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.
The Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s latest political vehicle, are apparently dominating the voting intention polls for the upcoming European Elections. Cue shock and outrage. How could this be? How could a party usurp their immediate ancestor, UKIP, a party built through twenty years of creeping cryptofascism, seemingly overnight? Rather than descending into amateur psephology, let’s keep it simple: if The Brexit Party are to be successful, it will be because they are called The Brexit Party.
As is the case whenever he mentions a devolved policy area, there’s a lot of handwringing going on about this tweet from Jeremy Corbyn regarding the National Health Service(s) in the UK:
There are criticisms that he is misrepresenting who is actually ‘in charge’ of healthcare –a devolved issue — throughout the UK, and accusations that he ‘only cares about England’. There are grains of truth here, but it’s worth interrogating these criticisms further.
Obviously it’s important to point out what policy areas are devolved: low political literacy is one of the biggest challenges we face in Wales. It’s also true that Westminster Labour are guilty of frequently disingenuously misrepresenting devolved issues.
But it’s also disingenuous to criticise Corbyn for talking about the Tories ruining the NHS. Because, devolved or not, Tory austerity is ultimately responsible for the difficulties in funding universal healthcare in Wales.
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.