THE CASE FOR AN ETHNIC CULTURE
By ALAN DALE
INTERNATIONAL mass culture threatens the ethnic cultures of the world. This international culture is not an authentic living culture drawing from and contributing to a nation's character. It is a dead, artificial culture ― the product of the rampant commercialism of the international Capitalist system.
Capitalism treats culture like it treats everything else. It has reduced it from the expression of a nation's soul to a mere commodity to be bought and sold. The same economic considerations determine the production of art, literature and music.
In order to utilize mass-production techniques and gain economies of scale, the manufacturers of commodity culture create a product that panders to the lowest common denominator ― and in order to sell it on an international market ― deracinate it.
Television programmes like Dallas are shown not only throughout Western Europe, but even in Third World countries. Such cultural products sell the values of the produce-and-consume society, complimenting the political and economic hegemony of the U.S.A.
Unlike the folk cultures of the past, Capitalist culture demands only consumption - not participation. In the lives of most people there is no independent thought, let alone any cultural creativity. They watch Fame, play the latest disco records, read bingo card wrappers (newspapers), and wear clothes with makers' brand names printed across the chest! Capitalist culture lulls the masses into a state of uncritical apathy which has its political ― as well as its economic ― advantages to the System.
Even before the development of international Capitalist culture, the different ethnic cultures of the British Isles were undermined by enforced anglicization. Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Cornwall were once wholly or substantially Celtic speaking and are now wholly or predominantly English speaking.
This process was sometimes enforced by an active policy of cultural genocide, such as the suppression of the Gaelic culture of the Scottish Highlands after 1746, and the policy of forcing Welsh school-children to wear a piece of wood around their necks called the 'Welsh Not' for daring to speak their native language!
If we seek to promote authentic ethnic culture in opposition to international Capitalist culture, it must be based on respect for the cultural diversity of the various ethnic cultures within the British Isles. We must confront the fact that there is within the British family of nations not one British culture, but several national cultures. Without recognising and accepting this diversity, there can be no return to authentic ethnic culture.
Despite, or possibly because of, their unhappy history as victims of cultural genocide, it is precisely the Celtic peoples who have retained the greatest degree of ethnic culture and feeling and who are the most interested in preserving and reviving it. Linguistic movements are active in all the Celtic countries and have turned to traditional folk culture as the medium of their expression.
The lack of authentic ethnic culture and national feeling is essentially an English problem.
For the Celtic peoples the destruction of their culture has not really meant the spread of an English culture, but rather the spread of no culture at all. As Saunders Lewis, the father of Welsh Nationalism, noted:
"It is always in the Welsh-speaking parts of Wales that the Eisteddfod succeeds best. Where Welsh is alive and vigorous, there you will find flourishing local eisteddfodau, literary meetings, reading classes, singing schools and an admirable interest in literature and music. And wherever Welsh declines, and the English way of life and language replace it, there these things degenerate, and one finds football matches, races, billiards clubs and the cinema, and if there is any class at all held under the aegis of the colleges, it will more than likely be a class in economics..."
(Principles of Nationalism, a lecture delivered in 1926).
In England, the seat of cultural imperialism, folk culture is just another minority interest unrelated to political nationalism. It is also in England, the most populous nation of the British Isles, that there is the poorest sense of national identity.
In Elizabethan times England had a very strong sense of national identity, but England went down the road of Capitalism and Imperialism. The English nation was transformed into a mere economic enterprise ― an embryonic U.S.A.
There have been movements interested in the native culture of England, but they have not been linked to political Nationalism in the same way that, for example, the Gaelic League has been.
The Celtic revival must be complimented by an English revival, and it is to be hoped that when the English come to develop and value a proper culture of their own, they will begin to understand the motivation of Celtic Nationalists and thus open a new and more attractive era in the course of Anglo-Celtic relations.
While our aim is to create an organic and self-sustaining ethnic cultural renaissance, we cannot rely on public spontaneity in the face of the power of the commercial culture, advertising and the vested interests that lie behind. The Nationalist State must, therefore, play a conscious and active role in combatting the international culture and promoting native ethnic culture.
Its aim should be the decline and even the destruction of Capitalist mass culture in favour of ethnic cultures reflecting and expressing the separate ethnic identities of the British family of nations.
SURVIVAL AND REVIVAL
Next to race, language is the most important element of ethnic identity. Urgent steps are needed to aid the survival and revival of the Celtic languages, including the restoration of a Welsh speaking Wales, and the steady growth of the other Celtic tongues. The survival of English dialects ― threatened by artificial 'BBC English' spread by mass communications and the educational system ― should also not be neglected.
Traditional folk culture should be promoted in preference to commercial 'pop' culture. Native forms of song and dance should be encouraged, and the traditional festivals of our ancestors restored to their pre-commercial forms.
The cultural revolution is not, however, a question merely of forms. It must, above all, involve a spiritual revolution that will replace the distraction and superficiality of the twentieth century with a consciousness of racial destiny and our place in the cosmos.