This is a story about a small(ish) country, that was actually big in many ways. Although it only had 3 million (and sixty two thousand) people living in it, give or take, this country had big ambitions. And it had a big brave heart that yearned for freedom.
This is the story of how this country set itself free.
For a long time, many hundreds of years, this country (let’s call it Wales), had been a stranger to freedom. Its people had seen many difficult times, its ancient Celtic language stripped back, almost to the point of extinction, its lands ripped apart to reap the profit from the black gold in its hills. The mountains consumed slate by slate for profit that seeped out, leached from the local economy, exported by steam and rail and ship.
Leaving the scarred communities in which so many people had toiled and in many cases died for the sake of those profits, in poverty.
For much of this time, the green lands of this country were sacrificed at the altar of extractive and exploitative economics. The people had little say, and after many many generations of being told that they weren’t good enough to run their own affairs, they had become used to doing what they were told and had learned not to challenge the status quo.
They allowed their country to be referred to as a ‘region’ and to be governed from afar. They had come to accept their place as a ‘principality’, an after thought, a resource to be plundered and kept in its place.
Or most people had anyway.
But this story isn’t about that part of this small (but big in many ways) country’s history, it is about what happened next.
It is the story of how Wales set itself free.
Many years ago now, there came a time of great upheaval and unrest across the lands of which this country was a part. This fracturing of political norms, and of the very structure which had bound formerly free and independent nations together in uneven partnership, had ruptured and torn. This small country, formerly passive and lacking the appetite to resist, now stood at a crossroads.
Would it acquiesce, or would it stand firm?
Would it squander the opportunity it now had to determine its own future? Or would it rise to the challenge and make a case for its identity as an independent Nation state?
These were challenging times to be starting a revolution. Much of the population were disenchanted, their resolve weakened by wave after wave of economic shocks and the increasing grip of hardship. Dis-empowerment was the weapon of suppression – with communities fractured, social structures undermined and people divided against each other, the strength to fight back was hard to find.
But it was still there.
It was all still there.
The people remembered, because they had heard the stories their Grandmother had told them about the old days, and how their community had worked together. How they had built the Miners’ Institute. How they had formed a local food cooperative, how they had come together and rebuilt their community after a tragedy. How they had welcomed incomers and how these settlers to Wales, from countries far and wide, had helped build the rich tapestry of their culture.
And they were still doing it. The people were standing up for their communities, they were fighting against dirty industries like fracking and open cast coal that would pollute their air and their water. They were fighting for the planet’s climate by opposing fossil fuel extraction and divesting from investments that failed to do the same.
They were building things. Relationships and projects, and connections and a network of solutions to local problems.
But they hadn’t looked up yet and seen the bigger picture. They hadn’t seen that there was a part for them to play in history and in shaping what came next for their small but brave country.
Although of course some people had.
Some people had seen what might be coming, if they sat still and did nothing, and they knew that a better option was possible. An option that didn’t have to mean destruction for this country’s big, brave heart. A way forward that meant they could take all of these small but brilliant ideas, and make this the new way of doing things.
They saw that they could choose small, but brave, over big but cowardly. They could choose better, not more. They could choose kinder, not stronger. They could choose to be gentle, rather than to seek to be great.
And one by one, these people started to stand up. They stood up for their small (but big in many ways) country, and they held hands and formed a human chain around its brave heart.
And they said:
‘We have a better idea. And so do each of you.’
And one by one, more people started to stand up, and each of them said:
‘I too want something different, and I believe that we can make it happen.’
And before long, they were no longer a few, they were many, and their enthusiasm was contagious, and their optimism was exciting. And so gradually, those who had been afraid began to feel brave, and those that had felt alone began to feel that they were one of many and that there was hope in collective action.
And before very much longer than that, it started to be the norm, rather than the exception, to say things like:
‘I believe that we can do this.’
‘I know that we can be free’.
‘I believe that we will be independent’.
And slowly, together, they crafted a new version of the story they wanted to tell, and they believed in the fact that they could achieve something.
It took a little while, but also not very long, when they looked back across the centuries and they saw where they had come from. And they marveled at how they had done it, and how easy it seemed now, from such daunting beginnings. But that all they had done, was just stood up, one by one, and each person had offered their hand to the next person and smiled and said:
‘We can do this, you know that we can.’
And that is the story that we tell our children now, and the story that they will tell our grandchildren, about how Wales came to be independent.
This story is actually just beginning. There are many ways to be part of what happens next, but one way is to join yescymru