Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Two wolves and a lamb

One of the most over-used words of the age seems to be 'rights'. One element of this is the result of a tabloid press which seems to blame the Human Rights Act for everything which is wrong with the penal system – and attack those rights in the process. But another is where people claim certain ‘rights’ for themselves or for the group or community of which they are a part. Clearly, we all have ‘rights’ of some sort, but how do we judge what is a ‘right’ and what is not?

At its simplest, some of our rights are enshrined in law. Once a ‘right’ has been thus enshrined, we empower others, such as the police and the judiciary, to protect those rights, and to take action against those who infringe them. Legal rights are defined through legislation passed by those who we elect to represent us – and can either be extended or reduced by further acts of legislation. It follows that anyone is surely entitled to campaign either for the extension of rights or for the restriction of rights, and if they can persuade a majority of legislators, then the 'rights' we enjoy can be changed.

But are there rights beyond the law? Is it enough to say that unless something is agreed by a majority and passed into law, then it is not a right? There appears to be a general concept of a ‘moral’ right; but to agree on what such a right is in practice firstly requires agreement on the moral basis for it, something which is not easy to achieve. Majority rule, at least superficially, appears to be an attractive way of defining rights.

However, someone far more erudite than I once said that there must surely be more to democracy than two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for dinner. A little corny perhaps; but it does crystallise the idea that minorities may have rights too, and that an oversimplistic interpretation of majority rule is an inadequate way of running a society. (And I’m tempted to add that Hitler was, after a fashion at least, elected to power; another example suggesting that the majority view is not always the beginning and end of any question).

One area where the question of ‘rights’ has been raised, in comments on this blog and others, is the question of the Welsh language. Welsh-speakers have certain rights which are now protected by law, but they fall far short of what many would want.

If I understand my pusillanimous pal, Mr Foreigner correctly, even he accepts that people who want to speak Welsh should have the right to do so if they wish, as long as he isn’t forced to speak it himself. That sounds pretty reasonable to me – I’m not actually aware of anyone who actually wants to force others to use the language. I can certainly live quite happily without anyone being forced to learn or speak Welsh against their will.

The question, of course, is whether the same protection should be extended to Welsh-speakers – do they have the right not to be forced to use English in certain circumstances? That’s what is really at the heart of the debate about further language rights. If we want to create a truly bilingual society in Wales, then it follows that they should have the same, or broadly similar, rights to services in their own language – after all, no-one can argue that it’s a foreign language here in Wales. I suspect that the real reason people are falling out about the extent of legislative protection for Welsh is that we haven't really got to grips with that question - do we believe in a bilingual Wales or not? Without a degree of consensus on that, what is the basis for meaningful discussion over individual proposals?

But there is one argument that worries me greatly. When I hear people saying “but they can all speak English anyway”, it does sound to me a little bit like one of those wolves talking.

20 comments:

Lenin Cymru said...

A very well put point - I hope the Minister for Heritage is listening.

It may be of interest to note that the Human Rights Act sets out two classes of rights: absolute and qualified. Some rights such as the right not to be tortured is absolute. While the right to respect to a private and family life is qualified, so that it can be balanced against other rights.

What a Welsh Language Act should do is introduce a qualified right to, for example, to receive services in the private sector balanced against practicality etc. While, there should be an absolute right to speak Welsh in the workplace and receive education through the medium of Welsh.

There should also be a reasonableness test for the qualified rights, while very small companies should only be bound by such a law to a very limited extent. Large companies would be covered, but should only be asked to do what is reasonable in the circumstances.

As long as language legislation is reasonable and practicable, I can't see open-minded people having a problem with it. It's only the people who think of the Welsh language as something that is not a rights issue like any other (e.g the rights of the disabled or ethnic minorities) who will complain.

johnny foreigner said...

Pusillanimous:

Adjective: Lacking courage or determination, timid.

How dare you, Sir. Moi? Nay, Sir. Sesquipedalian at the very least.

Another thought provoking posting.

I am in much agreement with what you say regarding 'rights' enshrined in law or general acceptance.

Unfortunately, there is a clear expectation of the use of Legislative force in the 'Language Measures' made by Cymdeithas on their website. Their 'measures' would have a devastating financial effect on the socio/economic activity in Wales and would be for no practical purpose.

Whilst I realise that not all Welsh speakers would agree with these proposals, nevertheless they have not been questioned in these blogs, that I am aware of. Consequently it follows that they clearly have the support of other Welsh 'organisations'.

