Cymraeg needs power in the West- Arfor can deliver it.

 

TRI chynnig i Gymro is a very old and much loved Welsh saying.

Where Leighton Andrews and Mark Drakeford ultimately feared to tread, the Welsh Government's own inimitable attack dog, Alun Davies, is now all set to get his teeth into Local Government re-organisation.

But, if this to mean anything other than a tokenistic tinkering with the map of Wales once again, surely the process has to involve meaningful change this time round.

It's an opportunity to look afresh at what local democracy should actually mean today, and how it can manifest itself anew in different parts of Wales. The long neglected link up between health care and social care should definitely be on the agenda, as well as democratic control of social housing, a sector which has grown exponentially over the past few years with little or no local scrutiny attached to it.

With Cardiff having a disproportionate slice of the political and economic cake, there is also a strong case for the creation of perhaps no more than 6 regional authorities to counter-balance the Cardiff-centricity of modern Wales, and those authorities imbued with real powers. Which could even perhaps include some element of tax-varying powers of their own, as is the case with local authorities in the thriving Basque Country.

It's also high time for some radical thinking where the Welsh language and local government is concerned.

It presents a golden opportunity to implement the idea proposed by Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru AM-i.e to create ARFOR, a single authority for the Welsh-speaking areas of Ynys Mon, Gwynedd, Ceredigion, and Caerfyrddin, which would operate through the medium of Welsh.

The much-maligned nationalist thinker, Saunders Lewis predicted that the Welsh language would decline faster with a Welsh Government in situ in Cardiff than it would under Westminster control, unless local government first conducted its work through the medium of Welsh in Y Fro Gymraeg. 

With less than 5 per cent of deliberations at y Senedd conducted in Welsh( well below the national 21 per cent of Welsh speakers), Saunders Lewis' prophecy seems to have been born out.

Every single party at Y Senedd( even UKIP) pledge strong support for Welsh in public: but the harsh truth after 20 years of devolution is that English has become the governing language in our national parliament. With the best will in the world, this is not going to change any time soon.

 A cultural and political counterpoint is sorely needed to provide Cymraeg with real status and power- located in those areas where it remains an every day living language.

Socio-linguists agree that a minority language requires some form of territorial integrity in order to thrive. Increasing use is now being made of environmental metaphors with a minority language imagined as a plant or flower which has to have a secure habitat in order to be able to breathe, grow and flourish. 

 If we continue with the environmental metaphor, most of us are all aware that Welsh's natural habitat has been eroding on a frighteningly fast rate over the past two generations.

1951. Linguistic Map ?

2011. Linguistic Map? 

 As the maps show(?) in the 1951 census, well over 75% of people spoke Welsh in the counties of Ynys Mon, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Caerfyrddin.

By the 2011 census however, this former solid bank of Welsh speakers across these western counties had dried up alarmingly with Gwynedd down to 64% of  Welsh speakers, Ynys Mon 59%, Ceredigion on 48% and Caerfyrddin down to 44%.

The calamitous retreat of Cymraeg in these heartlands since 1951, has been virtually ignored by all the political parties. Partly of course because of the thorny reality that this decline has been accelerated by an inflow of migration from England- with the vast majority of these incomers not showing any inclination to learn the language of their new country. Not one party, not even Plaid Cymru, has dared to challenge and oppose this hugely destructive process over the years.

But the decline has also been about an exodus of Welsh-speaking people, especially younger people in search of employment opportunities, not available in the traditional Welsh-speaking areas. Cardiff of course has been the main beneficiary of this exodus and although it's comforting on one level that these people are at least staying in Wales, there can be no denying that this process has denuded their home communities of their  vitality, their energy and their creativity.

The habitat needs to be rewilded, and the best way to start is with an idea

 ARFOR could operate with say 60 elected councillors( 15 from the 4 areas). The geographic distances between Caergybi on Ynys Mon and Llanelli in Carmarthenshire need not be a problem in an age of fast-developing video confererencing. Its nominal headquarters could be based, say in Aberystwyth or even Machynlleth, but with specific departments located in all four areas.

Arfor should be able to draw up a strategic trajectory for its territory in terms of economic development, housing, planning, social care and other key sectors such as food and drink, tourism, entrepreneurship and language regeneration.

The overall plans could then be implemented at a more local level by beefing up the role of present day community councils. These could be re-imagined by reviving the old model of the rural/town district councils(with several local community councils coming together to form these new entities)- employing staff to discharge the duties delivered downwards by the central Arfor authority.

This would allow both a regional identity and a local identity to co-exist and co-create a better future for the heartlands which have only known decline, despair and disillusionment for the past two generations.

Cyngor Sir Gwynedd has already pioneered the way, having operated successfully through the medium of Welsh since the mid 90ies.Ynys Mon has declared that they are now going to follow its example. Arfor is half way there already.

