Friday, 16 December 2016

Merry Christmas to my Blog Readers

Having completed all my assignments this term and done some research for my dissertation, Christmas is now only singe-digits away and I just thought that I would write this blog as an early Christmas present to members of my family and my other readers.  I therefore hope that the content of this blog makes your respective Christmases all the merrier:

It was last Christmas, I think, when we were all, or rather, most of us were, lodging in this beautiful barn, when one member of the family argued that the countries of Northern Europe such as the Netherlands and Denmark, may well end up abandoning their national languages and adopt English as their new mother tongue.  Another member of the family told us, once (not at Christmas), that there were people in Germany who thought that the Germans may well stop speaking German one day and adopt English as their mother tongue.  In this blog, I intend to assure said relatives, along with anybody who happens to be reading this blog, that such a catastrophe just isn't going to happen.

The reality is this; just because a society, region or nation-state comes under the influence an outside language, and that language becomes a widely/universally spoken second language within that region/nation-state, it does not mean that the indigenous language has to disappear.  There are many examples of this.  Most speakers of Swiss German can also speak Standard German (the two being very different) as their second language yet that does not mean that Swiss German has to die out.  In fact, Swiss German has survived very well.  In the Baltic States and other areas of the former Soviet Union, Russian was (in some cases, is still) very widely spoken but the indigenous vernaculars there have not simply melted away.  In Prague under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, most Czech speakers in the city could also speak German but it did not mean that they had to stop speaking Czech.  Closer to home, in the town of Caernarfon in north Wales, English was understood by a majority by at least 1911, while 100 years on, the town is still very Welsh-speaking; in 2011, it was noted that Welsh was very much the language used by its secondary school pupils in the playground, while in 2016 it was reported that 90% of the pupils in the town's secondary school spoke Welsh at home. 

Thus, the presence of a widely/universally spoken second language does not mean that the indigenous language has to disappear.  In all the cases listed above, a knowledge of the widely/universally spoken second language was either advantageous or necessary and so no matter how important English or any other language becomes, I don't see said independent nation-states just abandoning their mother tongue.  Firstly, what would they have to gain? Nothing, because if they are already reaping the advantages of having high levels of English, what more do they have to gain? Unlike in the situations described above, languages like German and Swedish have full command of domains within their respective countries; Swedish is the language of government in Sweden and of the domestic media.  Immigrants and Refugees who move to Sweden tend to learn Swedish, and in fact, the most popular language in Sweden on the language-learning website, Duolinguo, was Swedish.  This was related to immigration into the country, as the article here describes.  Thus, so far, there is little sign that globalization is going to endanger the languages of said countries. 

Thus, the national languages of Northern Europe, are, in my opinion, not under threat and I am very happy to come to that conclusion.  I hope that you all are too, and I also hope that such a conclusion makes your respective Christmases all the merrier this year.  Merry Christmas, or as they say in Swedish, God Jul!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Census No Longer Reliable in Revealing the True State of the Welsh Language

Whenever I have read Welsh Language Policy documents produced by local authorities, other people's blog pages, books on the state of the Welsh Language or media by pressure groups (such as Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg), I see that the Census seems to be the standard data that is used to study the state of the Welsh Language in any given area.  This is very unfortunate, since, the truth is that the Census has become at best inaccurate and at worst downright misleading when it comes to giving an accurate picture of the state of Welsh as a mother-tongue.
        That this is the case shouldn't be that surprising since as many of us will know, the Census question merely asks one if they 'can speak Welsh,' followed by similar questions on one's ability to read, write and understand it.  No question is asked on whether or not it one's mother tongue, or on one's level of fluency or on how often one uses it.  How then are you able to distinguish mother-tongue speakers of Welsh from second language speakers of varying fluency who may never have used it after leaving school? The truth is, you can't, and as a result, pretty much everyone from public policy makers to Non-Governmental Organisations (such as pressure groups) and individual enthusiasts are basing so much on information that is inevitably going to be misleading some of the time .
       Here are some examples.  The town of Dolgellau in Gwynedd is, according to the 2011 Census, 64.8% Welsh speaking.  One would guess therefore, that Welsh was the majority vernacular in the town.  However, the 2015 Estyn report on the town's primary school,  Ysgol Gynradd Dolgellau, indicates that only 25% of children there come from Welsh-Speaking homes, painting a completely different picture.  On the other hand, in Y Felinheli, where 64.3% could speak Welsh in 2011, 75% of children in the village's primary school came from Welsh-Speaking homes according to its 2014 estyn report.  The 2011 Census recorded that the towns of both Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog were around 78% Welsh speaking yet the percentages of their respective primary school populations coming from Welsh-Speaking homes varied spectacularly.  The figures were, 54% and 80%, for Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog, respectively.  (The figures for Bala, coming from a 2014 Language Impact Assessment Report, page 8)  I could go on, but you get the picture.
       Thus the Census can, and often does, provide a misleading picture of the state of Welsh as a vernacular in any given area.  Don't get me wrong, there is of course a correlation between the percentages of people able to speak Welsh at the Census and the percentage of people who are daily mother-tongue speakers but the former is no longer a reliable indicator of the latter.  This is more the case now than in the past, since the growth of Welsh Medium Education is producing more and more second language speakers of Welsh who will, of course, put themselves down as Welsh-speaking on the Census even if it is their second language and they may have never used it since leaving school. In addition, you have those who have learned it at school as a compulsory subject who are often not fluent at all while you also have adult learners, me being one of the latter.  When I took part in an Office for National Statistics survey this summer, I was advised to report myself as a Welsh speaker even though my Welsh, although improving is far from fluent (although I can assure you, I am trying!)
         It is worth stressing that the position of Welsh as a language of the Home in any given community, is noted as a very strong influence, if not the strongest influence, on whether or not it is used by children in the playground and the street; rather than merely the percentages being able to speak it .  Both a 2014 survey commissioned by Gwynedd Council and the language impact assessment referred to earlier point to the language's position in the Home as being the leading factor.
        There is no doubt in my mind, as you can imagine, that the Census questions relating to Welsh need to be changed in time for the next one.  There should be one question on fluency and another on whether it is one's mother tongue or second language and why not also have a question which asks Second Language speakers how often they use their Welsh?  Until a Census is taken with such changes made, I suggest that any individual or body interested in the state of the Welsh Language as a community language should use the percentages of children speaking Welsh at Home, provided by Estyn in their school inspection reports, as the primary Data to use, as that is much more useful in ascertaining the percentages of children being native Welsh speakers.   That is why, when writing my blog on the status of Welsh in Gwynedd and on Anglesey, I decided to use Estyn and not the Census as the basis for my research.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Richmond Park By-election: Congratulations to the Lib-Dems

This morning we heard the news that Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney had beaten Zack Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election which the latter had instigated over the government's decision to favor a third runway at Heathrow.  I, as you can imagine, am nothing short of thrilled that the Lib Dems won, as they are, I believe, the progressive and internationalist voice in British politics today.

 I am also very pleased that the other internationalist potential contestants, most notably the Greens, decided not to contest the election and endorsed the Liberal Democrats. Clearly, Zack Goldsmith deserved to be defeated as he had supported Brexit while his constituents voted overwhelmingly against it but most notably his unsuccessful mayoral campaign against Labour candidate Sadiq Khan did, it seems, play the religious card and its reputation as a highly amoral and reckless (given the current political climate, particularly for members of the islamic community in the West) campaign does seem to be well founded.  Thus, I am not sorry that he lost his seat.

Zack Goldsmith claimed that the by-election was about opposition to a third runway at Heathrow but it must be said that none of the candidates running in the by-election actually supported the government's plans for Heathrow.  The Conservatives (Zack standing as an independent)  did not even field a candidate undoubtedly because they knew that the Tory/pro-Brexit vote would be split and that the Lib-Dems would thus win by a huge landslide which they were clearly sufficiently scared about.  UKIP did not field a candidate either and of course, endorsed Zack.  Guys, there is no doubt that this was not a referendum on the expansion of Heathrow but on Brexit, and the Tories knew it as much as UKIP and Greens did.  Perhaps more profoundly, it was a contest between regressive nationalism and progressive internationalism.  

So what does the result mean?  The result is no doubt a statement from the people of Richmond, that the Tories can no longer count their remain-supporting urban bourgeois heartlands, at least in London, as safe territory anymore while they follow the path of the Nationalist populism which has swept across the western world.  It is a sign that, if the Tories abandon economic pragmatism in favor of such nationalism, then such voters may well abandon them.  If I were a Tory, I would be shaking in my boots.

And what about Labour? Unlike other parties on their half of the political spectrum, they decided not to pull out of the contest and instead fielded a candidate.  It shows that Labour under Corbyn, just like during the referendum, is only so committed to the remain cause and to joining the internationalist side of the ideological struggle across the western world.  In short, during both the referendum campaign and this by-election, the Lib-Dems put their heart and soul into the fight while have not done the same.  Now, of course, were Labour and not the Lib-Dems the main opposition to the Tories in this particular constituency, Labour may well have embodied progressive internationalism but the point is that this is an example of how shallow their commitment to such a cause seems, in my view.