There appears to be a deafening wall of silence around the language question that I am determined to break and question until some sort of discussuion takes place.

Much like we are doing now.

To make my position absolutely clear I merely wish that those who insist that I am to be bombarded with Welsh against my will, use their own finances to fund it.

The carbon cost of the continued unnecessary translation is appalling and unneccesary.

If certain local Councils wish to have bilingual services, let that Council pay for it. Let them also tell their local residents the full cost and then let them say which services have to be cut to fund it.

The continued expectation that the vast majority pay for this indulgence of a small minority is at the heart of the matter.

Language and 'culture' are evolutionary matters and we are currently seeing the interference with that evolution regarding the use of the Welsh language by the continued demands to subsidise its use.

There is a frequently made assertion that Wales is a bilingual country. Whereas in reality it is a multilingual country. I would be interested to see how many other minority languages are spoken in Wales. Welsh would form a part of that number.

English is clearly the lingua franca of Wales and despite the protestations to the contrary is in increasing use.

We have currently many European residents in Wales who are eagerly embracing English as their language of choice. Welsh is becoming less used on a daily basis, and without wishing tio disparage or denigrate the language this fact must be recognised.

Many determined Welsh speakers are of advanced years and despite their encouragement, their children are finding that Welsh is of little use in the area of commerce and really is only found, in any appreciable quantity, within Publicly funded occupations.

This is nothing more than a continuation of the subsidy culture that has for many years stultified the ambitions of the Welsh people.

Too many of those with drive and energy head for the M4 as soon as they are able and rarely return despite the often sung exhortation to.....

"...come HOME again to Wales".

This song has frequently been described as an invitation to outsiders, but is in actual fact a plaintive plea to EXPATRIATES to return, and bring their money with them.

I have been much criticised for my rather robust anti-Welsh Nationalist views but can assure you that nothing would give me greater pleasure to see Wales develop into a successful and wealthy part of a successful and wealthy UK, for the benefit of all.

The proposed amplification of the use of Welsh in socio/economic activity is, IMHO, one of the factors that will continue to hold Wales back.

The divisions are manifest and if continued will bring about a 'conquest by division'.

I'm sorry that I am unable to put a more positive light on matters but to quote a greater person than I. "I find these truths to be self evident".

Your partly pessimistic pal.

johnny.

johnny foreigner said...

lenin cymru:

You posting raises questions in my mind.

Whilst I appreciate the difference between absolute and qualified rights, am I to assume that if a Thos. Cook employee, for example, chose to speak in Welsh when dealing with customers against the wishes of, say, a monoglot English manager, then that would be supported by you?

If so:

Surely that Manager has the 'qualified' right to be able to determine if the product is being presented and sold in Thos. Cook's chosen and monitored manner?

Your pal.

johnny.

Ordovicius said...

Nice to hear an intelligent view on the subject, Ceredig. Fortunately this assembly will deliver a new language act.

Keir Hardly said...

Excellent post, but i have a few things.

Firstly, you cannot enforce an idea that the majority of people who simply have no interest in a bilingual wales. Of course, you want to protect a minority, but any new welsh language legislation will have an impact on all in Wales. Also i think the fractured and varying nature of linguistic divides in Wales makes it very difficult to enforce a blanket law.

This is where lenin cymru gets its wrong when he/she says "to receive services in the private sector balanced against practicality etc"

Its within that balance lies the problem. Any new Welsh Language Act will either be toothless or ruthless, if you do not have compulsion of all private business and services to offer welsh, essentially you are having an assembly measure that will merely look good on paper by have no practical benefits. Such a move will not exactly warm the welsh language to the english speaking welsh people, who do rightly or wrongly see the language as incubated and kept alive by subsidy in governmental terms. Johnny Foreigner, for all his wrongs, is totally right to ask whether it is acceptable that we spend four million pounds on translation in the NAW when much of that isnt really PRACTICAL.

If you took the ruthless approach, and had compulsion of all businesses to have to offer Welsh then you will cause a different problem. How do the supporters of such a new law envisage making sure small businesses have the resources and available employees who can speak welsh, i would argue that we simply do not have a enough welsh speakers, particularly if you take out the many welsh speakers who work in the public sector (where welsh speaking is a growing necessity) to even make such a move possible. What also worries me is that many of the welsh language pressure groups will be actively adopting a tactic of trying to catch out businesses and then take them to court.

