A national movement can give Wales the hope it craves

Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey. Picture: Llinos Dafydd

 

Aled Gwyn Jôb

Most of our attention since the election has been paid to Theresa May’s defeat in the election ‘she called but failed to turn up for’, as Green MP Caroline Lucas put it.

But it was also a stunning defeat for the UK tabloid newspapers which have been virtually dictating government policies for the last forty years.

The Sun and the Daily Mail threw the kitchen sink at Jeremy Corbyn during the election.

But despite their apocalyptic warnings, the indefatigable Mr Corbyn achieved a remarkable 40% of the vote.

With the declining tabloids now neutralized as an electoral force and other forms of alternative media emerging all the time, there is a real opportunity to craft a new political future for our nation.

Scrapheap

As someone who has experience of depression and anxiety, I have found that social engagement is a key part of one’s recovery.

When you reach out to other people and engage in new social/political activities with others, your whole mindset changes.

You start to see yourself differently and you start to see life differently. You see opportunities and possibilities where previously problems and limitations reigned supreme.

And when you think about it, Wales is a country pretty much plagued by depression and anxiety at this point in time.

There is, after all, a lot to be depressed about. Our industrial base was wiped out during the 80es and a whole generation consigned to the scrapheap in scores of valley communities.

The poverty and a myriad of social problems associated with drink, drugs, and gambling which plague these former industrial communities speak for themselves.

And the immediate future seems to better. We live in an increasingly anxious nation; unsure what Brexit holds, and at the complete mercy of a Westminster establishment which may well decide not to replace the monies that Wales received from the European Union.

Slipping away

But we’ve lost more than jobs. We’ve also lost a part of our national character.

Our language has retreated further and further over the past generation. The census of 2011, showed even Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire falling under the threshold of 50% Welsh speakers.

Such a decline has obvious social and cultural implications. But what about the psychological implications of seeing your mother tongue – the very core of who you are as an individual- slipping away every day?

What about the deep personal hurt felt by thousands every single day of not being sure whether they can use Welsh in everyday transactions in communities which have been Welsh-speaking for 1,500 years?

There is surely some correlation between this phenomenon and the significant increase in mental health issues in Welsh -speaking Wales since 1979.

The same goes for our tradition of faith, which has always co-existed with the development of this nation over time and served to preserve our traditions for hundreds of years.

Its retreat leaves more and more individuals of all ages at the mercy of a completely individualistic and materialistic culture.

The progressive atomisation of society and soaring levels of loneliness reported amongst all ages in Wales has created a fraught, alienated and hopeless nation.

Enthusiasm

What’s the answer to depression and anxiety on a personal level? Social Engagement.

What’s the answer to depression and anxiety at a community/national level? Social Engagement.

I believe that Yes Cymru, the new non-partisan grouping campaigning for Independence for Wales, has the potential to promote this sense of social engagement throughout Wales.

It can provide a cause that can enthuse people, inspire people and energise people to engage with each other and with our communities like never before.

New groups are popping up across the country (there are 18 at the last count).

Yes Cymru’s strength is that they recognise that different parts of Wales will have different ideas about what Wales means for them.

They allow each group the freedom to promote the case for independence in their own particular way.

What’s particularly encouraging is that many of the people in these groups are completely new to the national movement, with fresh ideas and creative ways of looking at and promoting independence.

Yes Cymru seeks above all to encourage and empower individuals in all parts of the country to talk to their family, friends, neighbours and co-workers about Independence for Wales.

The newly published handbook “Independence in Your Pocket” is full of concrete facts and arguments for independence.

But that’s just the start of what is meant to be an animated and continuous national discussion about Independence in both Welsh and English.

Grassroots

Plaid Cymru have obviously achieved a huge amount for Wales over the years. They continue to be served by dedicated and hard-working representatives at both Cardiff and London.

But it has always been a top-down party, fixated on winning parliamentary/assembly seats for specific candidates at specific elections.

Yes Cymru presumes a much more co-operative way of persuading people of the merits of independence.

It’s not about thinking that particular individuals at particular elections are the answer: it’s about saying that all of us are the answer, and that by working together as people in communities all over Wales we can come up with creative answers to meet whatever problems come our way.