Let's hope that this is not merely a fluke but a genuine trend.  If the Lib-Dems can win in hitherto Tory Richmond, then why not in Fulham or Kensington and Chelsea? I would also like to add that I would not be too sad if the Lib-Dems were to replace Labour as the main anti-Tory/UKIP party and I wish them every success in doing so.  I would however prefer it if they didn't do too well in the constituency where I am right now (Ceredigion) as they are the main opposition to Plaid, who I support and have even become a member of.  Either way, congratulations Sarah Olney and the Lib-Dems and good luck in the journey ahead.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Trump being elected President: My reaction.

I am sorry that this blog has come a week late.  My excuse is this; I was on a trip to Berlin organised by our University's history department, from the Monday to Friday of last week while since then I have had to complete two assignments.  Hopefully I can finish and publish this blog tonight, meaning that of Tuesday 15th of November.  

I think you can guess what my views on Donald Trump are, assuming that you have read my earlier blogs on Brexit.  Pretty much the entire world has said something resembling what I think about the President-elect, and so I won't waste too much time on regurgitating my mind.  I suppose the only positive is that it might reduce tensions between the West and Russia and bring the 'Second Cold War' to an end.  Given that it was reported that Russians were celebrating Trump's victory, my fingers are crossed that America and the West will no longer be the bogey-man in Russia's eyes.  However, that is seriously the only plus I can think of; a xenophobic demagogue who, as Michelle Obama has said, brags about sexually assaulting women is no joke when anywhere near power.  Threatening a neighboring country to pay for one's own projects (in this case, his wall) along with the unapologetic xenophobia of his rhetoric should have put off enough voters to make a Trump victory an impossibility but of course, it didn't.

Of course, Hillary actually received more votes than Trump.  As Wikipedia states, this is now the fifth Presidential election in US history where the candidate with the most votes actually lost the election. 7% of all Presidential Elections, according to CPG Grey.  However, if you only include the five Presidential elections that have taken place in the previous 16 years, we have 40% of such Elections resulting in the candidate with the most votes not becoming President..  And it's not as if such a discrepancy has effected both main parties evenly; in both cases, it was the Democratic nominee with the most votes and the Republican winning the Presidency and not the other way around.  Is this a coincidence? No.  Bear with me while I explain why:  In American Presidential elections, it is the Electoral College which elects the President, not the American public, while it is the Electoral College which is elected by the public on polling day.  Each state is given an amount of seats in the EC.  However rather than distributing the EC seats fairly to each state according to their respective population sizes, each state is given three seats to start with before the rest are distributed according to population size. This means that states with smaller populations are over-represented while states with larger populations are under-represented.   And, of course, because more thinly populated states and rural areas in general are more likely to be pro-Republican, and urban areas, pro-Democrat, the EC's misrepresentation inevitably favors the Republican party.  Thus it is no co-incidence that both George Bush in 2000, and now, Donald Trump in 2016, were both elected President despite loosing the popular vote in those two elections.

Thus, the Electoral college is, by design, not fairly representative, and in 21st century America, this favors one political party over another.  What, of course, makes it worse is that the vast majority of states have a Winner-Take-All system for Electoral College elections meaning that, if, for example, there are two candidates running in California, one only needs to win 1/2 +1 of the popular vote there to win all 55 of California's votes in the Electoral College.  If there are 3 candidates running in California, you only need 1/3 +1 of the popular vote in the state to win all 55 votes.  There's no other way of putting it; this is not Democracy rather it is indefensible

A better Electoral System For America
I therefore propose a better system for electing the President which does not involve abolishing the Electoral College: 
  • Each state would be fairly represented according to their population
  • Elections shall be by Proportional Representation so that if a candidate, say, gets 30% of the popular vote in California, he/she will win 30% of California's votes in the Electoral College, 
  • If no candidate gets more than 50% of the Electoral College votes nationwide, he/she will need the support of a fellow candidate with enough votes to get them over the 50% line.  Therefore, a candidate with 53% of the EC votes will need a fellow candidate with at least 7% to agree to endorse them, in order to become President.  
  • If the smaller candidate with, say 8% of the EC vote, feels that the candidate he has made President has not being keeping the promises he made to him, he can withdraw his endorsement at any time during the subsequent Presidential Term.  Should this happen, the EC from the last election will either have to either elect a new President within a certain period of time, or face re-election by the public.
I also believe that it is disgusting that Third party candidates are excluded from the Presidential debates.  Neither Presidential candidates from the Green or Libertarian Parties were allowed to participate on stage despite the fact that the were on the ballot in majority of states.  Any presidential candidate on the ballot paper in enough states to be available to a majority of American voters should be allowed to participate in the debates no matter how few or many votes they received at the last election.  Not allowing such candidates to participate is a blow to democracy because it keeps the American public in the dark about the choices available to them.    

        We can only hope for the best in my opinion.  I personally am trying to avoid thinking about what the consequences of his opinions and subsequent policies are going to be for relations between the U.S. and the Hispanic and Islamic worlds.  As one article I read put it, it would undo many ties of goodwill that the US has with countries in both regions.  I hope that whatever undesirable consequences there are, are, a) temporary, and that, b)people across the world know that most Americans did not endorse him at the election. 
        I mentioned at the beginning that reduced tensions with Russia might be the only positive result.  There is, perhaps, another, which is that NATO, which Trump has described as obsolete, might be disbanded.  My opinions on NATO are quite simply this, it is a Cold War relic that should have been done away with when Iron Curtain came down.  Since then, it's expansion eastwards has only antagonized Russia and I believe it is one of the, if not, the reason behind anti-Western sentiment within that country.  
         As I also said in the beginning, I was in Berlin right through the election. Whilst there, I read this article which argued that temporarily at least, Trump's victory could result in Merkel's Germany acting as the new 'leader of the Free World.  Or certainly, Germany would be the leader of the still Liberal countries within it.  I agree, and believe if there is one country that can play such a role, Germany is best for the job.  One only has to take a look at Germany's leadership role within the EU and equally towards the refugee crisis, or how stable the German economy has been relative to other economies within the EU.  Germany has become a land of opportunity, not just for refugees, but for economic migrants within Europe, and its importance is this regard is only likely to increase further with Brexit.  Germany, although without a 'Holywood factor', does appear to have influence in areas besides politics and economics; German TV series, such as Deutschland 83 and Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter have proven popular in other countries, such as Britain.  German is the fourth most popular second language in the world on the popular language learning app, Duolinguo.  Not bad considering that Germany is a country with under 100 million people and without the post-colonial influence or organisations such as the Francophonie and Commonwealth that Britain and France have, respectively.  Germany certainly came across as a very pleasant and progressive country whilst we were in Berlin, and I see more people looking to Germany as a leader during Trump's presidential term.  In short, if there is any country which can be surrogate America while Trump is serving as President, that country is Germany.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Welsh being under threat has nothing to do with Globalisation

Back in the spring of 2015, I was with two relatives in their car driving through the countryside of Ceredigion when one of them said that Welsh was a 'dying language' and that its demise was inevitable due to 'Globalization' and the fact that the world was getting 'better connected.'  She then used the example of how, in her native country in Continental Europe, knowledge of English as a second language had increased dramatically, to argue that because of 'globalization' and modernity, English was going to triumph and languages like Welsh were inevitably going to disappear.

For those who have read an earlier blog on the position of Welsh as a vernacular in the North Wales county of Gwynedd, it will be immediately obviousl that such remarks are, well, wrong.   In Gwynedd's county town and administrative centre, Caernarfon, more than 80% of primary school children come from Welsh speaking homes and Welsh is still the majority pupil home language in a majority of the county's urban areas while there are village schools where more than 90% of children speak Welsh at home.  Yes, 90%.  Since when can a language where this is the case be classified as 'dying'?

Yet the percentage of children across Wales as a whole speaking the language at home is now only 7%.  Even in Gwynedd there are areas where Welsh no longer the majority pupil mother tongue, such as Bangor, coastal Merionydd and enclaves elsewhere.  Welsh is still a language that is spoken as a vernacular and by all generations, but the area in which this is still true has shrunk hugely; in the 1960s and '70s, the Welsh heartland covered nearly half the country's surface area, forming a swathe of territory stretching from Anglesey, down the west coast to the Bristol channel, while in 1870, nearly the whole country was majority Welsh speaking.   Thus, it would be more appropriate to describe Welsh as a geographically 'Rump Language'; for example the Byzantine Empire was a rump of the larger Roman Empire.

The problem with saying that the decline of Welsh is an inevitable by-product, or even part of, 'globalization' or 'modernity' is that you soon run into problems.  You'd have to prove that today's Welsh speaking areas are somehow not modern and globalized and that anglophone areas are.  You'd have to prove that people in Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog  don't have smartphones, don't board planes to other countries and don't eat foreign cuisine or drink coca-cola but that people in Barmouth and Aberdyfi do.  And on that, I can assure you, you would be proven very wrong.  The truth is that Welsh speaking urban and rural areas are no less modern or globalized than other urban and rural areas that are the same size.  And if you went up to a native welsh speaker and told them that they had lacked the benefits of modernity and globalization, such remarks wouldn't do you any favors.