 As to the predictable concerns that Arfor would "divide" Wales, and re-ignite the old arguments aired in the 1970ies about such an idea, I would argue that the Welsh national identity is much more secure today than back then. That identity is secure enough to be able to live with the thought that different parts of Wales should perhaps be able to do things differently.

And there is no need to fret either that such a development would allow the other 5/6 regional authorities to ignore Welsh,because the Welsh Language Standards passed by Y Senedd recently will ensure that a modicum of bilingualism will remain in the others.

Associate membership of Arfor could also be provided over time to other Welsh-speaking areas, e.g Dyffryn Conwy, Parts of Denbighsire, Powys and Pembrokeshire, who wish to be part of the new entity. 

Arfor has the potential to do more to develop the Welsh language than almost any other language success gained over the years, even arguably S4C- now a pale shadow of its former self and shorn of the clout it used to have in Welsh-speaking Wales.

It will give Welsh real political and economic clout in its traditional heartlands. It will provide employment opportunties and career structures for Welsh speakers from all over Wales. It will, at a stroke, make learning Welsh a real, economic and social necessity for incomers to these areas. It is quite literally, the golden bullet as far as language regeneration is concerned in Y Fro Gymraeg.

Cultural regeneration in the heartlands will undoubtedly lead to economic regeneration as well. It can be a magnet for Welsh speakers from all over the UK and wider afield. It can prove an inspiration to Welsh learners all over Wales and beyond to see that Welsh can thrive as a living, community language.

As Alun Davies weighs up his options, and perhaps even his legacy as far as the Welsh language is concerned as an enthusiastic learner himself, he might be tempted to bring that famous Bill Clinton slogan to mind, and re-phrase it to say : "It's the culture, stupid" in seeking to effect change.

 

 

 

 

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The Love that dare not speak its name

THE contorted Brexit negotiations between the UK government and the EU  have just become even more combustible following the stunning electoral success of Five Stars in the Italian General Election on Sunday.

The anti-establishment, anti-corruption and anti EU movement which won an unprecedented 32% of the popular vote will now seek to form a populist government, although they could still be thwarted by a coalition of the right.

However, it seems certain that the European Union's negotiating stance with the UK will now be even harsher as a means to dissuade the Italians from having  any notions of a comparable Irexit

It's not completely fanciful to speculate that a new UK Prime Minister could be at the helm at some point during the upcoming negotiations, and a Prime Minister with a completely different mindset to the present leader as well.

If this indeed were to happen, this may well lead to a wave of what could be termed English exceptionalism which in turn could lead to a situation where the UK will leave the EU without a deal next year.

One element that is scarcely mentioned at all in the debate thus far is the fact that Brexit is England's bid for independence to all intents and purposes. This indeed is the "love that dare not speak its name", if we apply Oscar Wilde's pithy sentence to our own political situation today. This has remained concealed and unrecognised up to this point.

But this element is likely to come much more to the fore over this coming period, whatever attempts are made to couch it under the usual deflective mantle of "Britain".

The first round of negotiations proved to be a national humiliation in effect with Prime Minister Theresa May having to yield to each one of the EU's demands. To add wound to English national pride, May seemed to cut a forlorn figure during the negotiations-the subject of what seemed to be a combination of ridicule and pity amongst her fellow EU leaders.

Theresa May well be a suitable metaphor for the irrelevance of England on the international stage by now, but one senses that English pride will not stand for much more of this.

There are plots aplenty to replace her with names such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove touted to take over from her following the expected electoral mauling for the Conservatives in the Local Elections in May.

Whether you were Remain or Leave in the Referendum, one would think it was reasonable to have a leader in place who was committed to honouring the largest democratic vote ever held on these islands.

One would also expect that a pitch for independence would also be accompanied by a bid to paint a positive and optimistic future after leaving the European Union( whatever the truths may be about that since any economic forecasting is always such a lottery in truth).

And it seems to follow in turn that a natural leader would seek to inspire people here of the opportunties to completely revamp our democracy and reshape our political and economic landscape after leaving the EU.

But none of this has happened. Has there indeed ever been such such an insipid, lukewarm and livy-livered bid to execute the process of national freedom in the whole history of Europe??

It is patently clear that Theresa May has failed on all the above points, and that is why the English with their irredoubtable sense of national pride will eventually have no choice but to install an alternative figure representing their vital interests in the second round of the negotiations.

I wouldn't completely dismiss the possibility either that such a leader,  attuned to the positive mood music evoked by a stronger negotiating position, could well call a snap election to ensure the proper parliamentary arithmetic for this new position.

It's a bizarre experience for Welsh nationalists to listen to the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson expousing the cause of national freedom and democratic accountability, which have been such an integral part of our own national story for so many years.

It's also quite bewildering to hear them place these cherished principles over and above the golden calf of the economy which their own party- and everybody else to all purposes- has worshipped so uncritically over the past generation.

Such Welsh nationalist sentiments in the past have been dismissed and scorned as romantic hogwash- but here they are being  hijacked and appropriated by our neighbours! Have they no shame at all?!

