And you thought Switzerland had always been neutral

Co-opting the idea of supposed religious determinism and putting it to use in the political arena is a time-dishonored tradition that goes back to the first creature which crawled forth from the primordial ooze and made his way straight to the top of the mountain to lord it over the other oozelings. In terms of Christianity itself, it goes at least as far back as Constantine claiming to have Jesus on his side and insisting that all of his soldiers paint crosses onto their shields prior to viciously butchering their enemies, despite the fact that mister pontifiex maximus himself did not officially convert until on his deathbed. One wonders how his clearly being ruled by superstition and political decorum didn’t precipitate calls of hypocrisy, if not heresy, but I suppose nobody wanted to be the one telling the emperor he had no clothes (or religious authority).

Similar legalistic posturings and propaganda masquerading as true faith-based initiatives have continued through the ages, and that includes much of the activity of the so-called Temperance Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. While much of the momentum behind this ideology boiled down simply to rural villages and towns resisting their way of life being on the decline due to the increased industrialization of the modern world, the rise of alcoholism as a social ill provided a convenient focus for the revival of “small town values” and lots of “come to Jesus” preaching.

You might be surprised to discover how little alcohol and alcoholism had to do with the true impetus behind Prohibition in the United States. Likewise, there were a variety of underlying cultural, political, and social variables in play in the very early 20th century when the international Temperance Movement was coming to a head, and as absinthe was so popular in France, Switzerland, and other European nations, it made for a logical target for “the drys'” opening salvo. Below, see an original copy of the infamous anti-prohibition poster created by Gantner which was first published in “Le Guguss,” a Swiss satirical revue edited by a man named Louis Bron. The poster decries the “death of absinthe” in Switzerland as a result of the 1910 ban. A rather macabre prohibitionist in the garb of a Catholic priest is seen standing on the corpse of the green fairy, a rictus smile across his face betraying his supposed honorable intentions. Behind him are Swiss citizens beseeching the heavens, as Switzerland herself sits in dejection.


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