People will tell you a lot of things about Wales. As you know, many of these will be about sheep, or what happened when they walked into a pub on the ‘Lin’ peninsula. And most will be complete bullshit. So I think it’s time we started telling our own story, and that it will be far more engaging than the one we have let other people tell on our behalf.
You may know that I’m definitely out of the indycloset, and that there’s no going back in there. Here are my top ten reasons why you will find being indycurious a rewarding state of mind to be in, and why you too, will not want to go back.
Because you owe it to your seven year old self
If you know any seven year old people (I live with one, he’s great) or if you have ever been a seven year old person, then you will know that the natural state of most human beings at this age is one of unbounded curiosity.
Through a process of attrition / schooling / the consumption of alcohol / the sheer exhaustion of everyone around you, this natural and unbridled curiosity gradually diminishes by the time we reach adulthood, usually.
But ask yourself this. If someone had told your seven year old self that Wales cannot be an independent country because it is too poor, how might you have responded? May I be so bold as to suggest that you would have asked:
‘Why is Wales poor?’
And if someone (a parent, perhaps, or a teacher, or whomever you are distracting with your incessant questions) replied that Wales is poor because once a great deal of our natural resources had been extracted and the profit had left Wales, a lot of our successful industries were then closed down without being replaced by anything else, and that our internal connectivity and infrastructure remains poor, what would you have said?
You would have asked ‘Why is that?’.
And when you received the answer that most of Wales’ extractive industries where dismantled by the UK Government, as was much of our railway system, and that these industries were replaced by a finance sector but that this isn’t based in Wales it is based in London, you would have asked
And so you start to see where this conversation is going, and that before very long your seven year old self is saying things like ‘but that doesn’t make any sense’ and ‘it’s not fair’.
And because you are seven, and you are curious and you are smart, you say:
‘Well I think we should at least think about it’.
Because of course we haven’t really had this conversation, not properly. Mostly we stop at the ‘because we are too poor’ bit. And the last thing we want to be is the kind of seven year old that accepts the answer:
‘Just because, OK?’
Because when you go on holiday you empty the boot of the car before you load up
Well, not all of us do (hello Cariad, if you are reading this).
But it’s the sensible approach. Being curious about an independent Wales is like this. We’re not having a referendum tomorrow. We’re not in a rush. So we’re not going to just fling all our camping equipment into the boot any old how and and then throw our hands up in despair and say ‘well, I told you it wouldn’t all fit, this will never work’.
Obviously, before you prepare for this trip, you are going to empty all of the detritus (for detritus read ‘current policies on all sorts of stuff’ and ‘basic economic assumptions’) that has been roaming around the boot of your car for months, and have a good old look at it. You are going to figure out if some of it should even be in there. You are going to throw a lot of it away, like that carrier bag at the back that turns out to contain two and a half over-ripe bananas (definitely mouldy and no good even for flapjack) and the unopened Christmas card from 2015.
Wales is a bit like the boot of your car. And being indycurious is really just about saying, yes, OK, I’m ready to get all of this shit out onto the pavement and decide whether it’s really what we want to take on holiday with us. You’ll probably find the torch you’ve been looking for for months, and decide that you don’t need three umbrellas.
Being indycurious is in fact a lot like this. It’s not binary (this isn’t Brexit). It’s not yes or no (not yet anyway). It’s more like ‘what if?’ and ‘well what would you do differently?’ and ‘what if we didn’t have to start with any of these assumptions (for instance about how the economy functions and for whom) and we could invent our own?’ and other types of good wholesome questions of the type that might occur to you while clearing out your car.
Being indycurious is an easy thing to be
It seems lately all I have to do is talk about the concept of being indycurious and previously staunch unionist friends and acquaintances are looking all keen and wide eyed and saying things like ‘well when you put it like that it’s completely different… I would definitely say that I am curious about it…’
It’s such a small step. It’s not like saying ‘OK, I realise that all your life you have been quite sure that this independence thing isn’t a goer, and now I’m going to ask you to change your mind’. It doesn’t have to mean the handing over of any Princess Diana memorabilia, or switching of party political allegiances. It doesn’t mean you have to start saying ‘Aberteifi’ if you usually say ‘Cardigan’ (although, surely, that one is worth considering).