Personally i think you must take the supply and demand route, and allow private businesses to factor in whether offering their business in Welsh is worthwhile thing. If i was setting up, or conducting business in a Welsh speaking area, Caernarfon for example, i think it would be not only in the interest business wise, but also a respectful thing to do offer services in Welsh. If i was doing the same in Chepstow, i wouldnt really consider it as i dont think there would be the demand.

Many of the pressure groups have justification in perhaps asking english speakers to respect their linguistic diversity, but shouldnt that extend to the the purely English speaking areas of Wales?

It seems the demand to live their lives with their own local culture and language cannot be extended to english speaking communities who wish to do the same.

My worry is that instead of trying to promote a sense of civic pride in the language, and encourage people to learn Welsh not only for educational/employment reasons but more importantly for the welsh language because they wish to use it in a social context, we will be enforcing more red tape that 87% of people in Wales will wonder why?

I agree that the 'well they speak english dont they' argument is crass, but we are talking about services here. The public sector wastes money of translations that people arent even using, or even have a demand to use, when a simple tick box 'do you want your this service in welsh' will suffice. If people want to use a service, they can factor in whether the fact they offer or do not offer welsh in a decision to take up that service. Public essential services are already offered in welsh, private services are driven by supply and demand. This is what makes the 'non-socialist, nationalist' position a joke, they want government funding to continue to offer blanket welsh language services without any notion of whether it isnt a waste of money (if anyone can argue that by having a twice as big form is necessary, when a person can just make a choice to have either language then go for it), they are a more than happy to fund S4C without any real commitment to honestly assess whether it is an effective use of public money, YET their cause celebre is big government, red tape, bureaucracy and high taxes. It seems bureaucracy isnt bureaucracy when you call it "biwrocratieath".

Anonymous said...

Yes lets have a new Welsh Languge Act.

Hold referendii in each local authority area as to wether the taxpayers money should be wasted on bilingual signs etc.

Incidently - friends of mine in the Coast Guard say they have never recieved a "Mayday" or "Pan - pan" in Welsh

Ceredig said...

Johnny,

In your response to lenin cymru, you raise a very valid point about how a non-Welsh speaking manager can monitor the provision of a service if a member of staff and a customer choose to talk to each other in Welsh. It’s clearly impossible for such a person to understand what is happening in that sort of conversation. But it would seem to me that the logical outcome of your question would be either that the customer and staff member should be barred from using their own language in such a transaction, or else that the manager's job should be labelled as 'Welsh-essential' – a category which would thus be extended to an awful lot of jobs in Wales. I don't think that either of those conclusions is terribly satisfactory really, as compared to the use of a little common sense and allowing people to do what comes naturally.

Of course, pusillanimous was a little bit of a wind-up. No-one entering the debate on this subject in such a forthright manner as you could ever be called timid. (I’ll admit though that sesquipedalian was a new one on me. One day, I may find a way of using it, for which, thank you.)

The question of whether your taxes should be used to fund the promotion of the language is a good one - up to a point. It’s entirely valid for you to campaign for your taxes not to be used on the promotion of the language, of course, and I respect your right to do that. But don’t all of us fund, through our taxes, things which are of little use to us personally? I am, for instance, no fan of either the opera or the ballet, and I get bored rapidly in art galleries, but I recognise that these aspects of our 'culture' would be unviable without some use of public money – including my taxes. I believe that the UK Government also spends some of my taxes on the promotion of the English language – hardly a language in need of much promotion, methinks – through the medium of the ‘British Council’.

It would be foolish to deny that Welsh is a minority language, but it remains very much a 'native' language for a significant minority of the population, for most of whom it is their first, or mother, tongue, and from whose perspective, they are merely asking to be able to live their lives through the medium of their own language in their own country. Put that way, it doesn’t sound terribly unreasonable as a request to me - the challenge is balancing ‘rights’ in as consensual a way as possible. This ultimately boils down to a question of opinion and debate, and is an area where I suspect we are unlikely to come to an agreement.

Debate, however, is a part of trying to reach any form of consensus, and I, for one, welcome the way in which you challenge the assumptions of others, even if I cannot always agree with you. I would challenge one of your statements of ‘fact’ however. You state that Welsh is becoming less used on daily basis – I don’t know what leads you to this conclusion, but I have the distinct impression that Welsh is used more actively now than it was say ten or twenty years ago. As a child in the Cardiff area, I would hardly ever hear the language, but now, I hear it being spoken daily, and with confidence.

Your fond friend.

Ceredig said...

