If Wales is to win the fight against oppression, we first need to stop oppressing ourselves
Gareth Ceidiog Hughes
I’ve heard what happened at Tryweryn described as an ‘imagined’ grievance.
What was particularly troubling was that it was a proud Welshman who described it in such a curious and thoughtless manner.
It happened in the context of having had the temerity to demand a Tryweryn Tax, so Wales can profit from its own resources and protect our NHS.
I can’t quite believe this needs to be said, but apparently it does, so…
Well I’ve got news for you. We did not imagine the drowning of Capel Celyn in 1965. We did not imagine, the pain, anguish and fury. We did not imagine the destruction of a Welsh-speaking community against the express wishes of a nation. We did not imagine the bulldozers demolishing Welsh homes as they callously demolished Welsh rights.
We did not imagine Liverpool City Corporation taking the water, not only to help quench its thirst, but to sell on at a profit.
Nor did we did not imagine the fact that vast profits are still made from that water; profits that were made possible by trampling on Welsh rights. We most certainly did not imagine the fact that Wales does not share in that profit.
There are those who take issue with the moral case for Wales being fairly compensated for its resources being articulated; as if it were somehow unseemly, or illegitimate. Such people are talking unadulterated cobblers of course.
Because something has been normalised, and is the status quo – that does not necessarily make it just.
The history of human progress has been to point out the unfairness of the status quo, and to demand better. That is also its future. That is the future of Wales too if we choose to grasp it.
A pernicious colonial mindset is embedded so deep into the psyche of some that they get very angry when you suggest that they deserve better. The cold hard truth of subjugation is too painful to acknowledge and they lash out. If only they directed their fury at those doing the subjugating.
It is one thing to be accosted by someone with precious little knowledge of Wales, who cannot conceptualise it as a nation in its own right. It is quite another to be accosted by one of your compatriots.
It’s not an enormous shock when a few people from across the border get a bit uppity at the thought of paying a fair price for your resources when they’re accustomed to the opposite. It is an idea that they will have to get used to however, because it’s not going away.
Such people protest that bad things have happened in England too. The fact that the establishment is quite capable of screwing over people in England too isn’t a particularly persuasive argument for allowing them to continue to do it to us. If anything, it highlights how rotten the system as it’s currently constituted is. My mother taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right when I was at the around the age of five.
I’ve called for a Tryweryn Tax so that Wales gets a fair share of the profit that is made from pumping water out of the country. It would be a bonanza for the public purse and could help us protect our NHS. We’re probably looking at billions of pounds. I fail to see what is objectionable about demanding that Wales be treated fairly so that it can better take care of its citizens.
It’s like some people don’t believe Wales is good enough, or deserving enough to demand a fair share of the profit made from its own resources. Like they’ve been conditioned to believe that they don’t deserve any better.
Unfortunately, this is the legacy of a colonial system we have yet to come to terms with in Wales.
What is colonialism if not an abusive relationship between two nations?
Colonialism has had pernicious effect on the Welsh psyche. There is a profoundly sad and terrible irony in attacking those who speak up and point out the injustice done to you and your compatriots.
Victims of abusive relationships can of course themselves become abusers too. The same is true for colonialism. There is no doubt that many Welsh people were enthusiastic participants in the exploitation wrought by the British Empire. Many participated in slavery. That is another painful truth that must be acknowledged.
The psychologist Vincent Kenny has written about how the Irish internalised their own oppression. It’s pretty safe to say that the same is true for the Welsh.
In a speech to the Institute of Welsh Politics Annual Address in 2009 the now Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: “Colonialism in any society and in any period is an act of violation which results in a trauma whose effects are felt for many generations. The most long-lasting and deep-seated legacy of colonialism is psychological.
“One way of overcoming the feeling of powerlessness that flows from being dominated is to identify with the dominator – sometimes even unconsciously.”
It’s a similar dynamic that causes hatred of the Welsh language and the people who speak it, within toxic elements of our society.
French-speaking Caribbean psychiatrist Franz Fanon wrote about the psychology of colonialism in occupied Algeria. He refers to ‘adhesion’ the dominator. It’s been described as a sort of sociological Stockholm syndrome.
It is a form of self-oppression. Before winning the fight against oppression, we need to stop oppressing ourselves. Indeed, that is half the battle.
We need to realise that we deserve better. We deserve to be able to control our own resources and to profit from them.
Pretty much every nation in the world can control and profit from its own resources. The idea that Wales demanding the ability to do the same is unreasonable is both absurd and insulting.
Should we decided we want to, we should be able to introduce a Tryweryn Tax, so that we can fund our priorities like the NHS.
In Wales we need an awakening, some of us more than others, to come to terms with the injustice wrought on this nation and its people.
Only then can we transcend it.