Saturday, June 22, 2013

Not Cutting the Grass

Despite their famous zeal for tidiness and organization, the Swiss often seem surprisingly reluctant to cut the grass.  Why?

At its heart, this reluctance is a product of the uneasy relationship the Swiss have with urbanization.

It is important to remember that until relatively recently, Switzerland was rather poorer than its neighbors and very sparsely populated.  It was only a boom at the end of the 19th century that massively grew the population and the economy out of its centuries-long pattern in which agriculture dominated and the chief export was mercenary soldiers.  Its subsequent growth into spectacular wealth needs little belabouring here.  

The Swiss have left behind their pastoral idyll with equal measures of success and reluctance.  For many, the well-oiled hum of the country's massive urban economic engines drowns out the Arcadian symphony of old Helvetica in a perpetual reminder of all that has been lost.  Marching boldly into the post-industrial future is something of a mixed blessing, and urban life a necessary evil that even the most oppidan Swiss engages with a wistful sigh and a look back at the rolling, grassy meadows of the past.

Therefore, the unkempt lawn overtaking the park or encroaching on your neighbor's windows is not simply a dandelion-choked thicket.  It is a time machine.

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