It’s just about opening your mind to the possibilities.
Because it’s a bit like chicken pox
In that you are almost certain to get it at some point. If you are even reading this, then you are probably indycurious already, which is why you are here. Or if you aren’t already then just being here shows you are the type of person who is ‘exposing yourself’ to true facts about Wales.
Now, these true facts about Wales aren’t always easy to come by. A lot of people (like MPs and the BBC) like to hide them away down the side of the sofa with the remote control so that people in Wales can’t change the channel. But once you start discovering true facts about Wales, then being indycurious becomes as likely as contracting the pox when your parents deliberately let you rub up against a pustulating chicken poxy toddler (if you are going to get it, it’s better to just get it over with).
It’s better to be in at the start of a conversation than join half way through
The great thing about being indycurious right now is that compared to say Catalonia, or Scotland, the debate is very young. For those who get curious early, there is a chance to shape this debate.
Many people have obviously been dyed in the wool indyphiles since the days I was running around a housing estate in Derby, and probably way before. I salute them. Their staying power is formidable (from what I can tell it seems to have been sustained in the main by drinking real ale whilst reading ‘Land of my Fathers’ by Gwynfor Evans – two activities it is hard to fault).
But things haven’t moved on an awful lot since my bike still had spokey-dokeys (OK, obviously they have moved on, because we now have Welsh language rights, and a Welsh Assembly which we can rename if we like, as long as Westminster doesn’t decide that we can’t). And a lot of people campaigned hard for those things (tips imaginary hat).
But in terms of independence, not devolution, but real ‘dare to dream’ independence, it doesn’t feel like much has changed certainly in the twelve years that I have lived in Wales.
When change happens, when revolutions come, they happen quickly. So it’s good to be in on the conversation in the first place, and influence which way it goes, than join late. As you know, if you join a conversation late you risk either not knowing what’s going on or worse, discovering in horror that since you popped out go to the toilet everyone has started talking about the Great Blinkin Bake Off and now you are bored witless.
There’s no set course for the way this conversation is going to go. And there isn’t a Mary Berry recipe for an independent Wales.
It’s something we are going to create together, so it’s good to throw your ideas into the hat early and make sure that it’s an absolute blinder of a debate covering all the topics you hoped would be in there.
Reclaim the word ‘British’ (yes really)
It’s possible to get all conflicted if, like me, and like many people in Wales, you grew up in England. Probably, you grew up describing yourself as British (you are an inclusive kind of person, you dig England, but hey, why would you choose an identity that excludes your Celtic Cousains?)
Do you still feel British? Or has twelve years on this side of Offa’s Dyke, pointing out to visitors that the weather on the heritage coast of Bro Morgannwg is not in fact ‘typically English’, started to make you reassess the term British?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
If Wales were independent, we could reclaim the word British in a positive way. It would no longer be oddly synonymous with ‘English’. That’s because it would no longer be mixed up with meaning the same thing as the United Kingdom.
In a future where Wales is independent, we will be able to revisit the terms ‘Britain’ and ‘British’ and restore them to their rightful meanings. To be ‘British’ will simply mean to pertain to the isle of Britain. The original inhabitants of the land named Wales (Cymru) were Britons and their territory stretched far East across the West and North of England and into Scotland. Our ancestors (well, not mine, I’m from over by there) but yours (some of you) were Britons.
The term British has been hijacked. It’s been stapled onto the Union Jack, with a St George’s Cross tacked clumsily on the reverse side. It’s been kidnapped by those who would have us all swear allegiance to ‘British values’ with one hand, while throwing our human rights out of the window with the other.
Let’s take it back and in time it will regain its self respect.
Do it for your daughter, or your sister or your vagina
I’m not in this for kicks. I’m not in it just because. I’m in it because if I were to draw a venn diagram of all the issues that get me riled up or wanting to change the world, then these days what I find is that there is this little space in the middle (hey, that’s a venn diagram) that they all overlap.