Mr Hardly,

“Toothless or ruthless” is something that worries me too. As one who wants to see the Welsh language thrive, I too have reservations about some of the ideas proposed for legislation, and I would certainly agree that the idea of treating Chepstow and Caernarfon as though the issue was the same is not a recipe for success, if only because of the difficulty in finding Welsh-speaking staff in Chepstow. But, and I don’t have a ready answer to this question, even in Chepstow, there are a few Welsh-speakers, so how do we say that they have less rights than Welsh-speakers in Caernarfon, say?

When it comes to the private sector, I think that the attitudes shown by some companies recently, in attempting to ban their staff from speaking Welsh to each other or to customers, certainly need to be tackled, and I believe that most people in Wales would accept that such bans are unjust. Such attitudes merely encourage those who demand across-the-board compulsion, and it’s easy to see why.

Keir Hardly said...

"When it comes to the private sector, I think that the attitudes shown by some companies recently, in attempting to ban their staff from speaking Welsh to each other or to customers, certainly need to be tackled, and I believe that most people in Wales would accept that such bans are unjust. Such attitudes merely encourage those who demand across-the-board compulsion, and it’s easy to see why."

But you seem to have been taken in by the Cymedithas (sp*) hyperbole. Loathe for me to defend Thomas Cook, but they decided that with a workforce that couldnt all speak in Welsh it was frankly more effective to all converse in english. This to me seemed like a sensible 'consensus' you are so keen to sort out.

I am not trying to deny that Welsh hasnt increased in terms of people having to study the language, i am one such person, but this has been at a huge cost to the taxpayer. It hasnt organically grown, it has been state subsidised. Your observation of 'well i hear people speaking welsh more nowadays' is hardly a real boon for your argument in the same way 'they all speak english anyway' is for Johnny.

Do you accept that their is a welsh speaking elite in our tiers of government and wider civic society that has gone with far more pro-welsh language? I am not questioning whether this is a good or bad thing, but it appears that the welsh language issue is being driven by the elites who benefit from its promotion.

Also with regards the fallout from Thomas Cook, the commission for Racial Equality got involved, when such an organisation, funded by public money is already tackling these issues, is there a real need to impose a law? I am pretty sure that the welsh language society would have taken thomas cook to court had their been a new welsh language act, yet the current instruments in place pushed for and got a change in Thomas Cook policy.

My underlying problem, is that many welsh language zealots are very keen to talk of their own communities being protect against 'outsiders' and allowing them to have an element of control over their own communities. Yet woe betide any english speaking community wishing to do the same.

johnny foreigner said...

Ceredig:

Thanks for your response to my posting.

Am I right in thinking that your view would support the suggestion that commercial services involving contact with the public would require to be conducted in Welsh?

Are you seriously suggesting that companies such as Thos. Cook's be required to insist on knowledge of the Welsh language as a prerequisite for a position their Welsh offices?

You must acknowledge that the speaking of Welsh has absolutely nothing to do with the efficient provision of a service.

It may be a nice convenience to Welsh speakers to be 'serviced' in Welsh, but the language has nothing to do with the effective provision of such services.

The simple solution to all of this is for all companies to display the logo of their choice indicating which language they conduct their business in.

Market forces will decide the success or failure of the use of Welsh in the commercial sector.

Obviously, a company operating in a predominantly Welsh speaking area would clearly benefit from this service provision, conversely a company operating in a predominantly English speaking area would not find this benefit.

Let the customer choose, after all, the customer is always right.

Whilst I fully support some parts of public service provision being made in Welsh to those who wish it, this again must be on the basis of a real need and not some perceived cultural expedient.

If there are some people in the more remote areas of Wales who rarely use English in their lives, and are clearly more 'at home' with Welsh, then obviously I would fully support a Welsh service provision for them at my expense.

On the other hand, there appear to be very few Welsh speakers in Wales who are not fully conversant in English and who do not use it on an everyday basis.

These are generally the people who are quite happy to use Welsh in the company of English people and fail to see the crass ignorance of this. This matter was fully discussed on the Blamerbell blog and the result was that Blamer could not see that the use of Welsh in English speaking company, without the courtesy of translation, was plainly discourteous and rude. Those are the ones that I do not wish to subsidise. Your comment on this aspect would be greatly appreciated.

On documentary matters, I would merely suggest that the 'tick box' method be used. Welsh: tick here []. English: tick here []. Just that simple expedient would save millions in wasted paper, ink and effort.

With public service provision by 'phone, again, the choice should be given. This button for English, this button for Welsh. This is not 'rocket science' and I am appalled that this hasn't been done years ago.

