If liberal politicians and media figures are to be believed, the most alarming phenomenon of contemporary British politics is an increasing polarisation and ‘political tribalism’, exacerbated on the right by the Brexit crisis, and on the left by the political possibilities introduced to popular discourse following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader. While often crudely labelled as a ‘populism’ in which the left and right are equal actors, what we are actually seeing here is the struggle for revived and emergent political movements to channel widespread-yet-inchoate demands into a tangible mandate for government.
We write as people who are not fluent Welsh-speakers to call on you to rename the National Assembly with the Welsh-only name “Senedd”.
We, as much as other people, want to see the Welsh language flourish and wish to see and hear it in our daily lives. We believe that giving our democratic body in Wales a Welsh name would send a message that the Welsh language belongs to everyone regardless of their background.
It is as clear now as 50 years ago: Welsh literature of any mode will never attain any cultural capital within the wider UK. There is, however, an ironic power in this. While the fragility of a culture under perennial threat is obvious to anyone invested in it, that it holds no value for a wider hegemonic literary culture is the very element which makes it so vital. We have our own literary culture, separate from and subversive to that which threatens it.
Yn y misoedd diwethaf, ar hyd ac ar led Cymru, daeth dau fudiad protest gwahanol ond rhyng-gysylltiedig i’r amlwg, gan ddod at ei gilydd yn ein prifddinas. Y cyntaf yw’r adain Gymreig i’r mudiad rhyngwladol Extinction Rebellion a fu allan ar y stryd yn protestio ym Mawrth ac Ebrill eleni, pan ddaeth ymgyrchwyr a disgyblion ysgol i’r Senedd i fynnu bod Llywodraeth Cymru’n cyhoeddi ‘argyfwng hinsawdd’. Yna fis Mai, cafwyd Gorymdaith dros Annibyniaeth ‘All Under One Banner’ yng nghanol dinas Caerdydd. Dyma’r digwyddiad mwyaf amlwg a fu hyd yn hyn gan y mudiad Cymreig diweddar dros annibyniaeth.
Jacques Ranciere’s Aesthetics and its Discontentssuggests that ‘the exploited rarely require an explanation of the laws of exploitation’, and that ‘the dominated do not remain in subordination because they misunderstand the existing state of affairs but because they lack confidence in their capacity to transform it.’ In Adam Price’s Wales: The First and Final Colony,the newly-elected Plaid Cymru leader diagnoses various such laws of exploitation imposing themselves upon the people of Wales, and identifies a lack of confidence as the prime reason for this continued plight. Yet his insistence on explaining the precise method of national subordination, along with his method of delivery, ultimately undermines his message.
Before we start, let us accept a basic truth: there is nothing inherently Welsh about the Welsh media, and there is no such thing as a Welsh public sphere. The extent and consequences of this have been ably documented and analysed countless times, but to summarise: the average Welsh resident goes through their day learning almost nothing of the political machinations that govern their lives, be that their local council, the Welsh Assembly, or the UK government in Westminster. This is, evidently, a gravely unhealthy situation for the rump democracy that is the devolved Welsh state.
Throughout his writing, the late Mark Fisher refers to the concept of ‘hauntology’ to describe the way in which traces of the past maintain a ghostly presence in the artworks of today. We often observe this phenomenon in texts that evoke a feeling that the horizons of political possibility have contracted: that ‘not only has the future not arrived, it no longer seems possible.’ Deployed in a British context, this usually refers to a future cancelled by the rolling back of the state and its replacement with neo-liberal marketisation, and the cultural ossification and impoverishment that has resulted.
Watching Netflix’s new ‘British’ teen comedy-drama Sex Education, viewers in Wales – and especially Newport – may well be struck with this same sense of melancholic uncanniness, of ‘a time that is out of joint’. For despite the shows liberatory and groundbreaking depiction of teenage sexuality, Sex Education is haunted by a Welsh culture and politics that has either died or never was, and whose presence is felt by its absence.