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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:07 pm 
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Location: In the early days of a better nation
Welsh ‘performance’ will end in an independent nation

Bethan Jenkins (Neath, Plaid AM): “Now, please tell me on a scale of 1 to 5, how British are you? To explain, the closer to 5 in your definition, the more British you feel.”"1.”

“Sorry, do you mean 5? Did you understand correctly…?”

I start to interrupt her.

“Yes, I’m a 1. In fact, I don’t define myself as British at all.”

She stares at me, her eyes screwed up.

This is a conversation that I had recently with an interviewer from a company conducting a survey of Assembly Members and their political opinions. When I gave her my answer matter of factly, I don’t think that the interviewer quite believed what I was saying. Having travelled to Cardiff from London, the concept of a person failing to define themselves as ‘British’ was explicitly alien to her, and this was evident in her confused expression.

I have never defined myself as ‘British.’ This isn’t a form of protest, of finding a way to be different from others, it just never represented what I was, and am, as a person. Every time I went on holiday abroad as a child, I always told the locals firmly that I was ‘Welsh not British,’ even though many thought that Wales was in Switzerland, or a part of Germany. The British flag does not fill me with pride like the Welsh Dragon. It means nothing to me emotionally.

I am not British because it represents a political establishment which has undermined my country for centuries. I am not British because it represents an artificial creation of a ‘Union’ that Wales did not agree to. I am not British because I am Welsh- I was born in Wales, I grew up in Wales, I feel hiraeth for Wales every time I leave and return. I am Welsh, and even though the place where I live is not recognised as a formal nation- state, Wales is a place I will someday call an Independent Wales- a country free from all the negatives that I associate with ‘Britishness.’

Roger Owen, a lecturer in Theatre studies at Aberystwyth University wrote a superb article in 2001 regarding Welsh identity, and likened it to an improvised performance. He emphasises that Welsh identity is ‘driven by internal conflict, but kept intact by a (constantly updated) sense of historical tradition.’ We are a people who change and vary who we believe we are over the ages, and highlight differing reasons for being Welsh.

Some people may talk about how the Nonconformists of the 19th Century spurred the growth of Welsh identity by encouraging a new sense of community and culture; others may turn back to the traditions of Llywelyn Fawr and Owain Glyndwr. The Merthyr riots of 1831, the Miners strike of the 80’s, the rise of Welsh Rock bands in the 90’s - if you speak to people on a different street in different parts of Wales, they will surely give you a varying reason as to what makes them Welsh. Not one answer will ever be the same.

Roger Owen also believes that due to the fact that Welsh identity is not acknowledged by the political system, it is therefore a ‘performance’. It is not a nation-state and so that which happens in Wales is merely an ‘act’. Having written the article in 2001, it is interesting that he should define Wales in this way - two years after devolution and the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales. It seems that regardless of the fact that we have a degree of political autonomy, that politics has become much closer to the people, and that we have the beginnings of a civic society, the ‘performance’ will not end until we are an Independent Nation.

More people in Wales now define themselves as Welsh, not British since devolution, and I feel that this is in large a reaction to the development of the National Assembly for Wales, but we still have a long way to go in engraining the importance of the work of the Assembly in the minds of those who live and work in Wales.

The next step in the political and National journey for Wales will be empowering the National Assembly to pass primary laws. An All Wales Convention will be set up by the end of the year to begin this discussion and to build the consensus for a successful referendum before the end of the current Assembly cycle. As Wales grows politically, I hope that these new powers will become our ‘historical tradition’, the important element that binds us as people.

A nation to me would mean independence within the EU, and for that to be viewed as a positive step, not one that undermines other elements of the once British state. It would be about cooperation and the development of inter-relationships. So many people see nationalism in these isles as a negative force, in large part to justify the continuation of ‘ Britain’. Gwyn Alf Williams, a radical Welsh Historian once said “Wales has always been now…it is an artefact which the Welsh produce…It requires an act of choice.” I hope that our choice will be to make Wales a Nation, and that Welsh identity will change and vary in accordance with our new found and developing Nationhood.

http://ourkingdom.opendemocracy.net/200 ... nt-nation/

_________________
"The thistle rises and forever will" - MacDiarmid

NB - I am not the same person as the poster "Scottish republic".


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