I daresay that the 'flamers' are priming their weapons now, and will respond with some guff about their 'rights' and 'Welsh culture'.

In order for me to fully understand this 'Welsh culture' that allegedly pervades this country, I would be grateful if you could provide me, and other interested parties, with a short precis of the nature of this culture and also a couple of good reasons why it should be embraced by me.

You say thay you hear Welsh being spoken to a greater degree in Cardiff, Where? Pray tell.

I am around Cardiff most days for one reason or another and can assure you that the only place that I have heard Welsh being spoken is amongst the leafy glades of parts of Pontcanna and invariably by 'media types' who seem to have little control over their decibel output.

Of course I mustn't forget the Assembly area where I have noticed that certain individuals seem to revert to Welsh when others are in earshot.

I must be also noted that the Welsh speakers, 'though small in number, in Cardiff are predominantly in Publicly funded jobs.

Pray tell, where in Cardiff that Welsh may be heard in the commercial sector? I'll save you the trouble of looking because you just won't find it.

This is just Welsh being used at my expense without the slightest benefit to me.

I am sorry that I am unable to agree with your assertion that certain 'cultural' activities should be subsidised. Opera, ballet and art galleries. What on earth have they got to do with culture. They are entirely time, class, finance and place specific and are regarded as 'culture' only by those who describe themselves as 'cultured'.

Me? I'm as common as muck and none of these activities appeal to me in the slightest and thus, I do not wish to pay for others to 'enjoy' them. Why should I?

Who defines 'culture' anyway? Can we have a consensus please?

On the more specific point regarding 'culture' in Wales, would say again that it is entirely a matter of one's particular concept of culture.

Again, who defines this Welsh culture?

alanindyfed and his ilk?

Saints preserve us.

Your polemically polarized pal.

johnny.

Ceredig said...

Keir Hardly,

“Loathe for me to defend Thomas Cook, but they decided that with a workforce that couldnt all speak in Welsh it was frankly more effective to all converse in english.”

Well, yes, that is what they decided. But is it right? If a customer who speaks Welsh and a member of staff who speaks Welsh are happy to converse with each other in that language, why forbid it? One doesn’t need to take a position either for or against a compulsion on such companies to provide a service in Welsh to ask what exactly is wrong with two people conversing in their own language, if it suits both of them and facilitates the transaction. And, as Thomas Cook found out, and I think you acknowledge, it turned out to be a bad business decision in any event.

“Do you accept that their is a welsh speaking elite in our tiers of government and wider civic society that has gone with far more pro-welsh language?”

Let me say at the outset that I’m always suspicious of all elites, whatever the basis for them. And all elites always select more of the same to join them / succeed them – that seems to be an almost unbreakable rule. Old Etonians running the Tory Party, Oxbridge graduates running the Civil Service, the Old Boys network running much of business. So, insofar as I object to any self-perpetuating elite, the elite running Wales are no different. But, in any organisation which does things bilingually, isn’t there a degree of inevitability that bilingual staff will be at an advantage of some sort? Whether that’s fair or reasonable is obviously open to question and debate, but it seems to me to be a fact of life, because those who speak both languages can work across the organisation, and those who don’t will find themselves restricted to only part of the activities of the organisation.

Certainly, the ‘great and the good’ of Wales seem to contain a high proportion of bilinguals, but whether that is as a result of unfair favouritism or of the extra advantages conferred by being bilingual is another question.
You seem to suggest that the Welsh-speaking elite promote more bilingualism for self-advantage. Maybe, but it’s always possible that they are just doing what they think is right and best for Wales. (If I may draw a parallel, many nationalists suggest that Labour MP’s are only looking after their own self-interests by opposing further devolution of powers – I start from the assumption that they might just believe that their position is the right or best one for Wales).

Ceredig said...

Johnny,

So many questions! Let me try and respond to the key points as I see them.

Firstly, if you want someone to explain Welsh culture to you, I’m afraid that I’m not your man. I am as dubious as you about some of the definitions of culture, and accept that ‘culture’, in its widest sense, is inevitably something which is continually evolving and changing. For my part, I do not ask you or anyone else to embrace anything that you don’t want to, any more than I wish to force anyone to speak a language against his or her will. What I argue for is simply a situation where people are free to choose.

