I think the first time I personally noticed this polarizing trend was in 2014, shortly after Crimea annexation and definitely after the crash of the plane in Eastern Ukraine. People felt they could not stay neutral anymore, and it was a matter of principle to take sides.
This year it got more intense: Brexit, refugees, Trump candidacy … list goes on – you are either passionately pro or passionately against and it often feels like compromising would not be an option.
The good thing about it – people are actually speaking up and having a voice. For a long-long time Europe has praised and cultivated safe choices and politically correct statements that often translated into harmless (or useless) decisions (or a complete lack of any decisions). During the times like today it probably feels safer to express an unpopular opinion. Everything is so tensed anyway, you’d have a good excuse to actually try and be opinionated. Somehow, it reminds me the “Age of innocence” – wanting to do something brave but never really acting on it.
People say that polarization is dividing, a bad thing making people angry and intolerant. Frankly, it’s lame excuse. Opinions are opinions and tolerance is tolerance. I am more than happy to talk to Pavel or Anna about Donald Trump or refugees (luckily, we are on the same side on Brexit) – as long as they argue well. From my debating society years, opposite opinions are absolutely thrilling.
Before I moved to Switzerland, everyone was telling me about Swiss people being very intolerant and arrogant and narrow minded. I did not know what to expect.
This is what I can tell after 5 weeks living here:
– There were statements made indicating that Swiss people have very high opinion about their country and it’s institutions: “you don’t really need a supplementary hospital insurance, because all hospitals here are of very high quality” or “it’s normal in Swiss contracts to include this provision, everyone must accept it” or “this is how our school system is organized and this is what we recommend for your daughter”.
– Articles in the Swiss press suggesting that “EU nations reap the consequences of their reckless policies”.
– There is often no way around specific bureaucratic protocols.
At the same time, you always know where you stand and the processes actually work. For some strange reason it is not allowed to keep individual washing machines in the apartments in our building, you have to use the common machine in the basement. It’s bad, and one of the pains of my current existence (#firstworldproblems). But when our washing machine broke last night, I sent an e-mail to the building manager at 11 pm, on 8 am the next morning I received their confirmation that the technician was ordered; and at 9-15 am the same day the technician politely knocked at my door to tell me the machine was fixed.
I am a little of organizational maniac, I like to know the protocol and be clear about what to expect. I personally don’t need to keep all my options open and I am perfectly happy with just one option that I chose as long as it works as planned. It seems to be working thus far.
And here, finally, are my photos from the Art Basel (a lot of political statements there):