It almost feels like your girlfriend has left you for another bloke, a bloke who did nothing but criticize her and put her down with you during all the time the two of you were together.

Instinctively, one feels that the English will actually pursue these causes with much more passion and tenacity than we have ever done in Wales. This could well lead to the growth of a troubling "Greater England" mentality.

On the one hand, one could argue that a sense of exceptionalism is at the heart of this particular mentality. This argument posits a post-imperial wish for England to have status and power again on the international stage- a type of "expansionist-orientated nationalism" if you like.

It's very easy to imagine how this type of exceptionalism could take off again in response to a much tougher approach to the negotiations with the European Union. After the complete drift and lack of vision which has characterised the UK government's strategy over the past 18 months, more backbone and self-assertion will undoubtedly pay dividends for any new leader, however this comes about.

On the other hand, one could also argue that this exceptionalism actually amounts to a more grounded sense of " we deserve much better than this as a people". Communities the length and breadth of England used Brexit as a revolutionary cause to call for a new economic and political order, as the existing order both on a UK and EU level has failed them so badly over the past generation. As indeed it has for us in Wales.

In these communities, there is also mounting anger at the exponential growth and wealth of London over this period at the expense of everywhere else in England( apart from the London fuelled South-East). The metropolitan superiority of London and Westminster, already  a red rag to a bull in many places is also now being expressed anew in the Remain counter-revolution which is afoot. This is seriously provoking an unprecedented amount of disquiet in the rest of England.

People there instinctively feel that the flaunting of this metropolitan wealth, power and influence is not only unjust on an individual and community level, but also on a national level- i.e that it is just not sustainable for one city to thrive to such an extent at the expense of the rest of the nation.

And one feels that the rest of that nation is now starting to stir, almost in the form of modern-day roundheads agitating for change against the cavaliers wedded to the status quo and the royal power of the EU. And we all know how that particular struggle ended in the long run.

Whatever form this nascent exceptionalism eventually takes,,be it the expansionist or emancipatory form, there can be little doubt that the arrogance of the EU triumvirate of Juncker, Bernier and Verhofstadt have also helped to lay the foundations for such a development.

Not one of them has ever expressed the slightest amount of interest or curiousity why so many people in these islands decided to say NO to the European Union. They could not even bring themselves to acknowledge that this was an unprecedented exercise in popular democracy in Europe( however flawed it may have been in some respects).

As ever, as has always been the case with every problem within the EU- which now amounts to a very lengthy list- their answer is always MORE of the EU.

This institutional myopia is now set to come up against English nationalism. In my mind, there can be no doubt which one of these two is the most resolute and most resilient. The cheerleaders for the EU, who almost seem to believe that modern civilization actually started because of it, always forget that in historical terms it is  very new, only 40 years in its present inception.  English nationalism on the other hand has a history of many centuries behind it.

The harsh truth that all of us who want to see meaningful change on these islands have to confront is that this can only really happen when England changes. Its disproportionate size, power and influence means that all the other countries of these isles have to wait for this sleeping giant to stir in reality.

No one can predict exactly what will happen when England achieves its independence from the EU. What will become of the delicate situation in Ireland, and Scotland in turn is anybody's guess at this point.

But history shows us that revolution is very often followed by counter-revolution with a third force then emerging to eventually surprise all the protagonists.

Who knows, thanks to England, Wales can perhaps play its part within that third force to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to re-learn the art of rational face to face discussion

LAST week, Golwg 360( the Welsh language news site) published a blog of mine, which ventured to opine that there are some aspects of the present feminism movement which are quite concerning to say the least.

The exact Welsh heading "Ydi Ffeministiaeth yn prysur droi'n Ffeministiaith?" can't really be translated precisely into English. But the essential point I made was that modern feminism seems to have evolved into a narrow ideological way of experiencing and interpreting the world which has now created a specific language of its own, with loyalty towards its fellow speakers placed above almost all other considerations in life.

In the blog, I acknowledged the genuine grievances experienced by females in the wake of the revelations about sexual abuse perpetrated by powerful men in Hollywood, and the importance of those revelations in encouraging other women in other walks of life to share their own experiences.

However, I then asked whether the resulting "MeToo" movement has now taken on a life of its own with its reach ranging way beyond the specific sexual abuse which gave rise to the original campaign.

In our febrile present atmosphere, heinous sexual abuse of the sort mentioned above seems to have morphed to include other forms of human behaviour which, whatever one may think of them, have always characterised the elusive nature of relations between men and women.

I suggested that a new "crime", that of "social misconduct" had now been introduced to the public realm, which has seen several political figures shamed and even dismissed from office for things like a stray hand on a knee, over-amorous texts, and even asking females for a dinner date.

