Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A most unusual dinner.

Imagine if someone telephoned you, out of the blue, and asked you to choose four people, dead or alive, fictional even, that you would like to invite to join you for dinner. Who would you choose? Actually, I'd prefer to have dinner with family and friends, but I don't think that was what Radio Cymru had in mind. This was the format for the 30 minutes I did yesterday, in discussion with Hywel a Nia. So when I had the call, a fair bit of head scratching was needed.

Now where do I start. First thing was to decide what I wanted to talk about. Well, yesterday saw confirmation of the 100th death of one of our paratroopers in Afghanistan. I was debating (with myself) whether we should be there at all, when the phone rang. So the issue that immediately came to mind was what justification is needed to turn to violence to achieve political objectives. Who has made major decisions about resorting to violence - or not - in the twentieth century. That was the basis on which I chose my guests.

First up was David Lloyd George, a man generally thought to have pacifist leanings, who became a great wartime leader. And I would like to ask him just how on earth a radical Welsh Liberal, committed to taking shedloads of money from the landed gentry to pay for social benefits managed to become the de facto leader of the Tories for 6 years. No wonder he was nicknamed 'Wizard'.

Second up was Aung San Suu Kyi, the incredibly brave leader of the opposition to the Generals in Burma - a woman of such beauty and poise, that I would have to insist on sitting between her and Lloyd George for her protection from his attentions - if Ffion Hague's new book is anything to go by. I could have invited Mahahatma Gandhi, whom she is often compared with, but I needed to invite at least one woman, and she is very much in the news at present.

Third up was Churchill, partly because he is reputed to be the only politician who enjoyed a good and trusting relationship with Lloyd George. Churchill was a great war hero, who I think of as being the first exponent of 'total war'. But we must not forget that he joined the Liberals to begin with when his mate, Lloyd George hadn't donned his post pacifist clothes - so even this is not straight forward. I might have been better inviting Hitler, but that would have been too controversial.

And finally Saunders Lewis. Odd choice you might think. And I admit that I've not read much about Lewis. But I think of him as the main instigator behind the decision to invoke violence to win support for Welsh identity and the Welsh Language, an issue of consuming interest to me. Not sure how he would have got along with my other guests and I wouldn't have let him anywhere near the flambe pan. I would like to discuss with him whether he thinks that violence, and the threat thereof was a help or a hindrance to his basic objectives. Bearing in mind how little actual violence there was (as opposed to law breaking), it had a disproportionate impact on the perception of the Welsh as being a nation ready to use violence. I really do not know whether it was a help or a hindrance as far as Welsh identity is concerned..

I wonder whether anyone else who reads my blog would like to have joined this fivesome if there had been an extra chair - or which four guests they would have chosen and why if they had been a guest of Hywel and Nia.

12 comments:

Ordovicius said...

I would like to discuss with him whether he thinks that violence, and the threat thereof was a help or a hindrance to his basic objectives.

Do you actually have any idea what his 'objectives' where?

Ordovicius said...

Oops. I meant 'were'

Alan in Dyfed said...

You could always add Eamonn de Valera or Michael Collins to your dinner party to elicit their views.
Then, Mahatma Ghandi might have plenty to add to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Sounds a bloody boring dinner, full of traitors and nationalists - except for Aung San Suu Kyi. What about Churchill, Nelson and Wellington? Too British for you?

Glyn Davies said...

Sanddef - you tell me. I've not read much of his work, and I referreed only to what I imagine he was about. I think of him as a man who associated his desire to protect the Welsh Language and Welsh identity by using violence. Tell me who might be a more appropriate advocate of the violence that became associated with 'Welshness' a few decades ago.

alan - I agrre that both of the Irishmen would be better, but I wanted a Welsh flavour to the dinner. And I conceded in my post that Gandhi would have been the best non-violence guest - but I'm a longstanding admirer of Aung San Suu Kyi.

anon - Of course Nelson and Wellington were wonderful heroes, but I wanted there to be disagreement, and they were rather of the same ilk as hurchill. And since I was doing the programme on Radio Cymru, in Welsh, it seemed reasonable to invite at least half of my guests from the Welsh political scene.

Anonymous said...

churchill.....make sure you ask him how he managed to turn around a shambles of a career - the Gallioli disaster in WW1 was his doing, and arguably Dieppe in WW2, and lest we forget his treatment of welsh miners at Tonypandy glyn.
Second World War unfortunately saved and made his reputation.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I thought a dinner of less than perfect people would be more interesting. Churchill could easily have finished up as a discredited failure, and it looked a bit like that in th early 1920's - but turning things around after the despair of 1940 was a truly epic and stellar performance.
The one angel would have been enough.

Ordovicius said...

Sanddef - you tell me. I've not read much of his work, and I referreed only to what I imagine he was about. I think of him as a man who associated his desire to protect the Welsh Language and Welsh identity by using violence. Tell me who might be a more appropriate advocate of the violence that became associated with 'Welshness' a few decades ago.

Saunders Lewis was a cultural elitist, with little if any interest in constitutional change. He wanted everyone in Wales to speak Welsh whether they liked it or not, but he wasn't an advocate for violence. There's a whole world of difference between setting fire to a shed and shooting people!

Ive blogged about Lewis.

If it's a Welsh advocate of violence you're looking for, then you'd be better off sending that dinner invite to John Bernard Jenkins of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru, or to the founder of that organisation, Owain Williams, the current leader of Llais Gwynedd.

Anonymous said...

'Saunders Lewis was a cultural elitist'

So are most Plaid Cymru members, Plaid Cymru has always been a cultural nationalist party, this is one of the reasons why Plaid Cymru has trouble attracting votes in certain areas of Wales.

At least Glyn is able to get over petty politics and is looking to learn about 'the other side, can't see any Plaid Cymru members inviting any Conservative or Unionist to their meal.

Ordovicius said...

So are most Plaid Cymru members

An opinion not based on fact

can't see any Plaid Cymru members inviting any Conservative or Unionist to their meal.

Have you asked any?

Thought not.

Anonymous said...

'An opinion not based on fact' ,

I used to be a member until quite recently and you can deny that cultural elitism still exists all you want, i still have friends in Plaid Cymru and attitudes haven't changed to non welsh speakers, economic migrants or the large number of people who come here to retire, however you dress it up.

Anonymous said...

Well don't invite Saunders Lewis and De Valera - Lewis was a fan of De Valera until he met him, and after that, he was decidedly more unimpressed by De Valera the person!