A crisis can really be turned into an opportunity


 Thousands of people gathered in Zurich in December 1867 to challenge the political order and demand more democratic rights. Keystone / Anonymous

The image shows what the people of Switzerland did in the summer of 1867 to bring direct democracy to the country, and clip the wings of their elected representatives forever.

What the Swiss did is one of the best examples of turning a crisis into an opportunity; will the peoples of the World do that with the current pandemic?

I will let the website Swissinfo.ch describe the events.

This content was published on May 1, 2020.

Domhall O’Sullivan wrote the piece.

“In summer 1867, cholera spread through Zurich. By the time it had been stamped out, in the autumn, the canton was about to create “the most democratic political system in the world”.

After the first case was recorded in July 1867, the disease spread quickly, especially in the poorer and dirtier districts of the city, writes Swiss medical historian Flurin Condrau.

Health authorities, still in their infancy at the time, took the familiar steps: the quarantining of infected houses, a strict separation of the healthy from the unhealthy. Citizens, meanwhile, viewed their efforts with distrust, and as the death-rate rose, they began also to be infected by an eerie atmosphere, as the Winterthur Landbote reported:

“If you haven’t been to Zurich in the past few weeks, you can’t really imagine what it’s like, both in the streets and in your mind […] The impact of the fearful epidemic and the pressure of sudden loneliness lie heavy on the population, and those who have lived in this situation for weeks cannot avoid taking on such a dim impression.” (September 28, 1867

And despite calls by the authorities for solidarity and community, “many members of the wealthier classes saw things quite differently, fleeing the city”, Condrau writes.

Then, by the end of October, it was over: 481 people had died, and the disease had not spread beyond the city, let alone canton or country.

Success? Not for the authorities at least. The event proved to be the catalyst for the overthrow of the liberal regime – epitomised by the omnipotent figure of entrepreneur Alfred Escher – that had governed Zurich for decades. In its place, citizens demanded more democracy: first in Zurich, where a new constitution was approved in 1869 (surviving until 2005), then across much of the country, as other cantons became inspired.

In 1874, the right to referendum was incorporated into the national constitution as a control instrument for parliamentary laws; the right to constitutional initiatives by the people was added in 1891.”

What the people of Switzerland did is demonstrate until the elected politicians had no choice but give in to the demands of the people.

This is how the Swiss wrestled control of the country from the hands of elected politicians and their “friends”.

Are the people of your country ready to do the same? Are you ready?

Victor Lopez

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