 The anonymity of the accusers in several of these cases is also I feel, most troubling, especially in view of the anonymous complaints which led to the suicide of a leading Welsh politician here last year. One can also see how "Me Too" might have been a factor in the process of ostracising the politician Neil McEvoy with a stream of female compaints about his "social misconduct", which in his case seems to consist of swearing and shouting at times. In Politics? How awful.

I then posed the question whether this growing sense of "victimhood for status" amongst the feminist community was now starting to become a real problem in our society, with a resultant wish to search for convenient scapegoats.A new 1950ies "Reds under the Beds" type campaign, re-fashioned this time with a " Cads under the Beds" meme if you like.

I think it's useful to draw a distinction between hard power and soft power here. Obviously, men have been traditionally those with hard power in terms of status and influence, and have undoubtedly used that power to coerce women in different ways for a long time. But let's not forget that women have soft power at their disposal, i.e their femininity, their sexual allure and their attractiveness which can sometimes level the playing field somewhat. And let's be honest, women can be just as manipulative as men in their own way in getting what they want at times.

It's all too easy to swallow this popular media narrative about men as predators and women as victims, which does a huge disservice to both sexes and demeans them as human beings.  But surely real life is much more ambiguous and nuanced than that.

Thankfully, I don't do Twitter or Facebook, but I have been informed that there has been an absolute tsunami of outrage on these mediums in the wake of my post.

And this weekend, a female academic, Dr Behi-Edwards, also weighed in with a furious counter-blog on Golwg 360, fulminating against my "cruel and irresponsible article".

For some bizarre reason, Dr Behi-Edwards insisted on personalising the issue from the off by starting almost every paragraph in using my surname "Job", before  contemptuously dismissing every singe point I raised. Talk about playing the man not the ball!

I have a lot of time for the author George Orwell, and what strikes one today about his seminal novel "1984", ( written in 1949) is how scarily prescient and prophetic that novel was, with its warning about a future society ruled by group-think and a morality police to ensure conformity with the party line at all times. 

In view of the new wave of puritanism which has now emerged, with its condemnatory approach towards the essential and life affirming dance between men and women (however complicated and messy that can be at times), surely Orwell's " Anti-Sex League" marching around in their boiler suits can't be far off.

Orwell once said: "Freedom is the right to tell other people what they don't want to hear."

Unfortunately, this important principle now seems under real threat with so many people taking offence so easily which in turn serves to silence public debate, with free speech- the very hallmark of a democratic society-increasingly under siege.

I can't help thinking that we are witnessing a classic case of 'transference of anger' at play here. People seem to have given up hope of achieving any meaningful political and economic change in our society, and have channelled all their anger and frustration into the personal sphere alone. There is an increasing sense of ' resentissment' afoot all around us.

This In turn has led to the development of this poisonous and self-defeating identity politics which so bedevils today's society, with feminism unfortunately caught up in it and men and women seemingly driven further apart from each other by blinkered ideology.

But there is another issue at play here, quite apart from the "victimhood for status" agenda being played out by some sections of the Feminist movement.

And that is the moral outrage phenomena fuelled by social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

When I was growing up, I was given a really good piece of advice. "If you want to write an angry letter to someone, write it that night. But sleep on it and look at it again in the morning before posting it."

 Unfortunately, that idea of calm and rational reflection before engaging one's mouth and relating to other people seems to have disappeared completely in today,'s society. 

Social media users increasingly seem to crave their daily fix of "moral outrage" to  castige other people and causes they despise.

I'm not the first person to say this,but there is something about the nature of the very medium which fuels this kind of unhinged and destructive type of thinking and behaviour.

 Bashing away at a keyboard on your own seems to allow people to become much more insulting and demeaning  towards other people  than they would ever be in a face to face situation.

We need to step away from our computers and start talking rationally and respectfully face to face to each other again as we are supposed to do as human beings. Whatever our ideological differences.

Perhaps we need to start up a series of new debating societies in Wales where we can re-discover the art of reasoned discussion with each other.

"Trafodwn"( Let's Discuss Things") could help to de-toxify the increasingly harsh and strident social media sphere in Wales by allowing people a new space in which to debate with each other in a rational and decent manner.

We are undoubtedly a wordy nation, and passionate about our causes. Let's continue to be so but with decency and respect for each other as human beings as part of the mix as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A new era beckons: An Independent Wales in Britain

DESPITE the high stakes of Brexit and all its associated risks, these are undoubtedly exciting times in Wales.

Whatever your views on last year's Referendum, it is undeniable that the result has galvanised Wales in a way that has not been seen for many, many years. It could even be ventured that the present atmosphere is akin to that sense of national awakening which promised so much at one stage during the late 1960ies.

Plaid Cymru's annual conference in Galeri over the weekend seemed more animated than usual, featuring an almost evangelistic address from Adam Price invoking the Israelites' journey from captivity in Egypt to the freedom of Canaan, and a rousing television interview with Dr Dai Lloyd leaving a browbeaten BBC journalist in no doubt whatseover that Plaid would now be more of an out and out nationalist party.

