is actually very well informed and involved, regardless of social strata, and frankly, it’s kinda nice, as the average person lives fairly well with a nice salary and a comfortable life, the discrepancy between a service worker and CEO nowhere near as huge as in other countries, the middle class robust and thriving and composed of a multitude of occupations and backgrounds.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, of course, as living in a place so dedicated to confederate peace means military duty for a significant portion of its residents, men and women, and means living in a society that forces the sacrifice of individual gain and ambition for the benefit of holistic stasis. It’s a conundrum in some instances, for I find the Swiss very independent but not necessarily individualistic, an oxymoron that pits personal goals against the state’s imagined trajectory and defined needs.
The sun begins to set on the city and on my thoughts, just as Morgane, Benjamin and I cross the bridge over the lake, the swans a brilliant white against its silvery blue hue, lakefront stores ablaze in neon pink. And, so, we wrap up our Geneva excursion with a spiffy new shirt and part ways at the train station, me heading off for a news Swiss adventure.