My point about hearing more Welsh around in Cardiff was just that; when I walk along the streets, I seem to be hearing more Welsh now than I did as a child. Not a particularly scientific or objective basis for making a statement, just a perception. But the comment was made in response to your assertion that Welsh is a ‘declining’ language, and I wondered what the evidence for that was. Certainly, Welsh was in heavy decline from the mid 1800's until fairly recently; but the census figures (and for all the doubts which one can throw on the actual numbers, that’s about the best basis we have for making any judgements) seem to suggest to me a degree of stabilisation in recent decades.

To return to the point of my original post, what I was trying to explore was the concept of ‘rights’, and particularly so in the case of minorities. If I interpret you correctly, you are suggesting that, in the case of the minority of Welsh people who are Welsh-speakers, the 'right' to services in Welsh should be restricted to those who are unable to adequately access the same services in English. I know that you would not be alone in holding such a view, and it is a view which you have every right to promulgate – but it is not a point of view with which I could agree.

Your forlorn friend.

johnny foreigner said...

Now come on, Ceredig, no need to feel 'forlorn'. johnny's here and I'm your pal.

forlorn: (1). adjective, pitifully
sad and lonely.

(2). Unlikely to succeed
or be fulfilled.

Have you given up already? Surely not.

"Courage, Brother, do not stumble,
though thy path be dark as night...".

This English language of ours, so precise and to the point, I just love it.

On the matter of 'culture', if a person of such veneration as your good self is unable to enlighten me, what am I to do? In fact what are any of us to do?

Does this 'culture' really exist, or is it just another example of the 'Emperor's New Clothes'?

I have asked here, there and everywhere and on my own blog for someone to kindly enlighten me as to the nature of this 'culture', and have yet to receive the answer.

Does it really exist or is it just another ploy by the Nationalist faction to inveigle the unsuspecting into supporting the Welsh Nationalist viewpoint?

In your response to the erstwhile Mr. Hardly you claim to be "suspicious of all elites" and you then claim that:

"You seem to suggest that the Welsh-speaking elite promote more bilingualism for self-advantage. Maybe, but it’s always possible that they are just doing what they think is right and best for Wales."

Just how big a 'maybe' is that? Further, is Welsh absolutely necessary to achieve the "best for Wales"?

My personal opinion is that this continued insistence on introducing Welsh by compulsion into ALL aspects of our socio/economic activities is, IMHO, the ONE thing that will hold Wales back from its desire to be outward looking and inclusive.

A swift look at our Scots and Irish cousins will confirm this. They have abandoned any linguistic compulsion and now stand as a beacon of self-determination that the Welsh Nationalists, unfortunately, cannot see for the 'culture' that clouds their vision.

If the "New" Welsh language proposals go ahead, then it clearly follows that ANY job that entails contact with the Public will require the use of Welsh as a prerequisite to virtually ANY job where Public contact is required.

A plainly stupid situation.

In my not inconsiderable experience, Welsh speakers are not necessarily any better or worse than Monoglots in the performance of their duties, yet in the Nationalist Nirvana it would appear that the Nationalists would wish to push the Monoglots, who do not wish to learn Welsh, to the outer regions of involvement in the socio/economic activities in Wales.

You may find some small resistance to this.

With regard to the use of Welsh being on the increase, I can assure you that the vast majority of us in Wales NEVER use the language, apart from occasional references to place names. This is an indisputable fact.

Referring to your assertion that Welsh has been on the increase in recent times, I would venture to suggest that this is entirely due to its provision within the 'Public Sector' as a result of it being insisted on by a relatively few vociferous activists. Could they even be elitists?

I would be interested to see the statistics regarding the actual use of Welsh in the 'Public Sector' in comparison with the use of English.

Whilst we continue to disagree about what constitutes a Welsh speaker's 'rights', I am bound to say, that you alone, of our Nationalist brethren, have engaged with me in thoughtful and cogent discourse. For this I thank you.

On the other hand, your pal Aran, who made a posting on my blog which was full of somewhat crudely 'loaded' questions, has since chosen not to reply to my rather cleverly worded response and prefers to 'slag me off' on Welsh language blogs. Kindly see my first blog for confirmation of this.

Presumably, he thinks that I am not so much 'green' as 'cabbage looking'.

I find this to be quite typical of the Nationalist response to anything that questions their deeply entrenched and elitist views.

I am currently banned from at least three Nationalist blogs and this surely indicates a somewhat blinkered unwillingness to be challenged.

Your pal, Odourousvindictivus has even labelled me, and libelled me, as a racist for my contrary views. This self-styled free-range Nationalist has yet to take up my invitation to withdraw the assertation and will be reminded from time to time.