If you still think that languages spoken by small countries are inevitably doomed because of globalization, put it this way;  Estonia and Iceland have around a half and a tenth of Wales's population, respectively, and are highly globalized.  Since when are those countries' languages considered old fashioned and moribund in a twenty-first century globalized world? They're not.  The changing fortunes of Estonian during the last century had everything to do with Soviet occupation and the demographic changes imposed on the country by the Soviets; not globalization. Estonian has become more widely spoken, not less, percentage wise since Estonian independence in spite of globalization accelerating since 1991.  Globalization is therefore not the reason why the Welsh language lost most of its territory during the past 150 years.  Wales being part of the United Kingdom must have to do with it, don't you think?  It is also interesting to note that those areas in Gwynedd which are still Welsh speaking tend to have less than 1/3 of their population having been born in England, while those which have been anglicized have higher percentages being born outside Wales.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Leanne Wood's Experience on BBC's Question Time Makes my Blood Boil

Last night, on the BBC political discussion show, Question Time, a UKIP member of the audience had the gall to call Plaid Cymru a racist party.  He claimed that the party's name Plaid Cymru, meant 'Wales for the Welsh' (and it doesn't) before shouting 'What about the rest of us?'
            How dare he? At at time when thanks to Brexit and the rhetoric of UKIP and CO, foreign nationals across England are being told in the street to 'go home' while others have been assaulted, even fatally, simply for speaking their own languages in public places, to call Plaid Cymru anti-English racists when they have done nothing of the sort just makes my blood boil.  The truth is that Plaid Cymru has been very kind and politically correct and not gone for anti-English incomer bashing.  As an English incomer to Wales myself, I can say that I have never been given a hard time for being not Welsh or for speaking my English mother tongue in the street nor have I heard Plaid bang on about the numbers of us English incomers the way Farage has talked about Romanians.  Plaid Cymru has many English members and a third of its MPs are English so calling them anti-English racists really is like a black pot calling a white kettle black.
         In fact, perhaps with reason, some Welsh Nationalists argue that Plaid Cymru has been too politically correct and not bold enough in stating the fact that the amount of migration from England to until-then Welsh-speaking areas of Wales since the 1960s is why Welsh speaking areas have shrunk so disastrously, since , you guessed it, the 1960s. Those people, such as the organisation Cymuned, along with the notable blogger Jac O the North, perhaps do have a point.  After all, if you compare areas in the traditional Welsh-language Heartland which are still Welsh speaking with those which have been anglicized in the last 40-50 years, you will notice a pattern.  Areas, both urban and rural, which still have a large majority of their school children speaking Welsh at home, such as Pwllheli, Caernarfon, Blaeanau Ffestiniog etc tend to have less than 1/3 of their population born outside Wales.  Those which are no longer Welsh Speaking, such as Bangor, Llandudno and Barmouth etc tend to have more of their population born outside Wales.  In addition, there have been stories of many English incomers actually being hostile to the language of the place they have chosen to move to; a notable example is a Daily Post article from 2009 which reported that a Welsh speaker in Blaenau Ffestiniog (where 80% of children speak Welsh at home) was mimicked pejoratively by a non-Welsh checkout worker when she tried to ask for something in her mother tongue.  In addition,  it was reported on the BBC in 2015 that Ceredigion County council was trying to urge many English homeowners not to convert the Welsh names of their new houses to Anglo-Saxon sounding names.
          Plaid Cymru have avoided making a meal of the phenomenon of migration to Welsh speaking areas because they are a kind and pleasant party and we English incomers should be bloody grateful for that and not accuse them of anti-English racism.  Because even if Plaid Cymru were to adopt the policies that more extreme Welsh Nationalist organisations, like Cymuned (which by the way had English members such as Tim Webb,) were calling for 15 years ago, ie calling for control on migration into Welsh speaking areas and obliging incomers to learn Welsh, that would not make Plaid half as racist as the current Tory/UKIP rhetoric is towards immigrants to the UK.  Here me now; the Tories are now calling for policies such as naming and shaming  companies which hire non-British workers while also criticizing the number of foreigners working in our NHS.  This is  despite the fact that the vast majority of migrants to the UK do learn English and immigration poses no threat to the dominance of English in the UK, unlike, it seems, the situation in North and West Wales.   The rhetoric of UKIP, the Leave campaign and now the Tories has resulted in an elected MP and foreign nationals even being murdered and others assaulted while we haven't heard of English incomers, even in the most Welsh Nationalist areas, of receiving that kind of treatment.
         Thus, Plaid Cymru have deliberately avoided anything that resembles Anglophobia or opposition to incomers and so to be called racist by a member of UKIP, of all parties really is like a black pot calling a white kettle black.  But that didn't matter to that ukipper.  To him any nationalist who isn't an English/British Nationalist is an anti-English racist.  And that itself is racist against every other nationality on this Earth because it says that the English are so special that only they have the right to indulge in nationalism.  If there is one positive outcome to hope for in a post-Brexit crisis in Britain it is that UKIP and Tory supporters will learn the hard way to respect other nationalities like equals whether it be nations across the seas or the other nations of the British Isles.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

An idea: A more Representative Voting System that keeps the Constituency link

How can we have an electoral system that retains the local constituency link between the voter and MP but which is more representative than the First Past the Post/Winner Take All system?  My answer:
         In this system which has popped into my mind (for all I know other people may have thought of it before me), single member constituencies would be retained but the candidate with the most votes will not be guaranteed to be the new MP if he receives less than 50% of the vote.  Should no candidate receive a majority of the votes cast, whoever is to become the new MP would need the endorsement of another candidate who himself has enough votes to bridge the gap.  For example, if the candidate with the most votes gets 42% of the vote (candidate X), he or she will have to enter an agreement with another candidate who has received at least 8% of the popular vote (Candidate Y) for Candidate X to be over the line and become the new MP.

 ,Under this system, if within a year of X becoming the MP, Y feels that X, has not been keeping the promises that he made in their agreement, Y can withdraw his endorsement and the post of MP for the constituency will now be vacant.  A new MP will have to be selected from the list of candidates at the last election, and that new MP will need the endorsement of himself and a fellow candidate who received enough votes at the last election to get him over the 50% line.  If no such agreement can be made within, say 3 weeks of X being removed as MP, then a by-election will have to happen and the process will start fresh from there.

The benefits of such a system are great, in my opinion.  For starters, tactical voting would be unnecessary; every vote would count and that is, after all, what Democracy is all about .  It would also require common ground to be made whenever no single candidate gets a majority of votes cast; and that is only fair.  The link between the constituency voter and the serving MP will be preserved but more importantly the way the constituency voted at the last election will be relevant throughout the parliamentary term and the sitting MP, should he have been elected with fewer than 50% of the votes cast, will have to remain in touch with how his constituency voted.  Don't forget that due to tactical voting no longer being necessary under this system, there would no doubt be fewer constituencies in which single candidates get a majority of the votes cast.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Just how Welsh speaking is Anglesey?

After the blog on the Welsh Language in Gwynedd was completed, I thought 'Next Stop:Anglesey'.  And why not? The isle of  Anglesey, or Ynys Môn, as it is known is Welsh, is the only local authority area apart from Gwynedd where a majority of the population can speak Welsh as of the 2011 Census;  namely 57.2% in Anglesey's case.  But I, like with Gwynedd, wanted to find how widely Welsh was spoken as a mother tongue on the Island, and by the youngest generation, namely Primary School Children.  Primary school inspection reports, produced by the regulatory body Estyn, give both the pupil population and the percentage who speak Welsh at home.  I therefore retrieved such information from the latest inspection reports on all 45 primary schools and keyed them into excel.

The results showed that of the just over 5100 primary school pupils in Anglesey, 37.3% speak Welsh at home compared to 59% in neighboring Gwynedd.  While Gwynedd is still majority Welsh speaking in every sense, Anglesey is not since although a majority can speak Welsh, a majority of children on the island don't speak it at home.  Like in Gwynedd however, the schools range spectacularly; there are 5 schools on Anglesey where  more than 80% of pupils speak Welsh at home (WAH) and there are 10 schools where it is less than 10%.  Of those pupils educated in schools with WAH majorities, 66.6% spoke WAH while of those in schools where a majority didn't speak Welsh at Home, only 16.4% spoke WAH.  Anglesey can therefore be described as a 'Belgium County', the island is sharply divided into areas where Welsh is very much the venacular, and areas where it isn't anymore.   

So how are these schools distributed? Schools where less than 10% speak WAH are found mainly in Holyhead or near the RAF base in Valley with the other two being in Beaumaris and Cemaes.   Schools between 10 and 30% are mainly on the East Coast but also in Porthaethwy/Menai Bridge and Rhosneigr.  Those between 30 and 50% are largely clustered around the South West of the Island but do exist elsewhere while schools where a majority speak WAH dominate the middle, the north and north west (excluding the coastal towns of Amlwch and Cemaes) but can also be found near the south, east and Menai Strait coasts but here they are less numerous than schools with more anglicized home backgrounds.  But looking at urban areas, how Welsh speaking is each town?  In the island's administrative centre, Llangefni, 63% of primary school children are from Welsh speaking homes while in the largest town, Holyhead it is only 8.4%.  As for the other towns, Amlwch is at 30%, Benllech is at 27%, Menai Bridge is at 20% while Beaumaris is at 5%.  

Thus the island is strongly divided. While the interior, North West coasts and a few areas on the Menai are still majority Welsh mother tongue, most coastal areas, along with Holy Island, are now majority First Language English.  To add an anecdote, I once met someone who had grown up in an anglicized area of Anglesey who did not even seem to be aware of the fact that much of the island is still Welsh speaking;  in his village primary school only around 10% of pupils spoke WAH according to Estyn an he stated that he became fluent in Welsh while at school due to it being Welsh Medium but had since lost fluency while on the island since he never used it in everyday life.  The question is, therefore, for how long has Anglesey been a divided island? How far back do you have to go for the whole island to be homogeneously Welsh speaking?

