Monday, 22 October 2007

Election poster seems racist...

White sheep vs black sheep: The turbulent Swiss election campaign (from Radio Netherlands Worldwide) - An article discussing the issue of the "Swiss People's Party" (SVP) election poster depicting 3 white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, and the reaction that the public and the party's opponents have had to it: claiming that the poster smacks of racism (update) and Nazism.

Now I am certainly not an expert in politics, let alone Swiss politics, but as a librarian and a philosopher, I do fancy myself somewhat of an expert on meaningful and informative expressions. We are all (at least the English speaking of us) familiar with the idea of the "black sheep" (definition) as being the one in the family that the rest of them don't want. I suppose that's because real black sheep aren't very valuable because you're only going to get grey or black wool out of them - not very marketable. When someone uses that phrase, no one accuses them of racism, so why should a political poster be seen in that light?

But what about the idea they are trying to communicate - that criminals ought to be kicked out of the country? Ok, I don't think that that's the answer - that's just making it someone else's problem - but does anyone actually argue rationally against that? Not that I've seen. And that if they're too young to be kicked out alone, then their parents will be kicked out with them? That's not exactly what the Nazis did, but even it was, just because a evil person did something, doesn't mean it's pure evil too. Hitler was an artist (bio) but that doesn't make painting evil. (Although I have not seen any of his work so... LOL)

People need to argue against the issue, not the details surrounding the issue. But of course, it's so much easier to find a connection to something scandalous and dismiss the idea as foolish or insane. Like I said before, I don't think simply deporting individuals for committing crime would solve any of the problem. Maybe, in the short term, for Switzerland, it would, but if everyone did that, we'd quickly run out of places to put criminals. That doesn't solve the problem of crime, but rather ignores it. Problems don't go away if you don't look at them. And although parents SHOULD be held more accountable for the actions of their children, especially if parents are to be given final responsibility for their children's upbringing, flat-out "punishing" the entire family for the actions of one person will inevitably result in much hardship for the innocent.

Moral of the story: Don't be any colour of sheep. Especially when thinking.

1 comment:

Michael Schulman said...

This is nothing new - there's an intense xenophobia that is related historical England, Nazism, and contemporary America.

The England kicked out criminals and sent them to a penal colony, now called Australia.

The xenophobic element has a smattering of Nazism, a la 'pure land'.

The United States uses Guantanamo Bay (and CIA secret hideouts in Europe) as a penal colony for suspected, foreign national terrorists.

Really detestable stuff...any political party with the word "people's" should automatically turn you wary - it's a give away for communists, Nazis, totalitarians, and the like.