I’m in Switzerland for the weekend, a place I’ve never got round to visiting before. Once you get out of Zurich and into the country it is exactly how I imagined it – absurdly clean, obviously wealthy and very beautiful. But a bit like HG Wells’ The Time Machine, what you see on the surface disguises an uglier truth – this is a country with a very popular extreme right wing party, the SVP, whose posters are everywhere by the roadside and one that recently passed by referendum a ban on the building of new minarets despite there only being 2 in the country.
In a similar vein, yesterday I visited the almost parodically beautiful Appenzell Innerrhoden canton. Real Heidi country – 60,000 people who live through dairy farming. A place where the ultimate authority in this highly devolved country is still the town meeting held in the main square every month where votes are taken by a show of hands of the citizens – Athenian democracy in action. But again scratch beneath the surface and you find a reactionary conservatism.
Appenzell Innerrhoden was the last place in western Europe to give women the vote – for federal elections they were forced to do so in 1972, but in local cantonal votes women didn’t get the franchise until 1991!
All of which inspired me to think of the great feminist punk band, The Slits and this their finest moment, a song about the stereotyping of women. The sadly missed Ari Up, Tessa Pollitt and Viv Albertine had a style heavily influenced by reggae (like so many other punk bands) with insistent rhythms and primitive melodies. For a while they also had the Banshees’ drummer Budgie as a member.