I grew up in a Welsh mining town, son of an Irish immigrant father. Mam (the Welsh form) and Dad still live there and so I visit, if a little too infrequently for a true discharge of filial obligations.
As something of a qualified observer, therefore, I could not agree more with Hywel Williams’ recent article.
I recall, thirty-odd years ago, growing up in a valley, black with spoil heaps and thick with smoke from the iron foundry, but where we routinely left our doors unlocked and where we children, unleashed from school in the summer, would roam the hillsides from dawn to dusk in search of make-believe adventures — as Celtic Swallows and Amazons — in near perfect safety.
Though that Wales still lived, off the sweat of others, as well as its own, to the extent that the miners and steel workers — however conscientiously they performed their dirty and dangerous work as individuals — were only kept in their jobs by subsidies and tariffs, by inflationary finance and through the involuntary support of other taxpayers, that sort of socialism, though doomed to eventual failure as are all strains of the disease, at least allowed the fiction of making a livelihood through hard work, well-rewarded, to persist.
Thus, though materially poor, the Wales of my childhood was infinitely richer in a moral sense, even though the iron hand of the Chapel was already fast relinquishing its grip, and so the few actual dole-mongers and inveterate shirkers, unwed teenage mothers, petty criminals, and minor vandals (the occasional pitied alcoholic, not today’s prevalent loutish drug abuser, being the norm), were held in general contempt.
In contrast with today’s society of the entrenched disrespect for others, half-heartedly supervised by its time-serving, car-bound coppers and regulated by its apathetic, if officious, council panjandrums, a sharp word from the town policeman or the truancy officer was enough to bring down a worse fate than any court could impose upon the town’s malefactors — the full, unpalatable wrath of ‘Our Mam’s’ tongue — sometimes, though not always reinforced, in the intensely matriarchal Welsh household, by ‘Our Dad’s’ belt — and so would summarily exact due retribution and restore instant peace to the community.
Even in the state schools, when I was a lad, teachers were still largely regarded — not least by themselves — as professionals in the old sense of the word and excellence was encouraged. Many a collier was proud his son had passed the exams for the local grammar school, so giving his offspring the chance to avoid the long years of toil in the bowels of the earth which was his lot in life.
In my case, my junior state school headmaster not only suggested that I and a few other likely candidates try out for a scholarship at a nearby private school, but he undertook to arrange extra tuition to maximize our chances of success — an act of professional pride and personal altruism to which I largely owe the very fine education I received thereafter.
Contrast this with today’s ‘teachers’ — themselves either poorly-read, demotivated social workers or, conversely and much more perniciously, energetic Jacobin indoctrinators of young minds — and look at these worthies’ role in the institutionalized pogrom on merit and in the dark, egalitarian cult of ‘social inclusion’, whereby the possession of a good academic record is now likely to deny one entry to university if it bears the class traitor’s imprimatur of a prior private education, and you can swiftly unearth another reason for moral decline in Cymry, the land of the Citizens.
Today’s collectivist model is as the writer paints it; a newly greened — and unarguably more Paradisiacal — land of reclaimed and replanted mounds of slag, watered by streams now sparkling, home to dabbling waders and stocked with fish for the first time in nearly two centuries.
Outside every one of the ribbon-terraced homes, most besporting the ugly protrusion of a satellite dish, is a new car. Inside are DVDs, microwaves and computers — and all manner of other modern consumer durables such as my grandparents would only have dimly seen presaged in the Saturday morning penny-dreadful tomorrows of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.
But, too much of this wealth has been even more invidiously and corruptly acquired then ever was the lesser largesse which was showered unbeknownst on our fathers and grandfathers and its new owners have bought it at the cost of no less than their pride and their self-reliance (however economically fictitious this last used to be, a generation ago).
Far too many goodies have been gained by the workless and feckless; by the canny, if often semi-literate, individuals who are so adept at exploiting and defrauding the benefit system at the street level, while, from within their plush, new, cost-overrun council chambers, their preening apparatchik ‘representatives’ (few actually vote, of course) further the rot, by enacting a pervasion of the culture of ‘rights’ and ‘benefits’ — a creed which elevates into a sacred tablet of ‘entitlements’ the accommodation of the infantile demands for ‘MORE!’ on the part of those who contribute nothing themselves, bar another litter of welfare bastards to feed on supermarket ready meals and to clothe in expensive, designer, ghetto wear.
Assuredly, the Wales in which my parents live is more environmentally pleasant than it was a decade or so back — a mercy for which we would be churlish not to offer some thanks at the shrine of the Unknown Taxpayer — but, nonetheless, we should never lose sight of the fact that the removal of the toxins of the Industrial past has been accompanied by the injection of newer, Collectivist poisons into the bloodstream of the Welsh themselves — and that noxious by-product will prove far harder to eradicate: a scraping of bulldozers and a quick fertilizing with other people’s wealth is not likely to prove much of a remedy to the human, rather than to the geographical, blight which now prevails.
Sean Corrigan [send him mail] writes from London.