A national movement can give Wales the hope it craves
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!