A happy and empowered individual who is respected in his own home makes a much better host.
In his speech at the Cornwall Lecture of November last, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, called for a new collectivism in Cornwall. A renewed capacity to work together towards a shared idea of progress. Taylor argues for a citizen-centric, self sustaining and empowered Cornwall where decision making is brought as close to our communities as possible. He suggests that such an inclusive and participatory Cornish society would be able to meet the demands of the 21st century - one such demand being the necessity of immigration.
Wound up with the issue of national or racial diversity is the continuing scale of economic inequality. Behind the picturesque exterior Cornwall is a place of huge divides. Could Cornwall develop its own strategy, engaging not just policy makers but the wider population in asking what might the County do to become the most inclusive part of the United Kingdom?
I agree - and why not use the well defined Cornish identity around which to create such a new collectivism? Secure, empowered and celebrated old minorities - ethno regional or national identities - would be much better at welcoming and integrating new minority groups than some hotchpotch and post-imperialist concept of Britishness. If we wish to integrate new minorities, what better way than by first ensuring a self confident, healthy and robust community identity into which they are to be welcomed.
If valued and celebrated, the Cornish, Welsh, Scottish, English and English regional identities, would be very productive starting points from which to pursue intercultural dialogue with new minority groups. After all, these pre-existent community identities will be the day-to-day reality and cultural environment for the new arrivals. If we leave them neglected then we are asking for intolerance and xenophobia to take root. Currently we see awkward and uneasy attempts to layer a ‘British’ identity over what is essentially a multinational island. Rejected as it is by many Celts and English people, how can we expect new minorities to take it seriously? Who wants to be British, if not even the Brits do?
For many years now Mebyon Kernow has been arguing for an empowered and inclusive Cornwall set in the context of a UK with a comprehensive Equalities Act. In the same spirit the pressure group, the Cornish Stannary Parliament, has been calling for a guarantee of legal equality to be included in UK law which would be to the benefit of all minority groups old and new. As part of a wider Cornish autonomy movement both groups have been campaigning hard for greater decision making powers to be given to our communities and ALL the people who live in them.
Instead, however, we have seen Cornwall denuded of power and its identity ignored. Decision making ability over such issues as culture and heritage has been given to unelected English quangos.
The philosopher and writer, George Santayana, wrote “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” A confident nation is an open and welcoming one, but we are a country of countries and policy makers need to take this into consideration.
So lets take the initiative! I for one would love to see a Cornish forum where Cornish and Celtic cultural groups could come together with other minority community groups to promote intercultural understanding and exchange.