A bit of History
Since I was unable to get hold of reports on pupil mother tongue dating back much more than 10 years (with one exception), the Census is what I have used to see how the vitality of Welsh changed on Anglesey during the twentieth century; the percentage of people over the age of 3 speaking welsh at Parish, District and County level being given.  Clearly, the island was almost homogeneously Welsh speaking until after the second world war.   In 1961, areas where more than 80% of the overall population could speak Welsh covered nearly the whole island but significant enclaves below 80% had emerged, all of which were coastal.  By 1971, with the exception of the North West coast and two small areas in the south West and Menai Coasts, respectively, nowhere coastal was above 80%; Welsh was strongest in inland areas while most coastal areas had become more anglicized.  Thus the linguistic divide that we see today had already come into existence by 1971, with the sixties being a decade of significant territorial change and the decades since seeing much less change. The fact that, on the whole, the areas that were still above 80% in 1971 still have a majority of their school children speaking Welsh at Home now, shows how resilient the Welsh language has been territorially in the past 46 years.  A question thus arises; why did most of Anglesey's coastal areas become English speaking in a relatively short period of time when Welsh as a living vernacular has managed to survive relatively unscathed on the rest of the island?

Of course, the Census's age breakdown is far more useful because it allows you to see the position of Welsh as the language of the home and family by revealing what percentage of 3&4 year old children spoke the language.  In 1961, 60.5% of 3-4 year olds in Anglesey could speak Welsh but by 1971, it was only 50.0%. If you compare that to the 37.3% of primary school pupils today speaking it at home, you will notice how fast Welsh declined between 1961 and 1971 (1.05% points a year) but how much slower it has declined in the 45 years since (0.28% points a year). This is no doubt due to the fact that it was during the 1960s that Welsh lost ground in those coastal areas but that since then the geographical divide has changed very little.

But how has the strength of Welsh as a mother tongue changed in Anglesey's towns? Unfortunately, after the 1921 Census, age breakdowns stop being available for any district, either urban or rural, where the population was below 20,000 at the time.  Simply, none of Anglesey's towns were large enough for the 1931 Census and later censuses for such information to be provided, which is annoying to be honest.  So what was the situation in 1921? As you can imagine, much more Welsh speaking but even then, one of Anglesey's towns had already become an enclave of English; in Beaumaris, only 43.1% of 3&4 year old residents could speak Welsh, down from 46.8% in 1911. In Holyhead 81.4% of 3&4 year olds could speak Welsh in 1921 (practically unchanged since 1911), in Menai Bridge, 73.8% (compared to 87.5% in 1911,) in Amlwch the figure was 98.8% in 1921 while Llangefni was at 93.5%.  Thus the picture in 1921 is of an almost entirely Welsh speaking island but in which Beaumaris had already become an English speaking enclave while the town of Porthaethwy/Menai Bridge, still Welsh speaking then would likely have become an enclave of English within a few decades.  

What I do know is that by 1968, only 23.3% of primary school children in Holyhead spoke Welsh at home (A figure I found on the website Syniadau.)  This is surprising, since there wasn't a very sharp decline in the percentage of the population of Holyhead (all ages) able to speak Welsh before 1961; such a figure stood at 73.6% in 1951, 71.4% in 1961 before falling to 60.9% in 1971.  However, it must be said that overall percentages can be very misleading. A notable example of this is in the large town of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. 70.1% of the town's population said they could speak Welsh in 1931, and the consensus seems to be that as long as the percentage speaking Welsh is above 70% in any given area, the language is safe there.  What that 70.1% doesn't reveal is that only 45.9% of 3&4 year old children in the town could speak Welsh, down from 61.5% in 1921.   Since the census doesn't reveal when such a generational decline occurred in the town of Holyhead, that is again something that I would welcome some ideas about.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Murder on the Streets of Harlow raises Serious Questions for us as a Country.

This Saturday, a 40 year old citizen of Poland, Arkadiusz Jóźwik, was brutally attacked by a group of six teenagers on the streets of Harlow, Essex, and died later in hospital.  He was living in Britain and employed as a factory worker and was assaulted merely because he was speaking Polish in the street.  

This appalling and barbaric attack, just like the ultra-nationalistic murder of Jo Cox, immediately raises questions about what has happened to our country.  A country which I, and people across the world have seen as a key example of multiculturalism working well.  To say that each of those six youths had to be 'not well-educated' to commit such an act is an understatement.  They can only have been educated/propagandised in the wrong direction; their attitudes and beliefs didn't just appear out of nowhere.

We, as a nation, cannot just sit on the knowledge that xenophobia and attacks driven by xenophobia and ultra-nationalism have risen since the referendum on leaving the EU.  Because I can tell you this, both the hate crimes themselves and the attitudes that drive them can only belong in an uncivilised country. How has this all happened? There is no doubt about the role of the Brexit referendum.  But when it comes to the notion that foreign nationals shouldn't be speaking their mother tongue on our streets, Nigel Farage's remarks, two years ago, that he felt awkward hearing other languages on a train, come to mind.  I assume therefore, that the rule is that whenever two people, for example, travel to another country, they should only communicate to each other in the language of the country they are in and therefore have to refrain from talking the language of their home country?

That means therefore that whenever UK Nationals travel to the Costa Del Sol or Ibiza, they should only be allowed to speak Spanish, or Catalan in Ibiza's case, to each other in the street.  Why don't we start by demanding that those of British descent in New Zealand should only speak Maori in the street and on trains? The truth is that I don't seem to remember Nigel Farage demanding that British Nationals on the continent integrate as eagerly as he demands that Foreign Nationals do so in the UK.  Would the murderous youths in Harlow have agreed to forfeit their right to speak English in France? 

There is no doubt in my mind that the argument that foreign nationals shouldn't speak their mother tongue on British streets is at its core an Anglo-Supremacist argument.  It is the idea that English speakers have the right to move  anywhere in the world (such as Australia or the Costa Del Sol) and bring their language with them (and even impose them on the indigenous population in certain cases) , while non-Anglo-Saxons shouldn't have the right even to speak their own language to each other while in Britain.  It is the same attitude which has English speakers who have moved to other countries referred to as expats while Polish Nationals in the United Kingdom are referred to as immigrants.  It even seems that some people believe that the world belongs to the Anglo-Saxons and that everybody else is second class.  Any country in which such a self-supremacist attitude has any influence at all is a country with a problem it needs to deal with.   I personally put the blame not only with UKIP but also the legacy of the British Empire and prejudices towards continental Europeans which seem all too prevalent in certain sections of British Society.  It is worth bearing in mind that the vast majority of British Nationals on the Costa Del Sol don't learn Spanish, while I personally have not yet met a single adult Polish National in Britain who doesn't speak good English.  

With regards to people moving from one country to another, we can't have one rule for some people and another for others.  The one rule for everyone should be that you are allowed to speak the language of your Home Country to other people from your Home Country no matter where you are, but you must also learn the language of the country you have moved to.  As for the perpetrators of such a crime, a just sentence would have them spend at least 20 years in Polish Prisons where they would be separated from each other and banned from speaking English.  The British government should pay for their imprisonment and not the Polish taxpayer.  

Monday, 15 August 2016

Why the Welsh Language absolutely should not die.

Earlier this month, BBC Radio Live Five sent a tweet asking someone to speak on air about 'why the Welsh Language should die', before apologizing.  As it turned out, No one was found who was willing to profess such an opinion.  Such comments, did, and rightly so, trigger a hostile reaction from both the Welsh Language Commisioner and Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru.  Leanne's response, which I thought was excellent, argued that the Welsh Language belonged to everyone in Wales, and an attack on the language was an attack on Welsh people in general.  I certainly agree and believe that now is an appropriate time to argue why I believe that the Welsh Language is so important.
       I, being a language learner, did French for A Level and after my A Levels, I spent a little over a month of that Summer in Brittany, another Celtic Country, in order to practice my French and see if I could hear any Breton, an endangered language very similar to Welsh.  But it was after I arrived there that I realized how important Welsh is.  One day, my host family and I bumped into a non-French woman who had moved to Brittany and learnt French.  I spoke to this lady, and it turned out she was Irish.  Nevertheless, my host family kept referring to her as l'anglaise - 'The English Woman.'  I pointed out to them that no, she was not English, that instead she was from the Republic of Ireland which was not only not part of England, that it was not even part of the UK and hadn't been for nearly a Hundred Years.  However to my Host Family, it didn't matter, to them the Irish were English.  This was an attitude or belief that cropped up more than once while in France, and I had also encountered it on the Continent before.  
       The same belief/attitude does not appear to exist towards the Baltic States, all three of which gained independence from the Soviet Union only 25 years ago, or towards the other Post-Soviet states by that matter.  So many countries have gained independence from larger neighbors since the Ireland gained independence in 1922, and yet they are not dealt the same injustice of being thought of as the same as their former conquerors.  Why is this? Once word: Language.  In spite of everything about Ireland that is different to England, its culture, its geography, its history, its republican system of government, the be all and end all with regards to whether or not many people deny whether you exist as a nation appears to be whether or not you're ancestors adopted the language of their conquerors.  
       Wales, like Ireland, has a lot that is different from England; its geography, its culture, its architecture, its success at Rugby and its institutions such as the Eisteddfod.  But unlike Ireland, Wales is still part of the United Kingdom and is much more linked to, and integrated with, England than Ireland is; not only in terms of geography but also economically, demographically and with regards to its transport infrastructure.  Welsh people are therefore even more likely to be referred to as English by people from outside the British Isles.  It therefore seems that in the eyes of the much of the west of the world,  whether or not Wales is a nation in its own right or merely a western province of England depends on the survival of the Welsh Language.  And for those who say that Welsh no longer has a right to exist because of Globalisation, is anyone seriously saying that because of globalization, the Estonians should stop speaking Estonian and instead adopt Russian?   