Then there was Neil McEvoy's fringe event which attracted 120 people to the Celtic Hotel to hear his barely-veiled pitch for the leadership of the party, in the form of his "2020 Vision" declaration. It was an undoubted coup for McEvoy to attract such a gathering, and although his presentation of a dream of a Sovereign Wales might have been slightly underwhelming following the whole hype created beforehand, he certainly has a dedicated and growing following within the party.

Time alone will tell of course whether he will have the opportunity to  fully develop his vision, seeing that he is currently suspended from the Plaid Cymru group in Y Senedd, and is considered almost a person non grata by several key members of that group.

Then we have the growing YES CYMRU movement which seems to be establishing new groups on almost a weekly basis, dedicated to taking the message about Welsh Independence directly to the people of Wales in their own communities, beyond the usual party political boundaries.

And if that was not enough, in two weeks time, a meeting has been called in Aberystwyth with the aim of establishing a new national party to adopt an unashamedly Wales First/Pro Wales approach. Apparently the original venue has now been changed to accomodate the substantial numbers expected to turn up.

 We will have to wait to see how all of the above pans out and whether indeed the disparate groups can work together in any shape or form, or whether they prove to be another manifestation of that damning Welsh characteristic, so evident in our national history, of division and disunity.

Whatever happens, surely the above groupings have to acknowledge that we are now in completely unchartered political territory and that their pitch to Welsh voters and citizens from now on has to reflect this new world we find ourselves in.

For better or worse, the Brexit decision has been taken and there can be no doubt that the UK is now leaving the European Union. Indeed, the most likely outcome is that the UK Government will crash out of the EU over the next few months without a formal deal in place

WTO tariffs will probably be in put in place , at least temporarily, which will obviously hurt the Welsh export economy in the short run. But despite that initial shock to the system, a new emphasis on developing a self-sufficient internal market is likely to emerge to take up any slack both within Wales itself, and the rest of these isles as well. 

The Welsh National Movement has to adjust itself quickly to this new reality and show an unprecedented amount of agility and imagination to deal with this momentous change. I would argue that it needs to quickly adopt a fresh approach which can acknowledge this new state of affairs and turn it to Wales's advantage.

An Independent Wales in Britain could be the way to both acknowledge this new reality and transform it. 

Such a slogan would accept that the UK has taken a democratic decision  to leave the European Union, but it would also provide a clever twist on the popular "Take Back Control" mantra in order to ensure that Wales can truly flourish in what are sure to be very challenging and trying economic and social circumstances post Brexit.

Many nationalists will be aghast at such an argument of course. Such people have invested everything in their view of the European Union as a benign, philanthropic and a force for good on the continent .

Unfortunately, wearing those rose-tinted spectacles has meant that many have failed to see that the EU is in fact a deeply anti-democratic institution which favours a parasitic Banking Sector and Big Corporations above all else. Furthermore, it is, and has been for many years, an Empire-building project with the clear intention of deleting national identities in favour of one European state run by technocrats. History tells us to be deeply sceptical of such Empires and its leaders.

And of course, we have just witnessed the most glaring example yet of the democratic deficit which lies at the cold heart of the European Union.

The debacle of the Catalunya Independence Referendum where the EU failed to condemn Spanish violence against people merely exercising their democratic right to choose their own national future was quite simply sickening.The Emperor truly now has no clothes.

The national movement in Wales has to see that this is a historic waking up moment for people all over Europe. 

It has to turn its horizons back home- to ensure that Wales can now achieve Independence within Britain. 

And there is a clear and successful alternative European model which it could seek to emulate, i.e a Scandinavian Model for Wales within Britain. In Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark and Norway share a peninsula and a shared culture to some extent- but they they are also all independent countries which then opt to co-operate with each other in some respects.

The Scandinavian model of economic dynamism and social well-being underpinned by a strong sense of national identity provides a clear path for Wales to follow post Brexit.

Independence has been a word that has frightened too many people for too many years in Wales since it has appeared to convey a sense of withdrawal, a drawing up of the bridges, and a wilful turning away into some sort of irrelevant isolation.

Independence for Wales in Britain however can be a way of finally overcoming these fears and turning it instead into a transformational project which can inspire the people of Wales to imagine a better future for themselves, their  families and their communities..

Such a concept would acknowledge the cultural and social affiliations that people in Wales feel with people in England and Scotland on several levels, be that through historic events, media, popular music, travel or family ties.

Yes, of course Wales  will remain a proud European nation with many links to the continent. But the reality is that for many people in Wales, the links with other parts of mainland Britain are more immediate and more compelling.

The notion of Welsh Independence in Britain could relate the following narrative to the people of Wales: Look, we can be an independent nation, running our country according to our own Welsh values and our traditional loyalties to language, land and people- but we can also choose to have voluntary ties with people in England and Scotland and beyond as well.

