Dw i’n Cymro pob dydd/ I’m a Welshman every day, says Mike Jenkins, outlining an atheist, socialist and republican take on St. David's Day, the annual celebration of the sixth century Welsh communist monk.
Ten years ago, on March 1st 2006, Mrs. Windsor opened the third Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay. The whole area was teeming with armed police and Special Branch. Machine-gunned troops were perched on rooftops to protect a monarch who epitomises British rule in Cymru : the ascendancy of wealth, privilege, and political power of an unelected Head of State.
I was doing a reading at the Glanfa (or foyer) of the Millennium Centre and began by commenting that Cardiff had been turned into a police state to accommodate the visit of a foreign monarch. Half the audience – expecting odes to Welsh cakes, rugby and male voice choirs – upped and walked out.
As an ardent atheist, socialist and republican, my attitude towards Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St. David’s Day) has always been ambiguous. Yes, I do relish a national day when we can express everything that’s great about Cymru. But no, I don’t want to laud a Christian saint and I loathe the way it’s been hi-jacked by the armed forces who parade through our capital city.
St. David's saintliness, for me, lies in his communist vision, as expressed in his Monastic Rule. The Rule forbids all forms of private property, and also exploitative and oppressive behaviour, not only between humans but between species: monks were obliged to pull ploughs rather than using animals.
I never wear a daff or eat a raw leek, I don’t worship at the shrine of namesakes Karl and Katherine, but prefer to praise our excellent and undervalued bands like The Joy Formidable and singer-songwriters such as Meic Stevens, who should be up there with Dylan and Cohen. Dw i’n Cymro pob dydd/ I’m a Welshman every day.
I love the way our festivals (Eisteddfodau) crown bards as queens or kings, yet live and thrive in a world of poetry which is far more about co-operation and support than competitions. I rile many Welsh nationalist romantics with a view of history which highlights the vital role of the working class, rather than King Llewelyn or Prince Glyndwr; workers who rose up in my home town of Merthyr in 1831, to raise the red flag for the first time in these Isles.
Dydd Gwyl Dewi is a time to celebrate our language and culture, but for me another festival – the Merthyr Rising one in June - will be so much closer to my ideals. Rock, poetry, theatre, debates and film all in one town, where I so much hope that…….
Fe Godwn Ni Eto! We Will Rise Again!