Whatever happened to the heroes?

(Title Image: garethjones.org)

This week’s short debate was led by Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) on the subject of celebrating Welsh heroes.

Finding inspiration in the past

Mick Antoniw said that while Wales has many heroes, their contribution is often camouflaged by “an overbearing UK or British identity”. It was right and proper that Wales’ contribution to international events and international history is properly recognised.

“Every nation needs its heroes and now more than ever. The challenges facing today’s generation are immense. From climate change to the search for new antibiotics, from the rise of fascism to the pollution of our oceans, it is a new generation of heroes that Wales and the world now needs and I believe that in part they will find their inspiration in the past.”
– Mick Antoniw AM

The short debate then largely turned into a historical name-dropping exercise, with acts encompassing bravery, pioneering developments, intellectual thought and alike stretching from Ireland to Francoist Spain, Ukraine, the foundation of the United States and even closer to home with the likes of Robert Owen and honourary Welsh people like Paul Robeson.

Reasserting the distinctiveness of our own heritage

Replying to the debate on behalf of the government, Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd), believed it was time “that we reasserted the distinctiveness of our heritage, in particular to redefine the contribution that Wales has made to internationalism.”

He also made a distinction between a type of heroism which celebrates individual achievement and that which comes from a community or train of thought where they weren’t doing something for themselves.

“I did have the honour of meeting Bertrand Russell in the context of the peace movement, in the context of the contribution that he made with his famous telegram sent from Penrhyndeudraeth to Washington and Moscow at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, which was a very frightening period for me as a relatively young man and for many other people. He was certainly a great philosopher and a great humanist.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas

He stressed that any celebration of these figures needs to recognise the internationalism that they promoted and which we are in desperate need of today.

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