The Big Noes IV: Too Welsh

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Considering some of the stuff thrown at Wales and the Welsh over centuries it’s not surprising that some people will develop an inferiority complex.

Paranoia Fuel: “English-speakers will be forced to speak Welsh in an independent Wales!”

I don’t speak Welsh; by that I mean I would struggle to hold a conversation but could generally get the gist of what someone’s saying by picking up on one or two words/phrases. I don’t feel much regret that I can’t speak Welsh either nor do I feel any less Welsh because of that fact.

Most of my support for independence is based on sovereignty, disillusionment with the status quo as well as wanting a better functioning country and political system. Culture (broadcasting/media aside) is fairly low down the list for me; though, admittedly, that probably puts me in the minority amongst IndyWales supporters.

It would be completely wrong to say that negative attitudes towards the Welsh language are exclusive to Unionists; in fact, some of the strongest supporters of Welsh are Unionists, like those amongst the Welsh Conservatives.

However, amongst the more hardcore “I’m a Proud Welshman, but….” types, aggression towards the Welsh language goes hand in hand with their British nationalism. There’s a latent paranoia there about something that reminds them that maybe they’re not quite as “British” as they would like to think they are and maybe a regret that they’re not “Welsh” enough either.

Cymru Cringe: “Welsh culture is inferior to Anglophone culture.”

Cultural cringe is a phenomenon seen in many former colonies, but also in many stateless nations. Nationalists overcompensate for the inferiority complex by bearing massive chips on our shoulders, screaming racism at harmless banter and being too strident – even militant – in our defence of Welsh institutions, even when they cry out for reform.

What’s equally as damaging to the national psyche is the opposite – that any and all expressions of Welshness: learning our history, learning our language and taking ownership of our destiny is something to be ashamed of, ridiculed or somehow “backwards”.

This colonial mindset is often difficult to shake off and exists in otherwise successful countries like Australia, Scotland and New Zealand. However, since devolution Wales has proven beyond doubt that we’re more than capable of punching above our weight on cultural and sporting terms.

Now that we’re starting to see the investment come and local talent nurtured, Welsh broadcasting is going through a boom period – not necessarily for the big budget TV and film productions (many have flopped or been cancelled), but those produced first off for a Welsh audience (like Hinterland and Bang) on smaller budgets.

The Welsh National Opera is world-renowned, Welsh music (in both languages) perhaps gets more airplay than ever before, we have one of Europe’s finest art collections in Cardiff and despite have weaknesses in literature we make up for that with acting talent (that perhaps isn’t being given the opportunity or exposure they deserve).

Independence could well bring about a cultural renaissance if we don’t have to keep looking to London or Hollywood for inspiration or opportunities all the time (….occasionally isn’t so bad) and instead foster and nurture it ourselves, much like the Irish have done.

Rule Britannia: “British identity is stronger than Welsh identity in Wales.”

It depends on where in Wales you are but, as revealed in the 2011 census, the vast majority of people in Wales self-identify as either Welsh (65.8%) or English (13.8%).

A clear majority of people in every single local authority in Wales gave no British identity at all, while around 26% of people (on average) considered themselves X & British.

On paper, this suggests British identity in Wales is, on the whole, pretty weak; but it could also mean that the Welsh (and English living in Wales) are comfortable with multiple identities and even if they don’t consider themselves British still support the Union.

One Happy Family: “The United Kingdom is a family of equals; stronger together, weaker apart.”

There’s certainly an argument that at an individual and family level, the UK (or, more accurately, Great Britain) has been a success because we’re not killing each other anymore; I would be very, very surprised if anyone reading this had exclusively 100% Welsh ancestry.

Economically, culturally and politically it’s a different story and it’s those three things that should be the deciding factor in how your country is governed. Nevertheless, the argument for independence won’t just be won or lost over politics, identity or economics but what people feel.

Overcoming the sense that independence would be like “breaking up a family” is one of the biggest obstacles, but it should be seen as akin to moving out of your parents home for the first time – you live somewhere different, but family is family and you develop a more mature relationship over time.

There would be something sad about the UK dissolving and there would be aspects that would be missed – I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that.

It’s painful to say goodbye to something that’s lasted so long and shaped our lives. Those goodbyes sometimes need to happen though, especially when it’s outlived its useful life, is no longer the great influence it once was or has become an obstacle to mutual progress and mutual prosperity.

We’ve mixed blood, toil and sweat together. We’ve run a quarter of the planet together. We’ve found common cause. We had common goals. We had one union, but we no longer have one nation. We have diverging priorities and no longer have a common purpose or a common spirit.

It’s time to hand over the keys of power to a new generation and let those emerging nations names be said out loud once again without fear, without envy, without pity – and most importantly – without shame.

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