Tuesday 20 December 2011

Being ourselves

I’m sure it’s very nice of Richard Branson to have spoken out in support of the Welsh Government’s proposals for a soft opt-out on organ donation, but is it really the most important thing which happened yesterday, from a Welsh perspective?  By making it the front page lead story, the Western Mail clearly thinks it is.
I’m not a fan of ‘celebrity endorsement’ in the first place.  I don’t need to know which rich or famous people support or oppose a particular proposition before making my mind up on an issue.  Indeed, such endorsement is generally counter-productive as far as I’m concerned.  It tends to lead me to the conclusion that if the best that proponents of a proposition can come up with is a series of endorsements, then the proposition can’t be a terribly good one.
There’s another aspect to today’s story though.  It plays to a peculiar trait of the Welsh character, to which even the most nationalistic of people sometimes fall prey.  In the field of politics, it affects left and right alike.  We seem to have a certain need for approval from others, rather then having the confidence just to say what we think. 
It’s all too easy to blame that on some sort of inferiority complex resulting from our history; I suspect that it’s a great deal more complicated than that.  Whatever the reason, lack of confidence in ourselves and our ideas is one of the things which hold us back.  And a media which think that getting an endorsement from Branson is of such vital importance feeds the complex rather than helping us conquer it.
It doesn’t mean that we should be ungrateful for support and praise from outside Wales, but  we don’t need to be quite so gushing about it.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on this John. Always struck me as a bit strange that we seem so unsure of ourselves as a nation that we seek the approval of others, especially form across the border.

Then again, when you have a media in Wales that seems to think that the only comparison they should ever make is with England it's hardly suprising....

Welsh education not as good as England, Welsh economy not as good as England etc etc

It Would be nice for our journalists to be a bit more worldly at times.

I for one would rather we aspire to have an education system like say Sweden, rather than one that is just a little bit better...

Spirit of BME said...

Who is Richard Branson?!!!

BONCATH said...

In 1066 the English some 1 million in number were colonised by a Norman army of about 7000.

From 1066 to 1282 The Welsh resisted absorbtion despite the construction of over 500 castles.

In 1282 The Normans had a standing Army. foreign mercenaries and subtantial loans from Lucca in Italy to use in Wales

The Normans despite forcing France to give them territoty now Known as Normandy in France were 100% subjects of the King Of France

The despatch recording the death of Llewellyn at Cilmeri was written in French which was the language of the Court etc at the time.

So Wales fell to the French in 1282 not the English but as you may understand history often conceals the truth
It was not until the time of Agincourt another real defeat concealed as glorious victory that the people in what is now England rushed to offload anything that could associate them with France -just look at how de XXX ie of XXX disappeared as surnames or were Anglicised Nothing changes Remember Battenberg Mountbatten Windsor

John Dixon said...


I certainly agree that "history often conceals the truth", particularly in the way that it is told. Part of the reason for that is that we tend to view the past through the prism of the present.

Whether the 1 million who were living in what we today call England could really be called 'the English' is a question in itself, just as the equation of 'the Normans' with 'the French' is open to debate at the least.

Nationality and its role in the affairs of man were very different 1000 years ago from our understanding of them today.

Glyn Davies said...

Agree with you John. I wonder if Branson has thought through the issue with the thoroughness the matter deserves. Intuitively people feel they are in favour of 'presumed consent', and I had some sympathy until I studied the evidence. Most Parliamentarians I speak to change their position when we discuss the matter at length. Those in favour are all under the assumption that 'presumed consent' leads to greater availabliity of organs for donation - something that the evidence does not support. Glyn

John Dixon said...


You may be reading more into my post than is actually there! I don't support the 'argument by celebrity endorsement' approach; I think it's both a cop-out and a backhanded way of suggesting that the public can't understand the real arguments. But that doesn't mean that I do not support the Welsh Government's position on presumed consent.

I also recognise, though, that you are right to say that it will not greatly increase the supply of transplantable organs. Listening in at one of the Government's consultation sessions recently, I'll admit that I was surprised to hear how few organs are actually suitable for transplant in the first place. It's something that I should probably have known, but it simply hadn't struck me.

In that sense, the increase in availability will be, as you say, small. It will still be an increase though, and will give a life chance to a small number of additional people. It doesn't help that some of the supporters of the proposal seem to be overstating the likely impact, as though it's the solution to the waiting list for transplant - it isn't. But it will help some, and I can't turn my back on that fact.

It's a complex issue, but we should have more faith in people's ability to understand the complexities than to resort to 'argument by celebrity'. That's no argument at all.

Peter Freeman said...

One of these days I'll leave a comment disagreeing with you, but the day seems a long time coming.
Celebrity endorsement does imply that because someone is famous or popular they have a better grasp of a situation than the rest of us. Richard Branson, and other famous people, may hold legitimate views on many issues but that doesn't make them experts. There is no reason why I should approve, or disapprove, on their say so.
However, I don't see it as a Welsh thing, I see issues being promoted on the backs of celebrity endorsements all over the World. America is a great example of it, in political, social and especially commercial advertising. Somehow, gaining celebrity status makes you a spokesperson for anything and everything.

By the way, my son passed on your regards, thank you and Happy New year.