He has clearly no concept of racism as he seems to think that anyone who does not adhere to his rather swivel-eyed concept of Welsh Nationalism is a racist.

The boy has much to learn in the coming days.

You have clearly captured my point of view regarding 'rights' for the minority of Welsh speakers.

As an Anti-Devolutionist I am always prepared to re-open my mind to its perceived advantages to me as a Welshman, but from what I see of the Nationalist desire to compel an unwilling majority of us to embrace Welsh, or else, they are seeking to deprive me of my 'rights' not to have any unnecessary Welsh in my life.

This, coupled with their stated wish to gain Tax 'varying' powers, presumably to fund their follies, merely strengthens my resolve to oppose their wishes to the full extent of my abilities.

So, chin up, Ceredig. Abandon your forlorn demeanour, and, although we have disparate views, rejoice in the fact that I have at least one pal who is prepared to indulge in the Big Conversation.

Yes it's me.

Your particularly participatory and promulgatory pal.

johnny.

Ceredig said...

Johnny,

Interesting that you refer to me as one ‘of our Nationalist brethren’. Methinks that our mutual mate from Dyfed would beg to differ, as would some of my previous anonymous visitors. I fear that this indicates that we are still in want of a clear definition of what exactly, for you, constitutes a nationalist or nationalism.

‘Culture’ is another word with a wide range of meanings. In its widest anthropological sense, as you have previously indicated, it can include a whole range of activities of which those considering themselves ‘cultured’ in the narrowest sense would hardly approve. Is there anything unique about Welsh culture? I could ask the same about English or any other culture. Clearly any literature which is written in any language is unique to the culture of those who speak that language, but that's another pretty narrow definition, especially given the apparently low level of readership of ‘literature’ in most languages.

Culture in the sense of received and shared values, perhaps? Well, maybe; but values do not just stem from a national background; they also stem from religious views (or lack of) and a range of other experiences which may, or may not, be unique to a nation.

Traditions? Well, sure there are some peculiarly Welsh traditions, but in most cases, they are hardly shared by all Welsh people equally. No, I have to say again, that if you want a definition of ‘Welsh culture’, I’m not the best place to look.

Is it that important however? My comments on the ‘rights’ of people to use Welsh were based solely on the fact that it is one of the native languages of Wales; culture never came into my argument. Your argument is, I think, that Welsh is essentially superfluous in a modern global world (dominated as it is by the English - or more accurately, the American – language) especially where your personal pennies are concerned – I don’t see quite where ‘culture’ came into that either. Defining a Welsh culture which you don’t wish to embrace and I don’t ask you to embrace seems to me to be something of a red herring.

In terms of what legislation should and should not do, I fear that you may be placing too much emphasis on what you have read on the Cymdeithas or Cymuned website; it would be a mistake to believe that what you read there will be the model for the legislation which is actually presented. That legislation will be drawn up by the Labour and Plaid politicians in the Assembly and their advisors – I would be pretty surprised to find that it included every demand made by Cymdeithas yr Iaith / Cymuned.

For my part, my starting point was simply that being in a minority - as Welsh speakers indubitably are - does not mean that they have no 'rights'. I don’t want to force anyone to learn or use Welsh if they don’t want to; but in principle, I can see no equitable basis why people in Wales should be forced to use English either if they don’t want to. And that, the question of whether treatment of the two languages and those who speak them should, in principle at least, be ‘equitable’ or not would seem to me to be the very nub of our disagreement.

Your fair-minded friend.

johnny foreigner said...

Ceredig:

Guilty as charged, Your Honour, (said johnny shamefacedly).

I must get out of the habit of describing you and some others as nationalists. It's an easy mistake to make as there appears to be a nationalistic aura around the language issue.

The 'culture' matter appears to be a problem with many on the blogmosphere. I have asked in many places and have yet to receive any descriptive information.

Maybe it's just a figment of Welsh imaginations, just like dragons and cilts.

I quote the 'culture' issue as it is frequently used by Welsh language speakers as a valid reason for the majority in Wales to embrace the language.

Of course, the other matter is 'rights'.

Whilst I obviously would wish to support absolute rights for all, there is a continuing doubt in my mind that the encouragement of the use of Welsh as a tool for 'official' business is no more than a tax on the majority for the benefit of the minority, and ceates division that will be difficult to heal.

On the basis of pragmatism I would refer you to the Scots and Irish model of self-determination.

Although they themselves have 'native' languages they have abandoned any legislative requirement for their usage. They are allowing these ancient languages to run their natural course.

