Stupid rules that work

Posted on September 23, 2009

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And so I've moved to Zurich, here to do an exciting/hard years uni (although I'm increasingly wondering why I make myself do so many difficult things… another story).
But Switzerland, you see, is famous for its rules. A prospect I will say I approached with some trepidation seeing as the amount of time I've spent with anarchists and general anti-authoritarians has left me with what I feel is a healthy level of disrespect for authority. Plus my general lack of interest in rules and regs.
But my experience, though still small, has been… interesting. The rules and beuraucracy do actually live up to their reputation. Just to register for Uni required a ream of papers I guarantee no one is ever going to look at. Most housing contracts come with extensive guidelines that trundle easily into the ridiculous: some actually stipulate where you may not leave your shoes. Also all bus ticket inspectors are massive cunts, though i don't think that's a swiss exculisvity.
So far though it has not been a negative thing. For starters it seems that in some places at least the rigid rules and order are just a thin veneer over a far more relaxed attitude. Certainly in the University where while everything may seem rigid and set, a nice word with the right person can get you more or less anything you need.
But more interestingly, coming from my political standpoint, is how well things work. Thanks to the highly structure social system, the system as a whole runs beautifully smoothly. And, critically, manages this without making any compromises on democracy: in fact the democratic system is uncommonly fair, inclusive, and gives people a relatively large amount of power.
And while I can't help feeling that a good dose of chaos would liven things up a bit, I can't honestly believe anything would be improved by it. Any desire I have to break the rules, be rude, and kick up a fuss stems from a general liking for disorder rather than any thoughts of genunine improvement. It seems that anarchism has no home here.
But let us not end in this way: my knowledge of this country is relatively scanty, and i know for certain that an ugly current of xenophobia runs through it. Perhaps even an argument could be made from a normative conception of life where disorder is in fact vital and it absence stifling. Perhaps.

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