It’s a grassroots and participative approach far removed from the “we know best” mentality that so bedevils Westminster and Cardiff Bay.

Wales has huge untapped natural resources in wind and water, a burgeoning food and drink industry, cultural potential, international tourism and economic enterprise.

These will obviously be at the core of the Independence campaign over the next few years which will seek a national plebiscite, probably in the wake of the next Scottish Independence referendum in 2019.

But, the main resource and treasure that Wales has is its own people, all 3 million of them.

This social capital – the close links that individuals have with each other and our communities and the trust that this social capital engenders amongst people – will be the main driver for independence.

If Yes Cymru can tap into this rich vein of social capital in Wales, and persuade people that they can truly be part of the new political terrain we now inhabit, an Independent Wales could be upon us sooner than we think.

I sense there’s a real thirst for fresh involvement, engagement, participation, and meaning in our communities at this time of great change.

And dare I say it, a spiritual longing for a more cohesive, a more equal, and a more people-centred country, free from the venal, money-orientated and the class-riven Westminster model which has long lost all its integrity.

Let us hope that more and more will now join up with this independence project so we can lift the heavy cloud of depression and anxiety which has hung over this nation for too long!

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22 Comments

  1. First thing first! Leanne Wood needs to be removed as leader of Plaid!!

  2. Nick Stradling

    The depression Wales suffers from is a form of PTSD, similar to that experienced by child abuse victims. The neglect and Self harm shown can also be compqred to that of someone in an abusive relationship.

    In the English language, dependence is a synonym for addiction. Were Wales a person, a psychologist would analyse her history and have a clear roadmap in how to move forward. As the article hints at, its time to talk about Wales in our social and family circles, stop paying attention to institutions that neglect her and deny her abuse the air of silence.

    • This is true. From Adam Price’s ‘The First and Final Colony’;

      ‘Colonialism in any society and in any period is an act of violation which results in a kind of trauma whose effects are felt for many generations. Hence the most long-lasting and deep-seated legacy of colonialism is psychological. It was the mixed-race French-speaking Caribbean Frantz Fanon, practising psychiatry and preaching revolution in occupied Algeria, who first realised this and began to write painfully but eloquently about the psychology of colonialism. Welsh psychologists and psychotherapists by contrast have been almost completely silent on this theme. Dr Dilys Davies of Guy’s Hospital, the only professional psychiatrist to have written at all about colonialism’s effect on the Welsh psyche, suggests that – as with Rees Davies the historian, it is not in the professional interests of the Welsh psychiatrist to appear too ‘parochial’. Dr Davies, by contrast, stands out as the Frantz Fanon of Wales and virtually the entirety of what follows is based on her pioneering work .

      As with many other things, the Irish have a head start on us in thinking about the psychology of colonialism. An important feature according to the psychologist Vincent Kenny is the way in which the Irish have internalised their own oppression. One way of overcoming the feeling of powerlessness that flows from being dominated is to identify with the dominator – sometimes even unconsciously. It is a kind of sociological equivalent of Stockholm syndrome – what Fanon calls ‘adhesion’ to the dominator, the Brazilian pedagogist Paolo Freire called “housing the other” and the German-jewish psychologist Erich Fromm called an “inner duality”. It goes by many names but its self-destructive consequences are only obvious: our selves becomes divided against ourselves. We become self-oppressing. It should be no surprise therefore that Beriah Gwynfe Evans, the Secretary of Cymru Fydd, was an enthusiastic exponent of the Welsh Not as a young teacher- and that its use was far more widespread among voluntary schools prior to 1870 than in State schools thereafter implying that parents generally approved of its use. Was Welsh as the language of the majority murdered or did it commit suicide? The question is in some ways irrelevant because both realities are in fact the parallel outcomes of the selfsame process. (The Welsh Not was also an early example of the insidious effects of performance related pay – since the teachers were paid by results and Welsh didn’t form part of the formal curriculum, the use of Welsh was actively discouraged by the teachers)’

  3. A big YES for YesCymru!

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      As long as YesCymru does not get hijacked by the Left and excludes centrists and centre-rightists and more capitalistic types I will fully support them. But with Welsh movements, that exclusion of other economic-political opinions is always a concern.

