First – a few words on words.
A. Social – as in Socialism. It doesn’t have nearly the dreadful meaning attached to it by either the right or the left in the U.S., where it means government control, planning, unified power over the masses. Most Americans attach meanings created by Marx and Lenin.
In Europe it is much fuzzier. Social means all of us, the tribe, the people. Lots of political parties have the word Social in them, as in Social Democrats. In Europe there were two kinds of people – those who worked the land, countrymen or peasants; and those few who didn’t – aristocrats or landowners including kings, dukes, etc. and clergy – often relatives of the aristocrats.
For a thousand years, or more, the aristocrats also made up the army. The king went at the head of the army. If the king was killed, the war was over. This all grew out of the Roman Empire and bureaucracy.
The Swiss, of course, were different. Most Swiss aspirants to aristocracy or kingly rule had to leave the country. Dukes, etc., were established mainly along the northern tier of the country and supported by their French or German relatives.
They weren’t the ‘real’ Swiss, many of whom, I swear, still belong to the ancient Helvetians, mentioned respectfully by Julius Caesar. The Habsburgs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Swiss. Their home castle is just outside of Aarau in Canton Aargau.
Lucerne, one of the Four Forest Cantons that got the whole Swiss-independence thing going, is a neighbor of Aargau. Zofingen is just a half-hour slow train ride through gentle farm country to Lucerne.
This puts a different spin on the William Tell story, doesn’t it?
To the Swiss, social means Us. Us is the government, the church and the people all in one, that is, one person can be all three things – elected official, preacher and voter. Everything that is social is out in public, or in the open. Which leads us to…
B. Public – in German the word is Offentlich (the O has an umlaut and I haven’t figured out how to do that here). For Swiss Germans (I can’t speak for the Swiss French or Swiss Italians), everything that is public is out in the open, hence, oeffentlich.
You have already read some of my dispatches from Glarus and Appenzell AI when I attended the Landesgemeinden – this is voting out in the open air in a town square – once a year. Then the Cantonal Council does what the people told them to do. That is really public!
In my next post, I’m going to talk about a mixed version of this format that I attended in Zofingen. Verrry interesting.