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Are we Brits really so bad at Foreign Languages?

In my first Blog, I did rather criticize my own Country for the attitude of much of our Press towards the Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence, along with the British Government of the day's conduct in Ireland at the time.  Perhaps now I should redeem myself in the eyes of my Country and dispel an accusation made against us all the time, and not least by ourselves, that we as a nation are bad at learning foreign languages.  I myself am a Second Language speaker of French who studied it for A Level, while I am also, as mentioned in my last blog, having a shot at Welsh right now while I have tried but temporarily given up on German.

The notion that we, Brits, are worse at learning Foreign Languages than other Europeans implies that we as a nation do try, but don't succeed, while other Europeans also try but do actually succeed.  The foreign languages most traditionally taught in Britain are French followed by German, while Spanish is somewhat of a newcomer.  In order to prove that we are 'bad' at those Foreign Languages, remembering that being good or bad is always relative, we would have to prove that other Europeans are better at those Foreign Languages than we are.  Do Germans speak better French than we do?  Are Sicilians more proficient than us in German?

There can be no doubt, that the study of Foreign Languages in Britain is in the decline. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of entries for A Levels in Foreign Languages fell by 31%.  During that period, the number of such entries for French fell by 57% and for German, 59%.  Spanish did show an impressive increase of 59% however.  Overall the issue is not that we are trying but not succeeding, but that fewer of us are trying in the first place.  Is this a uniquely British Problem? No. In the 1970s, 15% of Germans could hold a conversation in French.  Now, less than 5% can.  The study of German in France is likewise less than what it was 40 years ago, while even in Flanders, the Flemish speaking half of Belgium, French Language proficiency is in the decline despite the fact that native speakers of Dutch and Flemish have a reputation of being the best linguists in Europe.  Even stranger, given that we are living in an age of Globalization and greater inter-connectivity.

 The notion that we are under-performing in French and German compared to other non-French and Non-German speaking Countries, respectively, is therefore plain wrong.  That is not the issue here.  The reason why fewer of us are learning French and German, and the reason why other European are also learning those languages less and less is because what happens to our Mother Tongue, English, has become the undisputed First Foreign Language in every non-English speaking Country in Europe.  And even that is an understatement; for our European neighbors, the situation for them is not so much that everyone has to learn a Foreign Language and English happens to be the most popular; English is in a different category from other foreign languages, the situation is more like if you don't become proficient in English you will be disadvantaged enough in the job market to deter you from not learning it and in many countries, the percentage of people able to converse in English is now above 50%, and even above 80% in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

This increase in the importance of English has come only at the expense of the learning of other languages.  For example, with the perception that it is quite possible to get by in Germany because 'everyone speaks English', one's motivation for learning German decreases.  In short, whereas in the past, English would have been necessary to get by in the UK but useless on the Continent, now it is necessary in the UK and useful on the Continent and along with that, the indigenous languages of the Continent have become less necessary for a Foreigner to get by through in their own respective Homelands.   This is thus why European Languages that aren't English have become less popular not only among Brits but also among other Europeans.

But for those of us who aren't put off, trying to practice one's second language is made more difficult precisely because of the pre-eminence of English.  I know many people, me included in fact, who, when trying to practice in the Country that speaks the language they are trying to learn, get replied to in English or even told not to try altogether, simply because they have a non-native accent.  This doesn't happen to often to me in France but I imagine if I was in Sweden trying to learn Swedish I would probably have pulled my hair out after a day.  I know even know some people who lie about their nationality to pretend that they don't speak English so that they get a real opportunity to practice.

Thus, the best way for a European in today's Europe to become proficient in a foreign language is for English not to be the language of their Country.  Where in the United Kingdom has the highest percentage of bilinguals? It is not the cosmopolitan and well connected cities and conurbations, but the one area where an indigenous language other than English is still spoken by a majority of children as a mother tongue: the mountainous area of Gwynedd, where 59% of school children speak Welsh at Home (see my previous blog).

So when you compare an Englishman's ability to speak German with a German's ability to speak English, you must remember that you are not comparing like with like.  Should the Englishman speak just as good German as the German does English, it would not be a draw; the Englishman would win all the brownie-points.  Also, it must be noted that, because English has such a monopoly on Foreign Language learning on the Continent while due to it being our mother tongue, we don't have to focus on it, when we Brits do choose to learn Foreign Languages, we learn a more diverse range.  So for example, in a group of ten Germans with Foreign Language knowledge, all will speak English but probably nothing else, among a similar group of Brits with foreign language knowledge, some might speak French, German or Japanese for that matter.  Thus no single foreign Language will be spoken by nearly as high a proportion of people.

I therefore feel that for as long as English remains in such a preeminent position, we Brits will always be accused of being 'bad at learning Foreign Languages.'  Only when the different National Languages of Europe are equal will we Brits be freed from the cage of Monolingualism.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Just how Welsh Speaking is Gwynedd today?