  4. “Yes Cymru’s strength is that they recognise that different parts of Wales will have different ideas about what Wales means for them.

    “They allow each group the freedom to promote the case for independence in their own particular way.”

    Otherwise known as saying all things too all people. Very much like the Lib Dems then

    • Like it Gareth,

      Spot on as far as the first two comments go and partially there with the first half of the third. However, whether Tory, Labour or Lib Dems YesCymru is nothing like them at all they are a Cymreig founded and based organisation not a foreign and British based one.

      Let’s not take away from its founder or the perople invloved at this very early stage by comparing it to anything outdated, divisive and decrepid as what the British have to offer.

    • ‘Otherwise known as saying all things too all people. Very much like the Lib Dems then’. Think you’re being a bit harsh there Gareth. It’s more a case i think of uniting as many people as possible around the aim of independence for wales.

    • An independence movement HAS to be “all things to all people” though doesn’t it? Otherwise what we’re campaigning for is a one party state!

      • Sorry, when I said ‘all things too all people’ I probably should have said say this in the north and that in the south.

        It was a bit tongue in cheek of me to reference he Lib Dems, but they famously say one thing in Labour seats and one thing in Conservative seats, one thing in rural areas and one thing in urban areas.

        What YesCymru need is one solid coherent message that’ll resonate with everyone in Wales, regardless of geography, wealth, political affiliation, etc. and I don’t see that message at the moment.

        • Nicholas Stradling

          Gareth, the message is – independence is best for Wales. As you correctly point out, many political affiliations, doctrines needs welcoming.

        • Not enough, not soon enough? Have you joined YesCymru? Because non of us can do anything form the outside looking in, you have to join and commit to an Independent Cymru.

          I’ve joined and I’m not home yet, but later this year I’ll be there!

          Just remember Gareth each YesCymru group is local and deals with all local issues within their specific area. This is obviously without the pressure from Westminster or their Llackies within Cymru.

          You have nailed it on the head when you talk about the geographical and traditional differences, but we have to remember the British have divided nations before to weaken them.

          The message is dim gorffwys nes Annibyniaeth! Shout it load and shout it clear!

          Regards,

          Dafydd

        • If by coherent message you’re after party style “message discipline” on policies on e.g. tax and spending then I think it’s unrealistic. Yes isn’t going to have policies on those sorts of things because it’s not a political party – it’s about offering choices. The key message IS “We should have the choice”. Not “We should do X”

  5. Gordon Murray

    Dafydd ap Gwilym.
    I like what you are saying, but being the pedant I have to point out that it is the Cymreig who are actually ‘the British’.
    The Angles Saxons Vikings Scots et al came over to Brython and pushed the natives back into what we now call Wales.
    It’s not Britain, or the British who are your ‘enemy’ but Whitehall and the Westminster government.

    That said I would offer some advice to fellow Celts seeking national self determination, gained from bitter experience from indyref#1 here in Scotland.
    Do not accept or believe propaganda from the state broadcaster brainwashing you into believing your nation is ‘too wee too poor’ and your People ‘too stupid’ to run your own affairs
    You may be surprised and impressed how much potential your nation actually possses in its own right from both natural and human resources.
    Put it another way, Wales is a better off than nearly half the member nations of the UN.
    Take Malta as an example and ask yourself what does Malta, independent from London and thriving since 1964, posses that Wales does not?

    More importantly however is that the algorithms that operate social media tend to filter out ideas or information that do not agree with your own opinions and prejudices.
    British nationalists are sheilded from information that contradicts their world view and so you end up talking only to the converted.
    Social media it turns out is a great comfort blanket but limited in its ability to reach out to ‘the dark side’ and bring new converts to the light.
    Beware that with Yes Cymru you do not expend your energies preaching to your own Welsh choir.

    • Being a pedant, I have to point out that amongst the Weksh, the English word “British” can gave lots of different meanings. You can get people using “British” as in “Welsh, not Scottish or English”, but using it to mean “covering the whole island of Britain, and by implication the culture dominating that island at present and the government in Westminster” is perfectly normal. There’s quite a complex history of the words we have used to describe ourself, in both our languages, but this probably isn’t the time to go into it! Suffice it to say that how Dafydd used the words would have been understood and acceptable to most Welsh people, even though they have knowledge of their own country’s history. Now, on a more important point! As far as I can see, the whole point about Yes Cymru groups is that they exist outside social media – engaging with people on the ground. Yes, social media will be used, amongst other ways, to advertise things they are doing, but the whole point about them is arranging meetings and events, I think. Things in the real world.

