The Welsh Independence movement has skyrocketed in support over the last 18 months, however, it's at risk of derailing completely.
Social media allows us to post anonymously and that tends to result in threats and wording that wouldn't be said in a person-to-person conversation.
The USA is an example of what happens when we let two sides go at each other's throats without any respect or room for constructive debates. This could be the fate of the Welsh indy movement if we're not careful.
However, we have a solution and with most things, we can look to the past for guidance. And today we're looking back to the greatest Welsh philosopher. Not only does he have the blueprint we need for discourse but he was integral to the American Revolution.
People in the Western world take self-governance for granted. But there was a time when democracy wasn't a familiar form of government; it was an idea. People needed to experiment to show that it had legs. Doing that required hardworking, multi-talented people who knew how to coordinate. One of the most criminally underrated of those people was Richard Price (1723-1791).
Price was perfect for this role. A polymath who applied his intellectual talents across a range of industries. He was the co-inventor of Bayes' theorem in statistics. This theorem is now indispensable in economics, artificial intelligence and neuroscience.
Price advised the PM, William Pitt, on reducing the national debt. He revolutionised the insurance industry with actuarial tables for calculating life expectancy. He even spearheaded the first universal system for old-age pensions.
He was an outspoken defender of universal human rights including the right to self-governance. A valued advisor, collaborator, and sparring partner for other great minds such as statesman Edmund Burke, the philosopher David Hume and feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft.
Despite his considerable talents, Price wasn't into self-promotion. He was a team player who was committed to improving people's lives by furthering the cause of liberty, democracy, and self-governance around the globe.
Price realised that winning meant putting the team's goals ahead of gaining the spotlight for himself. On the football pitch, it's usually the strikers who capture the spotlight. But they can't score goals without solid midfielders at their backs. Hardworking midfielders are as essential as strikers to the team's success, even though they're seldom in the spotlight.
Price was a hardworking midfielder for the most important revolutions of the age. He positioned things in the British backfield so that people like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson could score goals in the New World, and his pamphlet, A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, rallied support for the Revolution in France.
Price was influential because he maintained a network of relationships based on mutual respect. Often, he maintained those relationships despite serious disagreements. For instance, he maintained an ongoing dialogue with the philosopher David Hume even though the two had vigorous disagreements about the nature of ethics and religion.
Price's capacity for respectful disagreement was one of the keys to his success. He was confident in reason and dialogue, and he understood that good people could disagree about serious issues yet still work together for the common good.
He was both pro-religion and pro science, and he was opposed to using either as an excuse to dismiss people's ideas. He was generally opposed to sorting people into boxes or categories (liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious, and so on) and treated everyone as an individual worthy of respect.
At this crucial moment in our history, Wales needs someone like Price. It requires many people like Price. Welsh independence is a team effort. It needs hard work, coordination, and multi-talented people who know how to coordinate. It needs people who know how to put aside differences to come together for the common good. It requires confidence in reason and dialogue and a network of people related to each other by strong bonds of mutual respect.
Here are 5 character traits of Richard Price that we should adopt as a movement to survive and thrive.
Price was a proud Welshman, but he recognised our common humanity and promoted freedom and self-governance irrespective of national boundaries. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, he wrote:
"[A]s far as [the French Revolution] is a struggle for a free constitution of government and the recovery of their rights by the people I heartily wish it success... for I have learnt to consider myself more as a citizen of the world than of any particular country, and to such a person every advance that the cause of public liberty makes must be agreeable."
Supporters of Welsh Independence need to be proud of their Welsh heritage, but we can't let that pride blind us to opportunities for collaboration with people worldwide.
Price realised that there was a difference between people and opinions. We need to treat people with the courtesy and respect that is due to all human beings, even if we vigorously debate their opinions. He wrote in a letter to the philosopher David Hume:
"I am not, I hope, inclined to dislike any person merely for the difference in opinion however great."
Price and Hume disagreed on many matters--especially religious ones, but they still treated each other with respect.