Gwynedd, the home of Snowdon, has for the centuries been a bastion for Welshness.  Whether as the last unconquered Welsh principality in the 13th Century or as the Heartland of Welsh language newspapers, novels and poets in the 19th and early 20th, to say that the region has punched above its weight with regards to Welsh culture would be an understatement.  And of course, in the twenty-first century where Welsh is now a minority language in Wales as a whole, Gwynedd is Wales's most welsh speaking area.   Thus, I, myself a learner of the language originally from London but now living in Wales, wanted to find out just how Welsh speaking Gwynedd is in the second decade of the Twenty-First Century.
             The 2011 Census recorded that 65.4% of those enumerated in Gwynedd on Census day could speak Welsh, compared to 72.1% in `1991.  However the Census is not always the best guide to the state of Welsh as a Mother Tongue; the question is on whether or not you can speak Welsh; not whether or not it is your mother tongue.  This is significant since, A Survey Commissioned by Gwynedd Council on secondary schools in 2014, showed how the home language, along with the Home Language of his or her friends, had the greatest impact on a child's use of the language socially.  A far more accurate indicator of the status of Welsh as a mother tongue and community language, than the Census, are school inspection reports by Estyn, the Welsh equivalent to OFSTED in England, which will state the  percentage of pupils speaking Welsh at Home under the section entitled 'Context'.  Thus in a spare weekend this Summer, I noted down the relevant numbers and percentages given in the latest Estyn reports in all 96 of Gwynedd's primary schools into one spread sheet, and, since they have smaller catchment areas than secondary schools they give quite an accurate picture of the town or village in which they are located.  I must add however, that for the primary schools in the Bala catchment area, I used a 2014 language impact assessment report available online via google search instead of going onto the school's individual estyn reports.
            The results showed that of Gwynedd's Primary school population of just under 9500, 59.2% speak Welsh at home (WAH).  This did not surprise me; the survey referred to earlier concluded that 59% of secondary school pupils came from either wholly Welsh speaking or bilingual homes (the former 44%, the latter 15%).  What astonished me about the Estyn results,however, was the variation: The school with the highest percentage of pupils from Welsh-speaking homes (Ysgol Bro Tryweryn in Frongoch) stood at 96% while the 3 most anglicized schools had no pupils from Welsh speaking homes.  In 7 schools the percentage exceeded 90% while in 10 schools it was less than 10%.  There's no other way of putting it, that is an astonishingly wide variation.  Furthermore, Schools above 50% averaged 73.6% while those below 50% averaged 14.4%. Clearly, the state of Welsh as a living vernacular in Gwynedd today varies spectacularly depending on which part of Gwynedd you are in; there are areas where nearly child has Welsh as their mother tongue and areas where literally no child does.   So how exactly does the strength of Welsh vary across the county? I will thus delve into each of Gwynedd's three territorial divisions; Arfon, Meirionydd and Dwyfor: 
          Arfon, in the north of Gwynedd where 60% of pupils speak Welsh at home, contains Gwynedd's two largest towns: Bangor and Caernarfon.  In Caernarfon's primary schools, 81.6% speak Welsh at home; Welsh is clearly the town's living vernacular.  In Bangor, however, it is only 24.3%.   Clearly, although the influx of university students in Bangor does have some impact on the percentage who can speak Welsh there, what matters more is that it simply doesn't seem to be the town's vernacular any more.  Of Arfon's 41 Primary schools, in only 13 do less than half of pupils speak Welsh at home, and of these, 10 are in or around Bangor.  Thus Arfon can be described as an essentially Welsh speaking area in which Bangor is an English speaking enclave.
        In Meirionydd, essentially Southern Gwynedd, only 47% of pupils speak Welsh at Home and only 16 of its 31 primary schools have WAH majorities.  For much of the twentieth Century, before the area of Gwynedd was created as an administrative area, Meirionydd was the most Welsh speaking county in Wales.  The results show that it is now sharply divided and so I will deal with the two halves of Merionydd separately:  the North and East of Meirionydd (essentially mid-snowdonia) is still Welsh speaking with 76.5% of the primary school population there speaking it at home; in Trawsfynydd and Frongoch's primary schools it exceeds 90% while only one school in this region has a WAH minority, Ysgol Bueno Sant in Bala.  Although mostly rural, this region does include two towns; lakeside Bala and the post-industrial slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Bala has two primary schools, one, Ysgol Bro Tegid where 64% come from WS homes and the other, Ysgol Bueno Sant where only 36% do.  Blaenau Ffestiniog, the largest of Merionydd's towns has 80% of its pupils speaking Welsh at home and none of its primary schools are below 70%.  It is tempting to think that the Blaenau's slag heaps may have deterred Anglophone incomers from settling there while it will be interesting to see what effect the town's regeneration will have on the survival of Welsh there in the years to come.   
              As for the South and Western half of Meirionydd, there, only 20.5% of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes.  Essentially, everywhere on the Meirionydd coast south of Harlech has been anglicized.  A key example of this is the seaside resort of Barmouth, where in its primary school, Ysgol Y Traeth, no pupils speak Welsh at home. Although centred on the coast, this area of anglicisation does, unfortunately, extend inland and cover much of southern Snowdonia.   In the beautiful town of Dolgellau below Cadair Idris, only 25% of pupils speak Welsh at home and interestingly this is neither a seaside resort nor a university town.  Dolgellau is a key example of how the Census can give a false impression; in 2011, 64.8% of the town's inhabitants reported that they could speak Welsh, inducing one to think that Welsh is still a majority language there while estyn shows otherwise.  Although Welsh is stronger in Dolgellau's surrounding mountainous hinterland than in the town itself, even there, anglicisation is most definitely happening.  In the mountain-village school in Dinas Mawddwy, 73% of pupils came from Welsh speaking homes in 2007, but by 2010 this had fallen to 40%.  Similarly in Ganllwyd, the figure was 72% in 2008 and 50% in 2014.  However, in the villages of Pennal and Corris, for example, the demise of Welsh as the main vernacular for children has already occurred; their percentages were 14 and 6%, at their latest inspections, respectively.   Thus, the future for Welsh in Southern Snowdonia does not look good.
        On a more cheerful note, however, the division of Dwyfor, consisting mainly of the Lleyn Peninsular, is the most Welsh speaking of Gwynedd's three divisions; there, 70.4% of pupils speak Welsh at home.  In 12 of its 23 schools, more than 70% of pupils speak the language at home while in only 3 of its 23 schools is Welsh not the majority mother tongue: Abersoch, Borthyguest and Beddgelert with these 3 schools averaging at 26%; Beddgelert now being at 7% (compared with 50% in 2005).    To me, it's ironic that the attention of organisations such as Cymuned and Meibion Glyndwr were so focused on the Lleyn when this is the by far the language's safest territory.  Even so, it does appear that WAH may become a minority in the seaside towns of Criccieth and Porthmadog in the near future; WAH will be a minority in Ysgol Treferthyr in Criccieth by the next inspection if the current trend continues, while in Porthmadog, it was noted in Ysgol Eifon Wyn's latest inspection report (from 2010),  that although 60% of pupils overall spoke WAH, in the nursery class it was only a third.  Should the percentage in these two schools fall below 50%, Welsh will still be a majority in 18 of Dwyfor's 23 schools but no longer be the majority pupil mother tongue in two of its four urban centres.  
        Thus, Gwynedd can be described as an area in which Welsh is still a majority mother tongue, but in which there are significant areas where it is not, namely much of Meirionydd and the City of Bangor.  As for why Welsh has survived so well in certain areas but not in others, this is something I would welcome some input on.  Feel free to comment; maybe you live in Gwynedd or have a contribution to make, or just want to join in the discussion.  

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Strange Death of Labour Britain?

Labour has entered its new wilderness years.  Yet these are not going to be like those of the 1980s; unlike in the days of Margaret Thatcher, when Labour was the opposition but just as much part of the political debate as the Tories in government, now it looks like Labour is actually disappearing off stage, and could it be for good?
       During the not-fondly-looked-back-upon 'Wilderness Years' of 1979-1997, the Labour Party was out of power in Westminster and they remained in opposition election after election.  But however much Labour might not want to look back on its past during those years and for all their nickname, the 'Wilderness Years,  they weren't actually that wild a wilderness for Labour; Labour was, with the Tories, on Centre stage.  Whether it was Michael Foot vs Thatcher, the Miners vs Thatcher or Kinnock vs Thatcher and Major, on the stage before the Country's eyes was the struggle between left and right, between the two parties and the two ideologies they upheld, while the miners and the Unions too, were at the centre of attention, particularly, of course, during the Miners' strike. Labour and its ideology were out of government and for ever it seemed, but they weren't beyond mainstream attention; quite the opposite.
        Now however, Labour really is in uncharted territory, and that's being quite positive about their situation.  At the 2015 general election, they lost almost the entirety of their traditional Scottish heartland and as of the Scottish Parliament election this May, they are now the third largest party in the said institution, where nine years ago they were the government.  South of the border, Labour's internationalist and pro-European core principals were found to have not been shared by the majority of their working class constituents across most of their industrialist heartlands in the North of England and South Wales, the working class being the very people the party was founded to represent.  The party now faces a leadership election that might only lead to further catastrophe and it was widely agreed that their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did not do enough for the remain side in the lead up to the referendum.  What ever becomes of the leadership election, whether Corbyn survives or is replaced, whether Labour stays as one party or splits into Pro and Anti-Corbynite parties, it may well be too late; the marginalisation of Labour from the mainstream of political debate may well be permanent, although this may well depend on how Brexit turns out.
        Whether it is Labour's fault or not, the party, or at least the leadership, didn't seem to have a very high profile in the referendum debate, a debate which consumed nearly all of the country's political attention.  It was of course, in many ways, a 'Tory Debate'; it was called by David Cameron and it was his party which was divided on the issue there and just as it had been the Tories for whom Europe had been a hot-potato issue for 25 years.  In the Wembley debate, the key figures who stood out most notably for me were Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsome on the Leave side, and Ruth Davidson for Remain; all Tories.  UKIP, it goes without saying was central to the debate, while the Lib-Dems as an internationalist party threw all their effort into the Remain campaign.
       It just seems that the old debate between Capitalism and Socialism just doesn't exist any more.  Now it's nationalism vs Internationalism, or rather Pro-Europeanism vs British nationalist Europhobia, that is the play before the country's eyes.  Celtic Nationalism in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be a third force which will of course be Centre-stage again if there's a second independence referendum in Scotland.  Where's Labour's socialism's place within that two/three way struggle? Obviously firmly within the internationalist camp but is it possible for Labour to have the starring role there? I'm not so sure.  Corbyn's inaction doesn't seem to have helped.  Perhaps we need a new progressive but non-socialist force to embody Internationalism in Britain.  The Lib-Dems are the obvious party for the job, and they have been capitalising on that opportunity.  Nevertheless, having May rather than Leadsome as Tory leader will make it less easy for them to attract remain voting Tories.  Either way, I wish them good luck.
      As for Labour, if they are not careful, crises such as their loss of support and even retreat from the mainstream in Scotland, their ideological detachment from their working class constituents south of the border (who are their raison d'etre) and, not to mention their savage infighting after the referendum, might end up leading to, if such problems don't constitute it themselves, a strange death of Socialist Britain too much like the Strange Death of Liberal England, so described by George Dangerfield writing in 1931, which occurred a century ago, seeing the Liberals fall from being the governing party before and into the First World War, to what it has been in the century since.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