      • Gordon Murray

        iantoddu I admire your resolve but can I point out a wee bit of the experience that the Yes movement in Scotland has found and that is that networking on social media was an absolute godsend in breaking the monopoly that the state broadcaster and its acolytes in the MSM has had over news & current affairs.
        Facebook & twitter can expose government misinformation and mendacity within minutes and spread amongst social networks far quicker than public meetings or pamphleting ever could.
        One reason they are putting out so much false news is to undermine confidence in social media.
        They have recognised how instrumental it was during indyref#1.
        Always be prepared to learn from the mistakes of others. Nobody is going to live long enough to make them all for themselves.

        • Dear Gordon,

          I think, like many of us, you are going to need to update your library somewhat.

          The word ‘Britain’ first appears in the Greek writer Diodorus Siculus’ work in the 1st century BC and was subsequently used by the Romans and everyone else that invaded these isles. He called the main Island ‘Prettania’ (Greek Prettanikē) that is island of the Pretani/Priteni, meaning ‘painted or tattooed ones’. The same word is used in the modern language of Cymreag for ‘Britain’ which is Prydain. Diodorus drew much from Pytheas who wrote in the 4th century BC, indeed it may have been Pytheas who first used the word (which Diodorus picked up on) after his journey from Massalia to Amorica and then on to circumnavigate these isles in the 4th century BC. However, Pytheas (like other classical writers before the 1st century BC) called the people of the island ‘Albiones’ (of the isle of albion), possibly a reference to the south east coast chalk cliffs (albus/white) exposed after the land bridge was submerged and the isles cut off around 5,000 BC. It is now believed that the word Albion(es) is a far earlier Celtic word dating to before the 6th century BC, whether it has a different meaning or not still remains unknown.
          It is in the works of Strabo that the word Pretannia regularly appears, but with the ‘P’ replaced by a ‘B’ giving the alternative spelling of Britannia. The Elder Pliny also confirms the use of Albion referring to the main island and Britannias (all the islands together).
          Therefore it is by this misspelling or for reasons of pronounciation that the word Britain was subsequently used by the Romans, Saxons, etc.
          After the 1st century AD no-one paid much attention to the ethnicity of these isles other than when talking with disdain about the northerly tribe of the indigenous Picti (painted ones).

          So, the word Pretani may have been used by our ancestors the indigenous Celts, but one that they borrowed from the people of Armorica that described them to Pytheas (the painted folk across the channel). It was used in disdain after the emergence of Roman Britain and thereafter to make and give the subesquent invaders a feeling of belonging. Ultimately, dragging us all into one of the most evil empires mankind has seen, the ‘British Empire’! Therefore the roots of the modern Cymreag word for Prydain, give a nod to our much older Celtic language and go farther back (to mean painted/tattooed) than the later word ‘Britain’ which came to represent a multitude of sins at home and abroad. Either way they are words ‘given’ to us. As is the abhorrent Saxon word and label ‘wælisc’ (meaning ‘foreigners’), in place of our post AD 577 name ‘Cymru’ which is who we really are (‘land of fellow countrypeople’), hence we are Cymreig not British.
          In case anyone wants to debate the origiins of the wahl word they can save their fingers some typing. I am aware of the origins of the word before it was used here in these isles. It is still used in that context within these isles to which I relate.

          The word ‘Brython’ is more of a back formation of the more commonly used ‘Brithonic’ which is a branch of the Indo-European languages rather than initially a place. However, who knows as we study previous archaeological evidence from a new perspective and new evidence comes to light, it may be that Brython has more significance as a place than we previously thought.

          Celtic as a language emerged from the western fringes of these isles which were a part of the general Atlantic Arc of trading peoples from the Orkneys down to the Iberian peninsular. This lingua franca of trade spread into Europe and not out of it as previously believed and taught, yet another reason for an update to our books! This new line of thought is relying on new archaeological evidence (and not the classical writers or texts repeated from antiquarians down the ages to, sadly, some historians and archaeologists today) and places the spread of the Celtic language into a chronological order from the west to the east in more and more new studies.