And Independence in Britain would also resonate on a deeper cultural and historic level to boot. After all, the name "Prydain" has always stirred the Welsh soul across the passage of time.  Brythoneg, the precursor of Welsh, was the original language of Britain, and Welsh poetry all along the centuries has always simultaneously bemoaned the loss of Prydain and prophesized the return of Prydain into Welsh hands. The Welsh name "Lloegr" for England, (which quite literally means the "Lost Lands",) shows how this idea has been a central motif in Welsh thought for at least 1,500 years.

The epic poem "Armes Prydain", written in the 10th century urged the Welsh nation to unite under the leadership of Cadwaladr in the north and Cynan in the south to resist the Saxonic advance to preserve the idea of Prydain. The poem reaches a a stirring conclusion by stating " Yna y gosodant wr a elwir Owain yn frenin ar ynys y Brythoniaid"( Then they will set a man named Owain as king on the isle of the britons). And Y Mab Darogan himself, Owain Glyndwr also paid homage to this traditional view with his Tripartite Agreement in 1405 with Edmund Mortimer and Thomas Percy, where a much extended Wales( reaching to Six Oaks, within 10 miles of Birmingham) would co-exist with two other kingdoms within Prydain.

One of the advantages of Brexit( and least acknowledged so far) is the fact that England in due course will be forced at long last to forego its imperial delusions, and face up to the fact that it is a medium-sized European nation sharing this island with two other nations. It will also need to address the long-neglected truth that it is completely divided nation, with its constituent parts feeling totally at odds with each other.

In this eventual national reckoning, who can say what will eventually emerge. Perhaps England's ancient  kingdoms such as Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia could re-appear in a modern  guise. Would some parts of England which adjoin the border of Wales actually decide that a Welsh national vision of a future based on the power of language, land and people would be preferable to an England still in thrall to the City of London? Could Glyndwr's dream of an Extended Wales even be fulfilled to some extent in the future that we are now beginning to shape?

History, culture and political reality have now come together to offer the Welsh National Movement a golden opportunityin the wake of Brexit. Let's not waste it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Democracy- a problem for powermongers everywhere

WESTERN democracy has always paid homage to the principle of voting and the sanctity of the ballot box and elevated the whole process to be almost THE ultimate act of citizenship in modern society.

It could be argued that this has always been something of a false premise as voting in itself does not always lead to any meaningful change in society,

Even so, the horrific scenes in Catalunya yesterday, when the Spanish state basically tried to trample all over this basic democratic principle during the Independence Referendum was a truly black day for democracy in Europe. 

It was akin to a dystopian nightmare to witness the armed and faceless thugs of Spain's Police attacking ordinary citizens who merely wanted to exercise their democratic right to vote. Their unbelievable tactic of stealing ballot boxes from polling stations was quite simpy an affront to common human decency.

And all of this of course done in the full glare of the international media and the presence of ubiquitous smartphones recording every single police action.

According to reports this morning, 90% of those who managed to vote yesterday in Catalunya voted for independence,( 2 million votes) but up to 770,000 votes were stolen, which helped to reduce the overall turn-out in the referendum to 42%. 

This was obviously the thinking behind Spain's strong-armed tactics over the past week- i.e to pressurise people to stay at home in order try and reduce the turn-out and thus invalidate the vote itself.

Unfortunately for them, such arguments will now cut no ice with the international community in view of the blatant thuggery on display yesterday. The Spanish Government have now lost all credibility. They have in effect handed independence on a plate to the Catalan people.

The Catalunyan Government will probably announce over the next day or so that it is now an Independent state. Not only have they won the vote, they also won the moral argument yesterday- and that in itself will carry huge weight on the international stage.

This is not only a problem for the powermongers of Spain it is also a huge headache for the powermongers of the EU and the powermongers of the UK as well.

The European Union's silence about the tactics used by the Spanish state well in advance of the actual vote yesterday was an absolute disgrace. But perhaps it will lift the scales from many people's eyes about the real nature of the EU, including many nationalists in Wales who have been much too starry-eyed about the EU, and wilfully blind to its essentially anti-democratic, technocratic and empire-building mentality. Perhaps they will even begin to understand why so many people here in Wales voted to leave the EU last year.

Many people right across Europe will now be asking searching questions about the purpose of the European Union and re-evaluating its sanctimonious proclamations about its role in preserving democracy, peace and well-being across the continent for the past two generations. It may well be the case that yesterday will prove to be a watershed moment in Europe, and that it could herald the end of the European Union as we know it.

A New Europe of Nations, where national sovereignty and democracy is truly reinstated and where individual nations can pursue their own national interests but co-operate with each other is long overdue.

But the whole issue is also a huge headache for the powermongers at Westminster as well. On the one hand, the scenes in Catalunya yesterday and the EU's virtual complicity with the violence provides further grist to their mill and justifies the key LEAVE argument that the EU is a deeply anti-democratic institution, which the UK is well shot of.