New Prime Minister, New Blog

It was six years since we last had a change of Prime Minister and so today was not a normal day to put it mildly.  And it happened at such short notice; I certainly didn't foresee Andrea Leadsome pulling out of the race.
        As for who I wanted to win during the Tory Leadership race, I did have the odd reservation about having someone who had been a pro-remain campaigner lead the country out of the European Union and I certainly had been impressed by Andrea Leadsome when watching her at Wembley Stadium, even though, as you can see from my previous blogs I was/am in thorough disagreement with the Brexiters.  Nevertheless, when it was reported that she had used the fact that she had children and her opponent didn't.  I immediately shifted my support to Theresa May.  
       Theresa May herself has many admirable qualities.  She has served as Home Secretary for six years and has built up a reputation for being competent and was described by the Financial Times as being a 'non-ideological politician who gets on with the job'.  Efficiency can only be a good quality in a Prime Minister.  As for some of her political stances, I agree with her support of marriage equality and her support of a remain vote ahead of the referendum; she also identifies herself as a liberal, One Nation Conservative and this is the side of the Tory Party I have the most understanding for.  I also now feel that, as someone who was a remainer, that she will not let Britain get too carried away in its Brexit journey; yes she will trigger article 50, and has pledged to do so after the end of 2016, but that she might be better at negotiating an amicable deal with the EU on the best possible terms than someone who had actually supported Brexit.  Sure she has been criticised for her immigration policies, including those towards foreign students, and I sympathise with that criticism, but at least she's better than someone from the Europhobic right of the party or someone like Boris Johnson.
      I also feel that it was extremely courageous of her to decide to run for a post which may well be, and in my opinion probably is, a poisoned chalice; particularly so since she now has to take her country down a road she wouldn't have wanted it to take.  How will she handle the recession that has been predicted, and the withdrawal of large employers from the United Kingdom so that they can be inside the European Union? At least if the new Prime Minister were a true Brexiter, the only people to blame for such economic woes would be the Europhobic right of the party and of course UKIP, and perhaps British Ultra-Nationalism itself.  If such a recession does happen, to what extent will all the blame fall on those shoulders, or will she inevitably take some of that blame simply for being at the top if and when it comes?
      At least for her she will be facing an opposition that will have little energy to for fill its role.  The Labour Party, after being hit by the reality that its internationalism has been rejected in its working class heartlands, is tearing itself to pieces.  In short, the party membership appears to be at war with the MPs even though they are both overwhelmingly internationalist and Pro-European.  My view is that Corbyn should have resigned once he had blatantly lost the confidence of his MPs.  How on earth can you function as an opposition, let alone govern, if most of the MPs within your own party don't even support you?  Even Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP in the House of Commons has more MPs supporting him than Corbyn and so technically, should the SNP should be given the title of leader of the opposition?
      If Corbyn does win the leadership election within the Labour Party, I definitely believe that the Labour MPs should break away and form their own left-of-centre party.  As left wing collumnist Owen Jones argued in one of his youtube videos, both the Tories and Labour should split in two, and many comments argued that UKIP could join with what has been the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory Party, for example.  I am strongly in favour of at least a four party system, and Germany is an example of a country where there on the left there is a moderate and a more hardline party, the SPD and Linke, respectively.  There is however little such evidence that the Eurosceptic Tories will join with UKIP or that there will be any fracture on the right, May's election and promise to proceed with Brexit healing many wounds there, and so a split on the left would definitely be problematic under our First Past the Post electoral system.  Whether or not the Labour Party survives, I definitely believe that Socialism is becoming,  at least in the mean while, an irrelevant element in British Politics; the main conflicting ideologies are those of Nationalism and Internationalism  while a key centre of attention will be the future of our Union, in particular Scotland as Sturgeon no doubt plans for a Second referendum after the Scots voted against Brexit.  Effectively, Labour has been driven of the stage of British Politics, both in Scotland and south of the border, whether due its own fault or not.  Perhaps its time for a new, liberal internationalism to enter stage and for the Lib-Dems to shine as the chief progressive force.   

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The UK has voted to leave the EU. This is my say on it.

On Thursday the 23rd of June, my country, the United Kingdom, voted to leave the European Union, with leave gaining 51.89% of the vote.  When I went to bed at 1 am on the Friday, it looked like the remain campaign had won, but when the seagulls woke me up at Six , to my shock, it had gone the other way.

In my last post, written on the 14th, I argued that Europhobia in the UK was based mostly on English ultra-nationalism and a sense of superiority over other Europeans.  Sadly, both the referendum itself and the events since have only proved that.

In the days since the vote, there has been a wave of  racist and xenophobic events reported across the country, reported on facebook such as anti-polish messages in Cambridgeshire and xenophobic remarks being directed to non-British nationals right across the country.  Even in Hammersmith, where I am from and in which 70% voted to stay, the polish cultural center was defaced with anti-polish graffiti. The Leave campaign, clearly feeling that scaremongering about the European authoritarianism and lying about how much we pay to the EU was not enough, did use arguments on immigration, despite them initially promising to zoom away from that.

Before the referendum, many leave supporters on Facebook were condemning remainers for apparently using the murder of Labour MP and philanthropist Jo Cox to their advantage.  I'm sorry, but anyone who is alarmed at the surge of ultra-nationalism and xenophobia in the UK has every right to put her senseless murder  into the wider context.  It has been 26 years since an MP was last murdered; the Conservative Ian Gow being killed by the IRA in 1990.  And what makes this particularly disturbing is the fact that Jo Cox's killer was not like the IRA, an enemy of Britain; rather Jo Cox's killer saw himself as a British patriot and saw her as a traitor .  Once you have political narrative which states that your country has been betrayed, or 'stabbed in the back', by a political class, in this case by joining the European Union and through its policies on immigration, then the situation can only get ugly.  It never occurred to me that such a murderous attack on our Democracy would happen in Britain of all countries.  Clearly, such a narrative was not exactly discouraged by UKIP and the leave campaign, on the contrary, and we thus have every right to condemn them for their rhetoric.

It seems that the referendum will succeed in doing what neither Napoleon nor Hitler managed to do; to destroy the United Kingdom.  Scotland, where 62% of voters voted to stay in the European Union is likely to succeed from its Union with England since Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday that a Second Indendence Referendum is on the Table.  Polls indicate that more than 50% of Scots now favour independence.  Clearly, the Scots could see that both UKIP and the campaign to leave the European Union were English Nationalist movements and they were going to have nothing to do with it.  And here is a distinction between English/Anglo-British and Scottish Nationalism.  While the former largely argues that its nation is superior to other nations which is historically understandable, the latter argues that no, the Scots may not be better than the other European nations, but they are every bit as good, and while Anglo-British nationalists want to separate themselves from other Europeans,  the Scots stated on Thursday that they want to become like their European neighbors.

The same however, did not happen in Wales, Wales voted to leave the EU, 52% voted that way, just 1% less than in England.   The areas that voted remain were Monmouthshire, Cardiff, The Vale of Glamorgan, Ceredigion and Gwynedd.  Cardiff, where 60% voted to remain was expected since it is a highly cosmopolitan city.  Gwynedd, in which 58% voted to remain is very interesting.  It is the only council area in which a majority of school children still speak Welsh as their main language at home and is naturally a Welsh Nationalist Heartland; it is no surprise that the people of Gwynedd feel the same way as the Scots in their resistance to English nationalism.  Ceredigion, similarly, is a Welsh heartland and the presence of two universities there is naturally another reason why it was predicted to be the most Pro-EU place in Britain.

But its not just a divide between the constituent countries, it is within England, strikingly, a cultural and generational divide.  75% of voters under 24 voted to stay in and there is this sense on Facebook by many I know that the future of the young has been sacrificed by older voters.  I find that view distasteful, since everybody in my family voted to stay and I'm sure all my grandparents would have done.  More strikingly perhaps, the referendum showed how divided the more progressive and cosmopolitan areas, such as London, Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff were from the areas which voted leave and I have read some articles which analyse the situation very astutely. What is a particularly profound shock is how separated the Labour party, being at its root an internationalist, cosmopolitan and pro-European party, is from much of its base in the north of England and South Wales.

The result of this referendum, is not just sad for all the reasons discussed, it is profoundly un-British.  Consider how Britain, since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 has been a country of tranquil evolution and reform rather than revolution, of pragmatic tweaks here and there rather than sudden and rash change.  We are a country that is known for its stability and more importantly, tolerance, and everything that has happened has been an abrupt break to that tradition.  I just hope that we come out of this crisis and that such a crisis only makes us more immune in the future.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Hostility to the EU is so strong in Britain precisely because of Britain's central place in Europe

Why is it the United Kingdom that is the most uncomfortable member of the European Union? Why is it the United Kingdom that is having a referendum on the 23rd of this month and not other European countries? When I first asked this question to family members a year or two ago (before the referendum date was announced), the answer seemed obvious, 'Britain is an island, not part of Continental Europe, and therefore feels less European.'   As I have had a good long thought about this question, particularly more recently, it has become more and more obvious that us being separated physically from the continent is perhaps not the most important answer.  After all, Ireland is even further away from the Continent than Britain, and yet Ireland is a proud member of the European Union.  The areas of the United Kingdom which are the most Eurospectic are not Scotland and Wales which are the furthest away from the continent geographically, but England.  In fact, Ceredigion, on the west coast of Wales, where I am now a student, was found to be the most pro-European of all places within the United Kingdom.  Clearly, something other than geographical distance is what makes the UK more Eurosceptic.

The United Kingdom, after all, is not on the periphery of Europe in any sense of the word.  If you consider the real centre of Europe to not be the entire Continent in general, but the Franco-Germanic sphere of countries comprised of Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, and in particular the very prosperous central economic region where those countries all meet, which includes Strasbourg, Brussells, Lille, Paris and the Ruhr, then we British are in a very privileged position indeed; indeed we are within two hours of Brussells and Paris by train, and you wouldn't be very farfetched to suggest that such an economic region stretches across the Channel to include London.  Most European capitals, even those on the continent, are not within 2 hours of such cities.  Since 1066, England has been an integral part of Western Europe politically and culturally, with England and Britain being closely linked to France ever since.  France has since 1066, arguably had a connection and relationship with England that it didn't or doesn't have with other Germanic countries.  The English Language is of course, Germanic in origin but with heavy French influence, a mix of the two language families which are native to the Franco-Germanic lands Western Europe; the region which comprised the Franco-German Holy Roman Empire and the countries which first joined what would later become the European Union. 