          There is also more evidence coming to light which backs the theory myself and other, far more notable, people have come to study and discuss over the years regarding the outdated theories of the invader killing or displacing the indigenous people. Bearing in mind, to the victor goes history as well as the spoils. The Romans, literate as they were, made themselves big in battle and were only really interested in the lives of individual Roman emperors, generals, politicians or writers, anything outside of this remit is rather sketchy. Suetonius’ book ‘The Twelve Caesars’ is more concerned with the victories over the so-called uncivilised and the individual’s achievements than anything here or elsewhere.

          Moving onto the relatively few battles against the indigenous peoples of these isles, for example as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (emphasis on ‘Saxon’ and Wessex) these are likely to have been exaggerated to stroke the ego of the ‘heroic’ warrior. Although don’t get me wrong, I find them fascinating as a peep-hole into the period wrongly called the dark ages to early medieval and as an insight into the Saxon psyche, as well as the history.

          Returning to the Atlantic Arc on the western fringes as a coastal trading zone, the next zone is the Channel zone from Hampshire to (and including part of) Kent, with Essex to The Wash being the Southern North Sea zone. The Atlantic zone had more in common with the Mediterranean than the Channel zone, which had more in common with the near continent and the Southern North Sea including NE Europe and Scandinavia.

          By the time of the Claudian invasion of AD 43 the Channel zone had become so ‘continental’ that this is where the invasion force landed, not Richborough in Kent. Also there were friendly tribes who would suppport or not oppose the landing. Therefore Suetonius’ account of the many victories of the general Divus Vespasian (later the Emporer Vespasian) in the south and south west has to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
          It is mainly in the South West where my humble area of expertise lies. The Cornubian peninsular, the tribal area that was Dumnonia, which included modern day Kernow, Dyfnient, Somerset and Dorset. Here for example, the work of etymologists, linguists and the relatively new theory which debunks the invasion, kill and displace theory has reached some fascinating conclusions. Place names in modern day Devon, for example, have always been thought to basically represent a purely Saxon landscape with the odd ‘Celtic’ place name remaining. However, that theory was based on large scale invasion and displacement. Through linguistic research we now know that Old English developed distinctly from Old German due to the Celtic speakers’ influence on this language. Like modern German, in the Saxon language the meaning of words in a sentence depended on the different endings of the words, whereas the indigenous Celtic influence here meant that the meaning of the sentence depended on the order of the words used. Which is why we speak and read the English language the way we do today. This could not have happened if the vast majority of Celts had been killed or displaced as previously thought. Also, etymologists are beginning to peel back the English place names, to study the Saxon underneath. Which now means they are beginning to be able to back format the place names into what is called South West British. This in turn became primitive Kernowek when separated from the rest of the indigenous people across the Bristol Channel, whose language became known as primitive Cymreag. This was after the defeat by a Saxon Army at the Battle of Dyreham (Glos) AD 577.
          The same theory is being confirmed by the work of Professor Francis Pryor, from eastern, south east and southern England, in a westward direction. He is theorising that there were even less Anglo-Saxons in these areas than in the west.

          We do not know how many Celts left or stayed, but there must have been a significant number who stayed that assimilated, became ‘Englisc’ by speaking the language, changing or taking up a Saxon name to either keep their land, if they had any, and/or progress within the new regime if they could. The laws made by King Ine of Wessex (late 7th / early 8th century AD) treated both Englisc and Wealisc equally, but were slightly heavier handed or less favourable, depending on the circumstances, when it came to the Wealisc.

          We also know that Primitive Kernowek was still spoken in isolated pockets in 10th century AD Dorset. It also continued to be spoken in Devon (being the largest area of what was Dumnonia). These are recorded in several grave markers I have studied in the Bovey Valley, South Devon and South Hams (River Dart to River Plym) areas. Dating is difficult, but we see markers that could date from the 6th century through to the 8th century AD in Latin, therefore being part of the Celtic Church, with South West British names and the odd Irish.