On the other hand, expressing support for the Catalans' right to democratic expression means in essence supporting the principle of self-determination, and that could well encourage other places such as Scotland and Wales to follow suit.It will be interesting to see how they try to square this particular circle over the next few weeks. Tortured logic will no doubt be used, but it really does appear that a veritable pandora's box has now been opened with their newly-found adherence to sovereignty and democracy.

So, what can Wales learn from the Catalan Independence Referendum?

One of the key lessons is how real change can be effected from below. The Independence Referendum was only achieved because Catalan civic society basically insisted that their politicians deliver such a referendum.

The Catalan National Convention, made up of thousands of ordinary citizens from all over Catalunya was only established in 2012, but in five years it has managed to put independence for Catalunya centre stage on the political agenda.

The Convention  also organized the localized independence referendums in different parts of Catalunya, where individual communities had an opportunity of voting for independence. This series of local ballots over the past few years was a way of mobilizing and empowering Catalans in their own communities, and to prepare the groundwork for the national referendum for independence yesterday.

Could such localized referenda be organized here in Wales as preparation for our own Independence Referendum in due course? A Local Authority has to faciliate a referendum on any issue as long as a certain percentage of the local population sign a petition asking for such a vote.

Such an initiative could well prove to be very effective here in Wales because of our strong community affiliations. It could well be the way to educate and empower our own independence generation and build the energised and dynamic civic society that Wales so desperately needs.

Powermongers should beware. In Victor Hugo's words:  "There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come"

 

 

 

 

Annibynwyl:  independent co-creation in action

LAST Saturday, to celebrate Owain Glyndwr day on September 16, the first ever Annibynwyl was held in Caernarfon, the capital of Welsh-speaking Wales. The event held on the town's Stryd y Plas and Galeri venue was the sister event of the larger Indyfest held in Cardiff at the same time.

Over 200 people turned up in Caernarfon for a day of art, music, poetry, conversation, debate and politics arranged by YES Cymru Caernarfon.

The very successful event had several stand-out points, including a panel debate: "Independence- ready for the struggle?", which featured thoughtful contributions from Ben Gwalchmai of Welshpool, representing the new Labour for Independence group.

An evening of music and poetry at the town's Galeri venue featured the ever inspirational Lleuwen Steffan, and sensational new find Elidir Glyn, who took the place by storm with his outstanding rendition of the Welsh classic "Strydoedd Aber Stalwm"

All in all, the day was an interesting exercise in independent co-creation by the town's newly created YES Cymru group.

Co-creation is a concept much touted in local government circles as one way to develop service delivery for the future. It essentially consists of moving to a new model of citizen engagement with services on all levels, rather than relying on the traditional top-down, the "experts know best" model. It seeks to bring citizens together over and above traditional service boundaries to "co-create" the kind of services that individuals and communities require today. But as ever, in Wales, this encouraging concept is taking an eternity to get off the ground.

However, Annibynwyl- an event organized entirely by volunteers on a minimal budget- essentially showed how this can work in practice if the will to be involved and engaged towards a certain objective is there.

Annibynwyl was organized by a small group of around 15 local people ranging in age from individuals in their early twenties to early fifties, engaging together and pooling their different interests and talents for a common purpose.

The individuals concerned included media producers, church workers, translators, community organizers, social enterprise officers, university lecturers, language activists and graphic designers all working together over a number of weeks.

The actual organizing of the event itself was then entrusted to a smaller core group of six people which helped ensured accountability for completion of various tasks. All members were constantly kept in the loop and involved in the process by means of a group e-mail system and invitations to regular meet-ups.

The whole process was organic, fluid, anarchic: the complete anithesis of the conventional death- by- committee structure so beloved in Wales over the years.

The end result was a creative and dynamic event which showed what genuine independence could look like in Wales in future, where people join together to produce events and create change without waiting for guidance or leadership by the politicans or bureaucrats, who however well-intentioned at the outset have tended to choke the life out of civic life in Wales over the last generation or so.

Caernarfon's Annibynwyl tapped into that essential human component termed "enlightened self-interest" by theorist Alexis De Tocqueville, where individuals bring their own self-interest(.i.e the things that motivate them on a personal level) to meet other people's self-interest and then agree to pool those individual self-interests in order to co-operate in order to achieve a common objective.

The difference self-interests that motivated our group included:

*a desire to sustain and develop the Welsh language in future

*a desire to see a more socially just Wales

*a desire to work towards a more participative democracy in Wales.

* a desire to see young people accorded a rightful place in the national life of Wales 

* a desire to pay homage to Wales's greatest ever patriot, Owain Glyndwr and his 15 year struggle to achieve Independence for Wales

* a desire to see Wales tapping into its rich spiritual heritage in order to create a new kind of society here in future

* a desire to make use of the arts in an original and creative fashion to present the argument for independence in new ways to the people of Wales

These different self-interests blended together to create a vibrant and dynamic campaign which more than delivered on the day on Stryd y Plas and Galeri.