But that is not to mention, that in many ways, Britain is actually the epitome of what is to be European and is itself arguably, the centre of Europe.  Europe's greatest financial centre is not on the Continent itself but on the island of Great Britain, in London.  Europe is known for being an industrialised continent, more specifically for being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and it was the British who started it all.  Europe is also known for having carved out colonial empires on other continents, and it was the British who built the biggest one (not something I am proud of at all).  Linguistically, England is the centre of Europe, for English, having outrageously largely bumped off its neighbouring languages in the British Isles, has established itself as the De Facto Lingua Franca of the Continent; Continental Europeans on the whole have to learn our language; not the other way round.  Europe, and the Western World in General, is closely associated with Democracy.  And of course, we in Britain are associated with our democratic traditions; we are referred to as the mother of all Parliaments, despite the fact that two other Islands, Iceland and the Isle of Mann, have parliaments that pre-date ours, and that Poland-Lithuania and Sweden also had proto-Democratic institutions of government which pre-dated the French Revolution.  Either way, we have an uninterrupted history of parliamentary rule going back to 1688, are noted for both the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta and thus it is easy to feel that Parliamentary Democracy was an English invention.  And of course, Britain preserved its system of Parliamentary Democracy during the Second World War when other European countries were either occupied by the Nazis or had, as in the case of Spain, become Dictatorships in their own right during the Twentieth Century.   Thus in many ways, Britain, due to both its historical achievements at home and influence over other Countries, is both the epitome of what makes Europe distinct as a Continent and is in many ways itself, the Centre of Europe, respectively.

It is precisely because of this, not in spite of this, that Euroscepticism is so strong in the UK.  In short, because there is this sense that Britain is superior in so many areas and that Britain is at the centre of everything, Britain doesn't need to be integrated with other countries.  In his article in the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson, former Tory Mayor of London and key Brexit campaigner wrote 'We are the European, if not World, Leaders...', not that we weren't European, and referred to what Britain had given to the world.  He also couldn't resist the urge to refer to the British Empire to argue that Britain could survive outside the EU.  Daniel Hannan, when debating alongside Nigel Farage, in a debate hosted by Intelligence2, closed his opening speech by saying 'That which we are, we are' and went on to refer to Britain's power, linguistic, military and economic, and influence.  Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who is campaigning for Britain to vote to stay in, stated that because of Britain's history and achievements such as Democracy, Britain's membership of the European Union should not be the same as that of other European countries.

Clearly what this shows is that the more power and influence any country gains over other countries, ironically, the less internationally minded and more inward looking that country becomes.  An example is how because English has become the International Lingua Franca, foreign language learning in the Anglosphere is so low.  Brexit campaigners are keen to emphasize that they want Britain to go global but what that means is more British influence over other countries across the Globe, not the other way around.  Brexiters like the idea of Britain integrating itself more with the Commonwealth, since Britain is so obviously at the centre of it; our Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth, and English is its only official language, and it was Britain which founded it, and  after all, it is based on the former British Empire.  On the other hand, the same is not so true of the EU and so the EU is an institution they are not going to want Britain to be part of. 

Were the United Kingdom genuinely remote from the Franco-German centre of Europe in cultural, political, historical and economic terms, and more importantly, less influential over the rest of Europe and the rest of the World, and hadn't been the cradle of so much that made Europe what it is today, then our level of pride would do less to prevent us from being more outward looking and we would most likely be a more loyal member of the EU and be less hostile to foreign influence and sharing sovereignty with other countries in Europe.  

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Right Wing Media in Britain has the cheek to criticise Ireland's centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising

The Right Wing Media in Britain has the cheek to criticize Ireland's centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising
                It seems that in Britain, the Right Wing Media is not content with merely criticizing the EU or banging on about immigration.  No, such newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express, go out of their way to criticize what is quite frankly, other countries' business.  This Easter Weekend, they turned their attention on the Irish, our closest neighbors, over the latter's commemorations of the centenary of the Irish Rising, an attempt by Irish Nationalist Republicans to establish an independent Irish Republic at the expense of British Rule in Ireland, through military insurrection in Dublin.  Such British newspapers are quick to argue that it was an anti-democratic coup which brought a century of misery to Ireland, but it seems that Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, writing for said newspaper didn't think that such a view was harsh enough, and equated the Easter Rising to Islamist fundamentalist terror, and the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels. 
                While there is no doubt that ISIS is a murderous death cult which aims to stamp out all that is liberal, secular and democratic and is known for its cold blooded murder of civilians, destruction of heritage, and desire for world domination, the Easter Rising was based on ideals that were the complete opposite of that and very enlightened for the time; universal suffrage, equal rights for women, religious equality, a democratically elected head of state and anti-imperialism.  While other British Right Wing newspapers haven't been quite so far fetched to make that comparison, an article by John Lewis Stempel in the Daily Express, a newspaper which endorsed UKIP before the 2015 General Election, compared the Easter Revolutionaries to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, of all people.
                Those in Britain like John Lewis Stempel,  who argue that the Easter Rising was an anti-democratic coup attempt by ultra-nationalists, would not be quite so quick to point out that the British themselves were anti-democratic when it came to Ireland in the years after the rising.  In the Westminster Election of 1918 (the First Election in which all men and some women could vote), Sinn Fein, the party which wanted to establish an independent Republic of Ireland just as the Easter Revolutionaries had envisaged, won 73 out of Ireland's 105 constituencies, and refusing to take their seats at Westminster, formed their own Irish Parliament, the Dail Eirrean, and as promised, declared an independent republic.  The British Government at first ignored the result, not taking the subtle hint that Ireland had voted for independence and within a year declared the Dail illegal.  By definition, outlawing a democratically elected parliament is not upholding the British tradition for Parliamentary Democracy; by definition that is being anti-democratic.  Throughout the subsequent Anglo-Irish War, the British state ,ruled by a coalition of Liberal and Tory MPs led by Lloyd George, acted against democracy in Ireland.   Then, in 1922, during the Treaty negotiations between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom for an end to the war, LLoyd George threatened to resume the war if a newly independent Irish Free State did not accept the King as their head of state, despite the fact that it was a republic that the Irish had voted for .  So by criticizing the Easter Revolutionaries for staging an anti-democratic coup against a parliamentary democracy, one should rightfully criticize Charles Moore for not telling History quite how it happened - Britain acted against Parliamentary Democracy in Ireland when the Irish voted for what the rebels  had wanted . 
                 As for comparing Patrick Pearse to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, I would like to point out that actually it was the British government of Lloyd George who behaved just like the Kaiser in the years after the rising.  Lloyd George in 1922, like the Kaiser in 1914, threatened a neighboring country at the point of a gun to succumb to his will, which is particularly ironic given that in 1914 Lloyd George's apparent reason for supporting the war against Germany was that it was wrong for Germany to invade Belgium and that Britain needed to stick up for the 'rights of small nations.'  Eight years later, he sent an ultimatum to the Dail, forcing them to accept a foreign head of state, despite the fact that Ireland itself was a small nation.  And the partition of Ireland into North and South, also forced on the Dail, was not entirely democratic; there were constituencies in the north which had voted for Sinn Fein in 1918 which became part of Northern Ireland. 
                 It is a bit rich for us British to point to Irish civilian deaths during the Easter Rising, although there was more than one instance of civilians being fired on by rebels, when most civilian casualties during the rising were actually caused by the British.  One only has to look at the North King Street massacre when British troops killed 15 civilians out of frustration, and it was the British who used heavy artillery and incendiary shells which destroyed much of the city center.  A disregard for civilian life on the part of the British was later shown during the Irish war of Independence, when, after the death of 14 Irish civilians at the hands of the Black and Tans on Bloody Sunday, 1920, a moderate non-Sinn Fein Irish MP, was shouted down in the House of Commons and physically assaulted for raising the massacre in a debate.     So when one criticizes an apparent disregard for civilian life on the part of Irish Republicans one hundred years ago, the British establishment seemed to care significantly less. 
                Thus the conduct of the Easter Revolutionaries a century ago may not have been perfect; it is true that they did not have a democratic mandate to revolt against British Rule.  But we mustn't forget that Britain was not as perfect a parliamentary democracy as British Ultra-Nationalists like to claim we were - at the time of the Rising, only 30% of adults had the right to vote, all of them men, while it had by 1914, taken more than 30 years of Irish demands for a limited degree of Home Rule to be passed by the British Parliament.  Britain's upper house was a House of Lords which, effectively allowed Britain's aristocracy to delay legislation passed by the elected House of Commons by two years, and even today the House of Lords has not been abolished.  What the Easter Revolutionaries were offering however, was a democratic and egalitarian republic with religious and gender equality, and when, in 1918 , the Irish voted for what the revolutionaries had stood for,  the British refused to accept it, and still didn't in 1922.  The Irish Civil War, tragic and unnecessary, was caused by a British government's anti-democratic and outrageous demands,  one of which was that the Irish people should accept a foreign head of state, which divided opinion in Southern Ireland into two camps.  But even so, scrutinizing the morality of the Easter Rising, is up to Irish public opinion and their press; not us in Britain.
                The fact that such newspapers in Britain take the liberty to criticize another country for commemorating its own independence struggle is quite astounding and is cause for a debate that we, in Britain,  ought to have.  Is this outrageous stance taken by the right-of-center press a sign that Britain, or at least right wing opinion, still ignores our past violations of other countries' sovereignty, while crying wolf at conquered peoples' attempts to resist? If so, then too much of our country is still in a colonial mindset, and hasn't moved in the twenty-first century.  A bit of respect with regards to what is, let's face it, another country's internal affairs would do also such newspapers some good, I think.