          There would have been people, call them refugees, that fled the Roman advance which stopped at the east bank of Isca (Dumnonium) River Exe at Exeter. The same would have happened into what became Cymru and the northern lands. There was a larger movement of people from Cymru, Dyfnient and Kernow towards and after the end of the Roman occupation to Breizh, but to say people were pushed to the western fringes is not correct anymore.

          Finally, I feel I must add, many people have got caught up in this whole DNA craze to find out who they are! Unfortunately, ideal as it is for forensics, breaking down exactly who we are is far more complicated and this discipline is still in the early stages of development. Each time the geneticists solve one problem or issue another pops up. It is a very complicated process, subject to and open to abuse. Hence I would recommend that no- one pays money for a test because it is nowhere near accurate at this early stage.
          I recently emailed Professor Barry Cunlliffe regarding the question of where we are at this moment in time in terms of identifying the origins of our ancestors through DNA. His reply I received over the weekend.

          “Dear Dafydd,

          There is a massive amount of new ancientDNA evidence being published at the moment and it is all becoming much more complex than was once thought …  I have asked a colleague, … , who is a geneticist, to write a chapter summing up the present state of the debate for a book I am editing. As soon as I have it I will ask if I can send you a copy. It will be interesting to see what he makes of it all.”

          So, there you are, not only have I had to change my library, accept new thoughts and updated ones (which have thrown some of what I thought I knew, completely out of the window), but there is also this whole new approach through linguistics, etymology and the fascinating yet complex question of DNA.

          Re YesCymru and the other comments I refer you to iantoddu’s comment of earlier today otherwise I’d only be repeating what he says.

          Books on the above subjects:

          Britain Begins (Oxford), Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe
          Britain BC & AD (Harper Collins), Prof Francis Pryor
          Ancient Celtic Place-Names in Europe and Asia Minor (Blackwell), Patrick Sims-Williams
          The Place names of Roman Britain, A.L.F. Rivet & Colin Smith
          The Origins of The British (Robinson), Stephen Oppenheimer.
          The Twelve Caesars (Penguin), Suetonius

          Regards,

          Dafydd

      • Annwyl iantoddu,

        Totally agree and yes it is very complicated. However, that complication has always come from the, I would say, ‘British establishment which is controlled by the English elite via Westminster and their Llackies (as I call them) within Cymru and other regions, in recent years. Obviously, Anglo-Norman Winchester, other royal sites, itinerant courts and other places further back in time.

        I am glad more people are seeing what YesCymru are all about, good to hear other voices (okay read other texts, but ya know what I mean) than me own!

        I am about to reply to Gordon as I have not been available most of the weekend. You may find it interesting!

        Best Regards,

        Dafydd

  6. Nick Stradling

    As mentioned an Independence campaign HAS to be closer to “all things to all people” – it’s not a political party 🙂 You can’t run a Yes campaign by alienating people on divisive issues. Different people have different reasons for wanting independence, and for recognising the benefits. For example, I’d prefer to be in the EU. But that’s a small matter to me compared to out the UK. Given choice of OutEUOutUK or InEUInUK – i’ll happily take the former. The banner is Independence and sovereignty. When that is achieved, the political parties get on with the democracy like in a normal country.

  7. Rydw’i w di mwynhau darllen y erthygl yma yn fawr iawn, diolch Aled! This is a powerful testimony linking personal experience to a vision of a future for Wales that really resonates. Your description of an atomised society starting to be healed by grass roots social engagement is exactly what has drawn me to yescymru. The idea that the answers to our problems lie within our own gift to collectively solve, is empowering and exviting. I think we have an opportunity not to be missed, to co-create something better out of the current shambolic status quo.

  8. Gethin ap Gruffydd

    WILL BELIEVE THIS TO BE FOR REAL WHEN I SEE YOU ALL RUSH TO BOLGOED ON 9TH JULY TO LAUNCH LIBERATION OF MYNYDD Y GWAIR, IF YOU CANNOT DO THAT THEN NOT AN HOPE OF LIBERATING YOUR COUNTRY, THAT IS REALITY FIGHT BACK FOR REAL. NO MORE FB FANTASY AND WISHFUL THINKING – TIME TO GET REAL! GETHIN.

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