There is a ton of current literature which attests to the psychological and emotional benefits for individuals engaged in community/political engagement together, especially in an age where people tend to be so isolated and disgengaged on so many levels.

New friendships and new bonds have been created amongst the group members and a sense that this co-creation model is the start of something genuinely exciting and transformational for Wales.

"The challenge for YES Cymru, Caernarfon now is to develop this co-creation model into other avenues, and bring more people into the fold to expand it even further" said Gwion Hallam, Chairman of Yes Caernarfon.

 "I think that the use of the arts in the co-creation: music, poetry, drama and other such forms really have the potential to appeal to people who are turned off from conventional politics."

"We can use the creative energy and optimisim associated with the arts to effect change locally and nationally."

 With AWOKen, the new arts-based Independence grouping also lauching this week, there seems no lack of creative energy working towards Independence in Wales at the moment.

YES Rhyl, YES Dinefwr, and YES Llanelli groups are also all due to launch over the next week or so.

Referring to Glyndwr's heroic but ultimate failure to secure Independence for Wales, 16th Bard Sion Cent penned this ever optimistic and ever rebellious line : "Myn Duw mi a wn y Daw".

Dare we start to dream that there is some form of a silent revolution, however chaotic and embryonic that may be at present, now afoot in Wales...?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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National Independence is its own justification

A VERY wise freedom fighter once said to those who demanded to know the exact details of the future he was hoping to shape for his country:

"Can we say what our currency will be? NO

Can we say how we will defend ourselves? NO

Can we say how our vital services wil be run? NO

Can we say what our economy will be? NO

Because these are matters for our children

Becoming Independent  is ours"

That man was the Irishman Michael Collins, the mastermind of the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland, which eventually led to the creation of the Irish Republic. We still await the completion of Collins's dream of course in the form of the unification of Ireland, but Brexit and its ramifications could well deliver that over the next few years.

Michael Collins's words should be heeded by everyone in Wales who wish to see Independence for our country,  and they are particularly pertinent now in view of the fact that a new movement for Independence has just been set up in the form of YES CYMRU.

YES CYMRU, with 18 groups already established in different parts of Wales, aims to be a non-partisan grouping to take the case for Independence directly to the people of Wales, by encouraging individuals to talk to family and friends, neighbours and workmates about the merits of Independence. 

The "Independence in Your Pocket" handbook, with concrete facts and arguments about Independence is a great start. It means that people will have a wealth of information about the benefits of Independence for Wales in engaging with people they know in their own communities and further afield.

Similar moves in the past have tended to peddle the line that Wales is overwhelmingly a left-leaning country and that campaigns should be driven by this particular way of looking at the world.

This mode of thinking has also very clear in Plaid Cymru's narrative over the past few years, where they have to all intents and purposes tried to out labour Labour in Wales, and persuade people here that they are now the true socialist party of Wales.

Their narrow narrative about "those evil Tories" has even resulted in Plaid Cymru rejecting the opportunity to lead a Cabinet coalition to run Conwy Council which could have led to a significant breakthrough in a county, which has been significantly anglicised over past few generations.

Plaid's stagnation at the polls over this period, and their dogmatic and self-defeating stance over Conwy shows the limitations of this approach, and should stand as a clear warning to the new independence movement. 

Don't box the people of Wales into such narrowly defined ideological positions. Nationalists have to remember that there are Conservatives to be found on Ynys Mon, Aberconwy, Denbighsire, Powys, Pembroke and Monmouth amongst other places in Wales. They constitute a solid 25% of the electorate.

Many of these are what could be called small "c" Conservatives, also to be found in numbers in the Welsh-speaking areas in the west, not necessarily supportive of the punitive type of Conservatism pursued by Theresa May's government  at Westminster. Small "c" Conservatives place a great deal of emphasis on stability and rootedness as regards family, community and culture, along with  self-reliance and enterprise and have a healthy suspicion of any over-weening government which seeks to control their lives too much.

The UK Tory brand is about to be completely destroyed by Brexit and another bout of tribal in-fighting followed by an inevitable leadership contest: the sheer scale of this fall-out will prove both disenchanting and alienating for many natural conservative supporters.

Such supporters here in Wales could well be attracted by an alternative vision for Welsh Independence, as long as that proposition is kept as open and fluid as possible. We must remember that only 5% of individuals are members of political parties in the UK at present. People are completely scunnered( to use a good Scots word!) with narrow party dogma and self-serving political manouverings.

The Independence campaign has to take advantage of this distrust and distaste of convential party politics, and talk instead about all 3 million inhabitants of Wales, and how to make the most of the talent and potential of all people here, young, middle-aged and old.

Of course, people will seek specific details and assurances about a range of policy areas, and it would be extremely naive to believe that the case can be won without a wealth of information in such a information-rich age.

 Even so, the "Big's Man's" advice from Ireland over a century ago, about independence being its own justification, is still worth its weight in gold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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