There was a time when our future was in doubt. It’s not so long ago that we emerged from a life clinging to a precarious existence in the depths of Wales’ canolbarth (centre) – and when extinction was a very real prospect. This is a powerful allegory – for we were reduced to near death because of the power of an idea...
Ever since the early modern period, we were labelled vermin – a pest that could lawfully be eradicated. Misunderstood, we were gradually hunted down; our survival was only possible due to the unique circumstances of Wales’ uplands, and a combination of strong characters (incomers from England and beyond among them of course) who sheltered and nourished us and saw value in us, until a time when circumstances allowed for our acceptance and our flourishing once more.
The beliefs and ideas of the past were shattered and we began anew – valued and treasured as a part of this territory in perpetuity. We have since prospered.
When I soar above these lands, it is impossible not to see a geographical unity, even if it is historical accident that the border should lie where Offa’s Dyke undulates along the hilly ground. From above it looks like a green napkin of different hues that’s been grabbed and picked up from the middle, then set down with the centre folds still all peaked and ruffled and the sides flattening and smoothing out into the sea.
One piece of material nevertheless. Interwoven. The fate of its inhabitants tied together despite the constant, bickering protests at their differences. And we have witnessed that fate being written from the very beginning and the emergence of ‘compatriots’, in the concept of the Cymry, at a time when most places had no sense of a patria.
But capital has no sense of history, of course. The green napkin, of late, has become speckled with bulging grey nodules. And in those nodules everything changed. A way of life, a religion, and in the end, in many of them, a language.
After the life was sucked from them by tragedies and neglect only humans could engineer, those nodules stopped humming with vitality, and as we began soaring higher and higher we could see the torpor setting in below. Lives became listless; beliefs lost their moral core; tradition and a pride in history faded. No enemy is greater than the one which has no heart to strike back at. In this baseless new world even we have become a commodity – our name adorning everything from cafes to Wealth Management companies.
This afflication of what has lately been called neoliberalism (narcissim has always lurked in the human soul) has spread everywhere, with the symptoms varying from poverty and deracination to depopulation and language decline.
But you must always be worse off then each other musn’t you? Each wanting to claim you are so much more badly afflicted, and wallowing in self pity to the extent you can’t even begin to fathom the pain of others.
This country of ‘multiple Waleses’; really, what gibberish is that? The pathology of a people divided from each other by historical tides, who see multiples where there exists only the singular. What country of people would imagine themselves existing in separate countries except for one deeply damaged and unable to reconcile itself with the idea that a country is, by definition, made up of different histories, interpretations and narratives?
What people? Only the conquered and divided.
Keep telling each other who occupies the real Wales, fools. And watch history pass you by and consign you to its books.
Or just maybe, you can do what you people have always done, as one of your greats, Gwyn Alf Williams, has told you. Reinvent yourselves in order to survive.
Recreate your world by embracing again the state of mind that actually typifies so many of your narratives. A knowledge and recognition of the deep underlying unity beneath the fissures and divisions of everyday being. A recollection that the power of the human will, most especially the collective will, can do almost anything with this mortal life of ours. And an attempt once more to escape the tir diffaith (wasteland) and secure your Ynys Afallon (a mythological land of plenty).
And this can only be done through one idea – the one form of thinking that believes in all people and their ability to reinvent themselves. For Conservatism only wants to hold history back and consign us to the entrenched hierarchies of the here and now; liberalism flatters to deceive you into thinking it is egalitarian, and ultimately, at best, only embraces change forced upon it while continuing to overwhelmingly reward those who have already inherited privilege.
Socialism is the only engine that will drive history forward and release the collective creative power of humanity.
So take those things that define Wales – its communities, its language, its spirit, its indefatigable desire to be different and more progressive, and turn it into something special again. Forge a socialism of your own, unencumbered by a neighbour whose own view of the world seems beyond reform and will simply not allow an end to imperialism and neoliberalism.
Because unless there is the idea, nothing will ever change. And this precarious existence will cease to be an existence any more.
It will probably make no difference to me, of course. Carrion tastes the same wherever you are. It would be apt, however, to see the people who saved me, save themselves.
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