Why don't the Swiss fight amongst themselves more?

In this Thread, Spectre of Pithecanthropus said

and it got me thinking. Gee, it is kinda interesting having so many different ethnic groups in such a small country as Switzerland that there haven’t been long drawn out periods of sectarian violence. What have they been doing right all this time?

Is it just a simple matter that they chose to all live together rather than be lumped together by a League of nations Mandate or a conquering power?

Please answer this question as if instructing someone who really doesn’t know anything about Switzerland- as some of the assumptions upon which I have based this question may be false. For all I know, there may have been some serious ethnic clashes in Switzerland over the years.
If it really has been all peace and harmony, why would the ethnic divisions still be so distinct after hundreds of years?

Wouldn’t the lines be blurred by intermarrying?

Wouldn’t German, French, Italian, and Raomansh have creolized into one language?

It seems that if there is enough ethnic division to have an idea of an “us” and a “them”, then there would also be enough division to have some serious tension every once in a while.

In a lot of (personal) research I’ve done about developing contries and conflict, it seems that the divisions that cause problems in, say, Sudan, Rwanda, or Iraq, even, are not caused by the cultural differences at all, the cultural differences are a secondary, us-against-them instrument. There is usually plenty of evidence to show that differing/fighting groups in certain regions actually got along perfectly in other times.

For instance, reading Iraqi bloggers, they often site historical accounts where Sunnis and Shiites not only got along but worked together on a regular basis.

It seems to me that the actual cause of fighting amongst “different” groups is the result of a lack of vital, natural resources (i.e. Sudan).

I’m no expert, though, and I know very little about Switzerland (other than that there’s a Hooters and a beautiful opera house/casino in Interlaken).

I should add that I’m certain there are plenty of other places in the world where people speaking different languages and coming from “different” origins get along just fine.

One of the significant contributors to Swiss unity was religion - Geneva was a massive centre of religious progressiveness and became a refuge for a lot of protestant/reformed refugees. Eventually the ultra-protestant Confederacy of Helvetia was sandwiched between an increasingly intolerant Catholic France, Austria and Italy - the “cultural division” between the different linguisitic groups was suddenly a lot less relevant in the wider context. Considering its isolated political position (coupled with its relatively strong strategic position) neutrality didn’t look like such a bad idea, and if you’re surrounded by a religiously hostile"them" then the differences between “us” seem a lot less important.

The situation wasn’t entirely dissimilar in Holland where the different provinces that had been culturally/linguisticly diverse before the Spanish occupation eventually had a much stronger common element in their shared religion that put them at odds with their neighbours and eventually became a single Dutch/Flemmish identity- no time for arguing when you’re struggling to stay independent.

I know very little, but let me insert this: people either believe that the national identity is what matters, or that the ethnic/cultural identity is what matters. Many countries with lots of ethnicities hold together because belonging to that country is what the people mostly care about (Turkey, for example), so in hard times they say only “us” instead of “us and them”. To the best of my knowledge, this is what has happened in Switzerland.

I think a large part of what has held Switzerland together is that, while there may be different ethnic, religious, and sociocultural groups involved, their common desire is to avoid being dominated by one of their larger neighbors: the French, the Germans, and up until 1918 the Austrians. If I were a citizen of, say, Zurich, I might feel that the Ticinese are just confused Italians, the Vaudese and Valais have a haughty French attitude towards everyone else, Bern is under the mistaken impression that that canton runs the country, Uri and Schwyz are living in the past, and the Romansh-speaking peasants of the Graubunden are the European equivalent of Appalachian hillbillies – but we’re united in the idea that nobody else is going to tell us what to do, and we’ll stand together against a major power putting pressure on us.

The present Swiss Confederation dates only from 1848, though, being a reform of a looser banding of a bunch of small independent statelets after the Sonderbund Civil War.

It was also a significant contributor to internal disunity. Switzerland had a Catholic-Protestant split just like much of Europe and like much of Europe they fought internally over their doctrinal issues, with the alpine Catholic cantons generally militarily dominant ( at least early on ). Geneva’s bid to join the Swiss confederation was in fact for a long time actively blocked by the Catholic cantons due to it’s Protestantism. Geneva wasn’t allowed to formally join until 1815.

I’d be wary of using the word “progressive.” If by that you mean “tolerant”, well, no. Geneva was a frequently besieged center of Calvinism, not always the exemplar of tolerant sects. For example Geneva burnt Miguel Servet at the stake for his theological studies that questioned the Biblical basis of the Trinity.

  • Tamerlane

Thanks for the corrections Tamerlane - I think maybe I extrapolated a bit much from my wider knowledge of the period (I had forgotten there were Catholic cantons).

Because they don’t pump fear into their society like the US and other countries do. All you have to do is watch the 5:00 news in the D.C. area. Death, destruction, mayhem.

I’m sure there are lots of other reasons, but I think that’s a big one. They don’t live in fear and they take care of each other. They realize their country is the only one they’ve got.

Riiiight. At least that explains why America descends into anarchy and civil war every few years. :dubious:

Don’t believe the news reports; much of the country is relatively immune to the devastation of the typical Presidential election campaign! :wink:

You sarcasm only shows you ignorance. Have you ever paid attention to the news? it’s nothing but death and destruction. Do you know the crime rates caused by guns in this country compared to others? It’s fear, plain and simple. You can go and downplay someone elses comments with blind sarcasm, but move on along from mine.

No offense of course.

Like ketchup, cheese fondue contains natural mellowing agents.

Huh, the where what now? Which country is this?

I was thinking that, since everyone’s got a knife, you don’t go around hassling people. They could very well cut you, open a bottle of your wine, file your nails … even fix some of your small appliances. And you don’t want that to happen, do you?

Actually, the sarcasm shows his ability to stay on topic. The OP said “…it is kinda interesting having so many different ethnic groups in such a small country as Switzerland that there haven’t been long drawn out periods of sectarian violence.” For examples of long drawn out periods of sectarian violence, look at the history of Northern Ireland, the Balkans, certain African states, and the Middle East. There is nothing remotely resembling this in the U.S…

Now, if you want to carp about TV news, crime rates, and guns, feel free to move along to a new thread. But if you can’t come up with a better answer to the OP than “they don’t pump fear into their society like the US [does],” and most especially explain how that has any relation to the question of protracted sectarian violence, don’t be surprised if such comments are indeed downplayed.