Disconnected events, a common theme

July 4, 2009

1071191739_061017091353.jpg The theme of justice permeated today. One would have expected an apology and a degree of contriteness after five Lions were hospitalised following the second test, but instead the Springboks all wore armbands with the word Justice in a protest against disciplinary action against one of their number. The Lions response, equally the previous highest score in victory was an appropriate response. While I can admire the skill of individual players, the institutionalised violence and endorsement by a coach (who seems to be hovering on the brink of insanity) was a disgrace to Rugby and not the actions that will encourage young people to take up the game. Rugby will, and should always be a physical game but it should not be a license for violence. That applies to any club or country, to Ebbw Vale in the 70s as much as to the Boks in the current era.

Later that evening I was watching the BBC documentary about the investiture of Charles Windsor as “Prince of Wales” forty years ago in Caernarfon. An event which caused protest at the time, including yours truly as a teenager. The injustice of the Parliamentary Act that drowned the welsh speaking village of Capel Celyn to create the Tryweryn reservoir was still a cause of bitter resentment. Opposed by all but one Welsh MP, the measure had been forced through parliament by English MPs and the Corporate of Liverpool. The first investiture at Caernarfon had been an act of conquest and a calculated insult. Edward I, having completed the conquest and killed or imprisoned the royal line of Gwynedd, presented his new born son as a prince who spoke no word of English. At the time our main resentment was at the sycophantic behaviour of George Thomas, then Welsh Secretary and subsequently speaker of the Commons. We felt that, as Lloyd George in the previous generation, the ceremony was about obsequiousness and personal aggrandisement.

George Thomas’s suspicions had resulted in the exclusion of Welsh Police Officers from royal protection duty. John Jenkins and his followers attempted to bomb the event. Tension was high through the entire period and on the day. Caernarfon became an armed camp for the day. Innocents suffered. A 11 year old boy discovering a unexploded bomb lost a leg a week later. One group of bombers were dismembered when their bomb went of prematurely. No one that I knew supported the bombers but no one wanted the event to take place. Subsequently John Jenkins went to prison and his movement collapsed. Thirty years later the same “Prince” was back with his mother in Cardiff to open the Welsh Assembly, the first move to Welsh Independence since the defeat of the thirteenth century. In the intervening period the welsh language achieved equal status and started its recovery, we gained a welsh language channel on television. The token gesture of Charles spending a term at Aberystwyth University, the failure of the investiture ceremony to secure support in Wales itself, all marked a turning point in attitudes. The attempt to assert something past can often hasten its end.

From my perspective the sycophantic desire to be seen as a part of the English establishment, the Welsh equivalent of the Anglo-Indians during the time of Empire, starts to die from that point onwards. Attempts at cultural homogenisation can only produce conflict or loss of value, celebration of differences but acceptance of that which is other is what we should be seeking to achieve. justice involves respect, both for cultures and for the rules of game alike

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