The Swiss, contrary to general belief, are one of the most militaristic nations of Europe. In the United States and even in the Soviet Union a smaller and smaller percentage of the population has to serve in the armed forces. In Switzerland there is no question of a percentage: in Switzerland everybody is a soldier. In September 1939 all the Swiss passes were fully manned even before Britain declared war on Germany and today there is no country in Europe where one sees so many soldiers practising sharp-shooting and mountain climbing, or engaged in other military exercises, as in Switzerland. If a nation wants to fight it need not be very powerful: it is enough to have powerful allies. But if you are determined to stay out of it all and not to fight, then you must be really strong.
All Swiss men are in the reserve and have to keep their uniform, full kit, and their guns at home, ready for any emergency. When the Swiss housewife has finished polishing the door-handles, she gets out her husband's gun and gives it a good polish, too. As time goes by, weapons become more sophisticated and one would think that this domestic idyll of guns becomes slightly outdated. Not at all. People nowadays take home submachine guns and automatic rifles and their wives polish them up as efficiently as they did the simple or domestic rifle. Some people drive home in armoured cars and these are occasionally parked in the courtyards of farms. Polaris missiles have not yet appeared on the scene, mostly, because the Swiss stick to defensive weapons. Polaris missiles may or may not come in the future. Some potential aggressor may be caught unawares. But not the Swiss housewife: she is ready with her rag and polish. There are innumerable jokes about these guns in the larder but the point surely is that a government must trust its citizens if it can afford to keep them armed all the time. Can anyone imagine what would happen if all the citizens in, say, Czechoslovakia, were given guns? It is far from certain that they would all be used according to government instructions. But an outbreak of revolution in Switzerland is about as likely as an outbreak of democracy in Russia or a heatwave in Greenland.
Once a soldier, always a soldier. In Switzerland they simply will not let you go. There are various types of services you have to perform according to your age. People over ninety are put on slightly lighter duties - that is all.
From: "Switzerland For Beginners"
This article originally appeared in the Amiga diskmagazine "Zine #2" by Brainstorm 1989.
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