They will, of course be preserved for posterity and will be the object of study for generations to come, but for sheer practicality they use English as their lingua franca and are praised world-wide for their successful progress in self-determination.

The same could happen in Wales if we had the courage.

The Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers were prepared to sacrifice their linguistic 'rights' for the greater good of all and are to be commended for their actions.

However, in Wales we are hamstrung by a vociferous minority who continue to insist on the full use of Welsh for everyday discourse and demand that the majority pay for it. We in Wales have never been renowned for our pragmatism or forward thinking. We just love the past too much. Perhaps that's all that we have.

With regard to the proposed New Welsh Language 'measures' put out by Cymdeithas I am pretty sure that the compulsion for businesses to provide their goods and services via the medium of Welsh will be central to the proposed Act, and that it will be proposed by Plaid.

We'll have to wait and see.

Your principle of the 'equitable' status of the two languages is fully understandable but when measured against the cost to Wales in terms of its outreach to the wider English speaking world it does appear to have an air of stubbornness, tribalism and inward looking impracticality about it.

I fully realise that this statement will generate some ire but these are my beliefs.

I have been described as being 'racist' and anti-Welsh for my views, which I find to be rather absurd as I am Welsh, born and bred, but I have always been a forward thinker and a firm proponent of Wales becoming a strong part of a strong UK.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Your particularly pragmatic and positive pal.

johnny.

Ordovicius said...

Your pal, Odourousvindictivus has even labelled me, and libelled me, as a racist for my contrary views. This self-styled free-range Nationalist has yet to take up my invitation to withdraw the assertation and will be reminded from time to time.

Still obsessing about me, I see. My, it must sting.

The boy has much to learn in the coming days.

Yes, I have learned a lot in recent days, but not to your advantage. By the way, it is common practice not to refer to people who are ten years one's senior as "boy".
;-)

Ceredig said...

Johnny,

Whether native speakers of Scottish and Irish Gaelic voluntarily “sacrificed their linguistic 'rights' for the greater good of all” is a moot point; I’m not convinced that the statement represents an entirely objective view of the linguistic history of those countries.

However, I think that we have established the fundamental point of disagreement between us on the language issue. I believe that the two native languages of Wales should be treated, in principle, on an equitable basis; you believe that the question should be driven by cost. That’s an unbridgeable gap – neither of us will convince the other on this one.

I recognise however that you are not alone in your belief, and that you have a right to argue your case. I do not resort to accusations of racism; that term to me has a specific and much more ugly meaning, and is at its most powerful when reserved for the real thing.

I believe – purely on the basis of perception in my daily life, rather than having firm statistics to back my argument – that those who think like you on this issue are a small minority, as are those who would impose Welsh on all of us. I believe that the majority of Welsh people want to see the Welsh language thrive, and that the mainstream debate is not about whether further actions should be taken to promote the language, but rather about what those actions should be; and in that context, there is still much to debate.

Your stubborn, tribalistic and inward looking friend.

johnny foreigner said...

Ordo:

Until you justify your allegation that I am racist or withdraw the allegation, I will continue to remind you of this slur. Kindly be assured that I have more experience of racism than you would ever know.

If you knew me or my family and friends you would realise that your allegation is clearly ridiculous.

I would respectfully refer you to the words of our generous host, Ceredig:

"I do not resort to accusations of racism; that term to me has a specific and much more ugly meaning, and is at its most powerful when reserved for the real thing."

Says it all really. My offer to you, to justify or withdraw, remains.

Please be assured that I am considerably older than you and as you seem to act in a rather boyish manner the word seems to fit well. What's the problem? Does it sting?

Your permanently painstaking pal.

johnny.

johnny foreigner said...

Ceredig:

Thanks again for a thoughtful and cogent response.

It would appear that our thought processes have similarities, despite our ideological differences, wherein we are both guided by our own perceptions of the problems that face us and do not rely on the barrage of questionable statistics that others use in order to support their standpoints.

Nevertheless, I find that it is quite reassuring to see that such disparate views as ours are still able to be discussed in a relatively civilised manner, without resorting to personal slurs, as evidenced by another on this thread.

Your tractable, polygenetic and outward-looking pal.

johnny.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Foreigner said

"A swift look at our Scots and Irish cousins will confirm this."

It should be noted that the English did a far better job in routing the non-English languages of Scotalnd and Ireland than they apparently did in Wales.

Thats the only reason this conversation is even occuring, right? So few Gaelic speakers left in the Ireland and Scotland that even bilingualism is at the very best a dim possibility.