February 11, 2023
GSTAAD—As everyone knows, snobbery is nothing but bad manners passing itself off as good taste. Past American society dames were terrible snobs, until they met their French and British counterparts who put them in their place. I’m not going to mention any names because most of them are dead, but looking around me up here in the Alps I’ve seen some new horrors, money snobs who make the older type look like nuns.
Mind you, I’m quite snobby myself when it comes to nouveaux riches with bad manners, and as Yogi Berra remarked, “One can observe a lot just by watching.” What I see here in Gstaad is a classless society, where the locals are proud to be called peasants, while new arrivals feel confused at the lack of an upside-down social structure. This is good old Helvetia, where a farmer is more appreciated than a banker, and I particularly like it in the summer when the wife cuts the grass while the hubby rides the tractor. The richest local is a friend of mine, and he got started as a ski instructor. He also conquered Everest and has remained the same, unassuming as hell and as pleasant as he was when he was teaching spoiled brats how to turn around a mogul.
He also got me out of a jam when thirty years ago I decided to build the largest chalet in the region and had the architects drill a hole on a mountainside that could fit the village of Gstaad inside. But I didn’t like the location, fifteen klicks west of Gstaad, which meant thirty kilometers in the morning to lunch at the Eagle, and another thirty at night to go drinking at the GreenGo. Once I changed my mind, the mess I had created was given a name, Taki’s Hole, and people would actually visit the place and say terrible things about it. Then Marcel Bach came to the rescue. He built an enormous apartment complex and sold every inch of it to eager newcomers in the region, while simultaneously flogging a brand-new chalet in the Oberport, the hill above the Palace Hotel, to yours truly. The Oberport may have been very chic, but some of the people who moved in after me were more cesspool than class. Suddenly “Palataki” was surrounded by structures looking into my garden, so once again it was time for hasty migration. The road to the Palace was blocked for a long time when a Canadian named Stroll moved in and ordered something resembling Taki’s Hole. Yet again, Marcel came to the rescue. He sold my place by splitting it into three apartments and selling it to a man from Monte Carlo whose name could not appear anywhere, especially on a legal document. I took the moola and ran.
Mind you, this is Switzerland, and real estate speculation is a no-no. One cannot sell and keep the profit unless one’s lived in the place for many years. If not, the place would be buzzing with sharks with even worse manners than those already here. Then Marcel outdid himself by finding the best yet, a chalet-farm on a hill with only Roger Moore’s place below me and with a private road to boot. I’ve now been here for six years and it will be my last residence. I refer to the Oberport as the Gaza Strip due to overcrowding, and my hill as Shangri-la.
Yes, Gstaad is now overbuilt and at times overcrowded, and yes, some of the people here belong behind bars—the principal behind a new club was the prime feeder for Bernie Madoff—and yet the place works, especially off season. It works because of the locals. Unlike their British cousins, Swiss people work hard and do not needlessly go on strike for higher wages. There are no politically motivated strikes, and Swiss workers, especially civil servants, do not work from home.
And another thing. One does not get the feeling here that one gets back in Britain, of envy mixed with loathing for someone better off. And one certainly doesn’t have the impression of a dysfunctional nation, as one does in America, with 81 percent of its citizens agreeing that the place simply doesn’t work. Well, uncontrolled immigration has turned Americans into a people with nothing in common—not history, language, culture, faith, or ancestry. But the Swiss have three to four different languages and certainly different backgrounds, and it somehow works. That’s because they are 9 million whereas the Americans are 300 million and rising.
Actually, I think it’s something else. Left-wing jihad has succeeded in the States, taking over Big Tech, Big Business, universities, and the media. It is almost like a giant Stasi that ensures conformity to woke and to the power elite in D.C. A one-party press does not a happy people make. The Swiss are not right-wingers, but neither are they about to lose their independence after 700 years to extreme left-wing ideologist jihadists.
The unelected commissars of the E.U. have been pressuring the Swiss for years, trying to tie them down with treaties that would deprive them of their liberties. The Swiss are resisting. The only Swiss law I disagree with is the one that applies only in crowded apartment buildings and punishes with a fine loud cries of sexual ecstasy after 10:30 p.m.