My son turned seven today. He asked for the usual kind of things a seven year old wants – a make your own erupting volcano kit, the original Planet Earth series on DVD. A book about castles. He wanted to take his friends to the climbing wall in Barry Island and eat knickerbocker glories. I think he’s had a good day.
But the real gift I wanted to give him couldn’t be wrapped. I wanted to give him something that would last, something meaningful that would have a real impact on his future. Something that would be in keeping with the confident, optimistic approach he has to life, and that would help him to keep hold of his boundless faith in the power of possibilities.
I wanted to give him a future in which Wales is independent.
I want that very badly for my son, and for his four year old brother, and for their baby sister. I want them to have what I had as a child growing up in England, the understanding that their country is self-determined, defined by those who live in it and call it home. I want them to live in a Wales which is empowered to set its own moral compass and chart its course through waters of its own choosing. Beholden to no-one, free to collaborate and cooperate internationally as a free, independent Nation.
I want that because it is a normal thing to want for your children. Independence is normal. It’s the normal state for the vast majority of countries in the world, big or small, rich or poor. It is normal, and it’s something that our children deserve.
Every now and again my son uncovers another awkward truth about Wales. He asks me things like ‘why does the Prince of Wales live in England?’ and ‘why does everyone in Wales speak English but not everyone in England speaks Welsh?’. His brow wrinkles at my responses, and he asks more questions. In his eyes, Wales is everything a country needs to be. Gradually, this vision is being chipped away, by the way history is taught, by the way Wales is portrayed in the media, by his increasing understanding of Wales’ place in the United Kingdom. Every time he learns a little bit more about the nature of our dependency, and the actions of those who would hold us back, the Wales he believes in shrinks a little smaller. Sooner or later, he will find out about Andrew RT Davies.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I want my daughter and her brothers, should they wish, to aspire to the highest office in Wales. Should they choose to dream and aim for this, as is every child’s right, I want for them to find fulfilment in a role that is meaningful and empowered, as in almost every other country. They will very likely have different ambitions (we are currently raising a professional mountain climber, a fireman and a comedian – although these aspirations are of course subject to change). But should they aspire to lead their country, I want them to know that they would be recognised on the world stage alongside their peers, not confined to a Senedd whose wings are clipped, presiding over powers doled out piecemeal by another Nation’s parliament.
I want my children to expect certain reasonable things as a given, and then not to be disappointed. Like being able to receive health care and other services in the language of their choice. In the language in which they play, think, dream and are educated. I want them to be able to live their life through the medium of Welsh, if they choose, without having to fight a never ending stream of small bureaucratic battles in order to access their legal linguistic rights. I can’t change the past, but we can shape the future.
I want my children to live in an independent country. That’s a normal thing to want.
There are lots of other things I want to give them. I want to give them a future in which we aren’t living in perilous threat from runaway climate change. I want to give them a world in which there is enough to go around, and where our lifestyle in the West doesn’t cost children in poor countries their health or their well being. I want them to live in a world that is fairer than this one, where we value people more than things. Where we respect the earth and each other more than profit. I want to give them a very different future.
I want them to live in a world in which we can trust the media and politicians. A world in which 2016 had been… different. I want them to live in a world in which the term ‘post-truth’ has not entered the Oxford English dictionary, and in which Donald Trump is just a misogynist and a failed casino owner, not Leader of the Free World.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how to change all of these things about the world. Globally, environmentally, economically, politically, things are pretty scary right now. Pick a topic, and it’s bound to be ranking somewhere between unsettling and terrifying, whether it’s the rate ice-caps are melting, the rise of the far-right, or the pace at which technology is replacing jobs.
But fortunately we don’t have to look at the whole world to begin to tackle some of our global problems. We just have to look closer to home. To Wales.
For a long time now, I have wanted to do something. To know where to start. But I have felt paralysed by the enormity of it all. How do you begin to tackle a global economic system that benefits the few at the expense of the many? How do you take meaningful action in the face of such an enormous threat as climate change?
The answer is that you start local.
So that’s why, out of the many things that I want for my children, outside of all of the essentials to which the majority of our energy goes (love, nurture, shelter etc) this is the one I am focusing my spare energy on. Independence for Wales.
This one really counts.
Because this is how we create the space to imagine something different, something better. This is how we will move forward. It’s simple. It makes sense. It feels right to me. It’s about bearing witness to all of our hopes and dreams together, and then agreeing to do something positive about it.
My son once asked me:
‘Do you want to be Prime Minister of Wales?’
To which I replied, ‘Well, I’ve never really considered it’.
And he looked at me, and he frowned, and he said ‘Well if you don’t even think about it, how will you know?’
He was clearly unimpressed by my lack of ambition. Let’s not disappoint our children with a lack of ambition for Wales. It’s up to us to live up to their expectations. Shall we?
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