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Chroniques politiques et culturelles (CP) - 08 JAN 1940 - Anglais
     [CP-1940-01-08-EN]


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Aperçu rapide de l'OCR:
Monday Bulletin, January 15, 194o.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With your consent we shall leave, for this evening, the high spheres
of political philosophy. We shall not speak of neutrality, nor of Switzerland
mission among the nations of Europe and the world, neither shall we mention
the difficulties encountered today by a certain small country in her determination
to maintain national independence and sovereignty, My purpose,
rather, is to take you with me on a little visit to one of our smaller cantons,
where an event, of a character to prompt reflection on the political organ-,
ization and social conditions of Switzerland, recently took place.
Last Saturday, in a little village of the canton of Glarus, a deeply
moved and thoughtful population accompanied to his last resting place a man
whose life career is worthy of our attention. This man, whose premature
disappearance from the Swiss political scene is mourned by all, was, as far
as his formation and preparation for life's activity is concerned, a typical
citizen of Switzerland. After finishing, as all Swiss children do, his
elementary school instruction, he spent a few years in high school; and then,
being desirous of learning the French language, in addition to his mother
tongue, he spent a year in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Such was this man's intellectual baggage when he became a country postman.
Every day, during a period of more than 2o years, he went from house to house
and from farm to farm with his load of mail, leaving letters and packages on
the corner of kitchen tables, according to a familiar custom. The task could
appear monotonous to some; but for Jacob Britt it afforded an opportunity to
become acquainted with different classes of society, to discuss with these
people about diversified problems of both public and private life; in a word,
to know the desires and aspirations of a village - one of these countless little
political units which are at the foundation of our constitutional struoture.
And ere long, his fellow citizens began to think of him, when something
important was to be done, when some weighty responsibility was to be carried.
Slowly, but surely, he mounted the rungs of our political ladder. He first
served, at his free hours, as town clerk. He did so well that he soon
became a member of the town council, and finally the council's president.
But all this time he continued to carry his letters from house to house as
the official postman. He devoted his free hours and his evenings to matters
of public interest. However, destiny had something still greater in store for
him. A place was soon given him with the cantonal authorities; first as a
member of the legislative council, and next asja member ofihe executive
council - the cantonal government.But, in spite*of this additional
responsibility, he still continued with the distribution of his letters. The
postman's uniform end the magistrate's black frock coat were donned alternatively,
according to the public function. And last September, at the outbreak
of the European war, like the majority of other Swiss citizens, he
put on the military uniform. A cold contracted at the frontier in the service
of his country was the cause of his untimely death.
The story of Jacob Britt's life is, indeed, a very simple one; and yet,
how typical of our institutions'. The Swiss citizen really is of a threefold
nature: there is the private worker, the public servant, and the soldier, or
defensor of his native land. According to the circumstances, the days and
thewfreasons, he is one or the other of these personages, while never fully
abandoning the character of all of them. But the most characteristic element
of all is the fact that the social conditions of the man exerts, practically
speaking, little or no influence on his political or military rôle.
The simple man, who earns a modest living by working with his hands, can
be cabled to the exercise of a most important public function. A public
officer, with the administrative responsibility of some loo, inhabitants,
falls into line at the hour of dangei, as a soldier among other soldiers.
There are no hard fast social lines with the Swiss people. The social classes
are not water tight, and nothing is easier than to pass from one class to
another, either up or down. This fact really is the secret of our social
unity, and explains, furthermore, the absence, - or at least the infrequency, -
of social conflicts in Switzerland,
But above all, - and this is the thought I wanted to come to, - our
country often is administered by simple, unpretentious men. It is not so
much required of our public servants that they be man of rare culture and
exceptional theoretical training, as it is that they be men of practical
experience, men acquainted with the problems of every-day life and with the
aspirations and needs of their country's inhabitants. In order to be admitted
to the foremost responsibility in public life, a citizen must have been at the
school of town and cantonal life. And that is ample proof that our democratic
system is not a theory, but a living reality deeply rooted in the every-day
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