Hume remarked in a letter to Price:
"It is but too rare to find a literary controversy conducted with proper decency and good manners, especially where it turns upon religious subjects, in which men often think themselves at liberty to give way to their utmost bitterness and hostility."
What Hume said about religious matters in his time applies to social attitudes in ours. In many places, the far left is attacking people who disagree with their views on social matters, and in Wales specifically, the far left is trying to oust people from the YesCymru movement. Their attacks frequently resort to name-calling and defamation that is at odds with the basic respect we owe to all human beings regardless of their opinions.
Supporters of Welsh Independence need to recognise the difference between people and opinions. They need to remember that the ability to speak openly and candidly about ideas--even ideas that some people find "offensive"--is essential to public debate. Treating people with courtesy and respect despite serious disagreement is a mark of character.
Above all, supporters of Welsh Independence need to recognise that no matter what people's opinions are, they don't have a license to dehumanise the people they disagree with.
Price was a Welshman in the heart of the British empire. He was often in contact with American Colony sympathisers and was constantly "plotting" support for them against the impending war against Great Britain.
The MP Edmund Burke attacked Price's work on the support for the French Revolution. The feminist pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft wrote "A vindication of the rights of Men" in defence of Price (even though she disagreed with his religious views).
We must have the courage to say unpopular things. That's the only time changes start happening. Think back to all the largest movements of all time; they started with an "unpopular" opinion that was risky to take and was often attacked.
It was incredibly unpopular for women to be considered on the same "level" as men, but if women like Mary Wollstonecraft didn't come out with her opinion and movement, where would the movement be today?
Price was a big name in Mathematics. His friends were founders of Harvard and Stanford and some of the brightest minds of the time. The famous Price-Bayes Theorem in probability was completed by Price and published 2 years after Bayes died.
Price also discussed topics on population, finances, and Great Britain's debt and was an architect of the Insurance market.
Price frequently spoke with other scholars such as Benjamin Franklin on electricity too.
Whilst a man of science, he was also profoundly religious: he was able to appreciate the contribution of each without fostering division.
We must be careful not to listen to people that have only lived university life. They go to school > university > stay in academia.
A taste of the real world is needed for perspective. You won't find that in books or spending your time listening to lectures.
Not only that but having interests, goals, and success in other parts of your life (outside your political beliefs) shows you are a dynamic member of society. You're adding to society but putting in your unique work.
Wisdom is accumulated when you make progress in several areas of your life—Health, finances, learning, your work, hobbies, friendships etc.
Price had this kind of wisdom in abundance. Like I mentioned earlier, he connected the dots with his work on probability with a religious debate.
He was able to share his views on liberty and was undoubtedly influenced by his conversations with a range of people, his study of theology and his dedication to science.
There are no dots to connect if you remain tunnel-visioned in your echo chamber online on Twitter. You believe what you want to believe and find the people who will agree.
Price, on the other hand, was speaking to such a range of people about different topics in-depth that it opened his mind to a world of ideas.
Price has shown us how to share our ideas and get them implemented or acted upon to become respected by being industrious in many aspects of life.
We listen more to multifaceted people who have a respected demeanor than someone shouting on the hills demanding reform.
Back in Price's time, it would take months to get a distribution of his message and dialogue between him and others.
Today, we can share our views and generate constructive debate in seconds online.
We have far more firepower than Price ever had, but we must follow the Price way.
The Welsh Independence movement is currently in danger of crumbling by its own doing, and if there's someone who we can model our movement and debate on to save it, it's Richard Price.
This is one part of my series on this topic.
My next piece will discuss the Welsh heroes of the American Revolution.
The fight was fought by Welsh sword, pen, and purse. The revolutionary army took on the British and won the war. This wasn't America vs Britain this was the celts vs the Anglo-Saxons battling it out on the biggest stage of all. One that Price knew was crucial to win against the English for the benefit of mankind.
If you want to learn more about Richard Price, here are some sources:
150 Famous Welsh Americans by W.Arvon Roberts.
The correspondence of Richard Price: July 1748 - March 1778
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