In this space is independence.
Recently, anyone who has a daughter or a sister or a vagina, or identifies as a woman, is right to be feeling pretty pissed. It’s not like things were already a bed of roses in the world of combating gender oppression, but lately the stakes got raised again.
Maybe you feel like your right to decide what goes on in your own uterus is under threat (it may be America right now, but fascist right wing politics has a nasty habit of spreading – as I write, Ms May is playing the sycophant to Trump), or maybe you aren’t happy that Westminster cuts are closing women’s refuges, or that women are disproportionately affected by poverty (spoiler alert: *Wales is poor*). If you identify with any of these feelings then get indycurious.
Theresa May made it crystal clear today. She does not represent you.
And of course all of these things are linked. There’s a reason that lots of angry men (and their angry partners) are voting for people like Trump, and might vote for people like Paul Knutall even though, well, even though everything about Paul Knutall.
Men, especially middle class white men, were promised the moon on a stick. They were supposed to inherit the world. And they didn’t. Instead Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers and a handful of others syphoned off all the wealth and power and left these men who had felt entitled, feeling robbed and pretty angry instead.
And although it’s not right, it is easy to blame an increase in the rights (and therefore power) of women, and ethnic minorities, and disabled people, however small that increase is, for a decrease in how powerful you might feel.
But we don’t need to play that narrative in Wales.
We can choose a different story.
We can press pause.
We can say, hang on a minute. Maybe we will start to pay heed to the many independent media sources starting to spring up all around Wales like tiny phosphorescence in a dark sea at night, and we will gravitate towards these tiny bright lights and together we will start to tell a new story, in which it’s not good against evil, us against them, angry men against feminists, rich against poor or strivers against shirkers.
In this new story we’ll acknowledge that we are all different and of equal worth.
Next time you see one of those tiny bright lights, it’s worth at least swimming over to have a look and check out what’s going on.
This one’s about genitals too: do it because we don’t need to spend £205bn on a giant phallus
Let’s face it. An independent Wales would not need or want Trident.
We, unlike the UK, would not see the need to wave our willy on the world stage in the perennial ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition that is global geopolitics.
We will have no need to ‘make Wales great again’, we’ll be too busy enjoying increased health and well being.
Get over it.
Devolution is like disappointing sex
Some people say to me (and probably to you) that Wales can’t be independent because devolution has been, well, somewhat of an anticlimax. Because somehow, in the seventeen years that we’ve been giving this thing a go, it’s not quite delivered what it promised, and has left us feeling dissatisfied.
Now, I don’t rate this argument at all.
It’s true that currently the Welsh Government is under-performing in many regards. Leadership appears lacklustre, policy flaccid and targets fumbled. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you have disappointing sex, you don’t give up on sex altogether, you just decide to either change your partner (if this is a fling thing) or look for some new ideas. There’s a lot you can try, you just need to be imaginative, and a little bit daring.
Being indycurious is like this.
It’s about refusing to accept that this is as good as it gets.
This last one is a secret
The secret is that there are only eight things in this list, not ten. But actually, when you think about it they are all excellent and very persuasive things, and it sort of seems right to end with a comparison between Welsh politics and underwhelming sex.
We can do better.
Are you curious yet?
If you are, there are lots of things you can do to indulge your curiosity.
You could follow one of the many indycurious twitter accounts such as @yescymru @yescaerdydd @yesabertawe @yesllanelli etc (there are even accounts for the Welsh diaspora out there such as @yesefrognewydd) there are indycurious people of all political persuasions (check out @labour4indywales) although not all of them are yet on twitter so if you are Green or Tory or Lib Dem and a tweepy type, you know what to do…
If you live elsewhere, why not just put the word out for an indycurious meet-up?
It starts with you…
Geirfa defnyddiol: useful Welsh words
Ond pam? But why?
Pam felly? Why so?
Dewch eto? Come again?
Trwmbel: the boot of the car
Brech yr ieir: chicken pox
Fiagra: coming soon as standard issue in the Welsh Assembly cafeteria..