• Departure of OSCE head a setback for dialogue and negotiation

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    Thomas Greminger's departure from the European security body shows that Swiss ideals of neutrality and humanitarianism are being challenged in the multilateral system. What is the difference between politics and neutrality/humanitarianism? Political theorist Michael Walzer, in a famous 1973 article titled “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” argued that getting one’s hands dirty in politics is inevitable. For Walzer, and many others, politicians and politics are fundamentally dirty. (We know that diplomats are jokingly referred to as honest people who are paid to lie for their country). Neutrality and humanitarianism, on the other hand, are supposed to be apolitical, hence clean and above the fray.

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  • Audacity and Hope in the Summer of Discontent

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    We are in the summer of discontent, overwhelmed by the pandemic, civil unrest and economic hardship. In what seems ages ago, Barack Obama talked of the audacity of hope. That audacity now appears as neither audacious nor hopeful. Obama’s “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” seem more like a nightmare than a dream. With the pandemic growing in many parts of the United States and the world, and with civil unrest increasing because of greater awareness of gross violations of human rights, that euphoria has long gone.
    Where is the audacity today? Where is the hope?

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  • To Mask or Not, That is the Question

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    On recent tram ride I ran into a friend who was not wearing a mask. When I asked him why not, he responded, “I had the virus. I have been tested for immunity and have a letter from doctors at the HUG saying I don’t have to wear a mask. I am a danger to no one.” Just as he finished his explanation, a passenger came up to him and berated him for “putting the lives of other people in danger.”

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  • Bike Lanes: Perspective and Proportionality

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    The brouhaha over temporary increased bike lanes in Geneva puzzles me. As someone who does not ride a bike or use a car to go to work, I have no dog in this fight. What I do see, and definitely hear, are vehement comments on both sides. Some say: “Traffic is piled up. We can’t get around Geneva to go to work without traffic jams.” Others comment: “The new lanes are encouraging people to use bikes instead of polluting cars. And, it makes it safer to bike around.”

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