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Lines on a map

In defence of keeping Cornwall whole a certain El Dafydd El posted the following contribution to my article on the WalesHome.org website.

I think the reason why many people in Cornwall feel aggrieved by the new cross-Tamar constituency is simple.

We live in a constitutional democracy. If you wish to influence your MP on specific Cornish issues – mainly language and culture, things which are unique to Cornwall and no other place on earth has the slightest interest in – then having an MP whose constituency is only partly in Cornwall partly negates the existence of that entity but also puts specific Cornish issues even further down the list. It effectively means that Cornish issues are doubly marginalised – firstly by being a marginal culture and secondly by being of marginal interest in a constituency which doesn’t feel part of the entity within which your culture makes sense.

The effect of this isn’t a plurality of languages and cultures as you seem to allude to in your hiraeth for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but a centralisation and standardisation of culture. By the by Jeff, my guess is that, had you been in the A-H Empire you wouldn’t have seen it as a great mosaic of nations but would have viewed it as full of nuisance nations who just didn’t understand the need to all speak German! In an age of mass democracy my guess is that the Empire would have come to an end (maybe bloody due to centralist tendencies in Vienna and especially Budapest) to squash the ‘nationalists’ … all in the name of common sense, modernism and equality of course.

Likewise, I have to say your thinking, whilst not harking back to the Dark Ages does hark back to another Dark Age for many minority languages and cultures – the deterministic, Darwinian Victorian Age. You seem to want to ridicule differences and cultures in the name of what, modernism … hasn’t modernism created enough wars and genocides over the last 150 years already?

One of the big pluses the royalist UK has over republican France is a certain respect for inconsistency and tradition over rationalisation and dogmatism. As a socialist then maybe you prefer the dogmatism, but there’s a strong streak of live and let live and practicality in British socialism too. Why not make an exception for Cornwall? Would it not show a certain grace and civility? Why your need to belittle people and cultures? Britain as an island has lost a language (Cornish) and now has the opportunity to revive it. Isn’t that an interesting, lively, exciting, beautiful thing? Is it really such a problem?

Lines on maps are there because they create political and cultural realities; facts on the ground. Not having a ‘line on a map’ means you have no way of creating a different political and cultural reality. Or, rather, you have a line on a map for Cornwall and it is in Lands end which means it should be treated no differently from Surrey or Yorkshire which means it will be no different to Surrey or Yorkshire.

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