In these days of Wedges…be a Bridge!

He who would be a leader, let him be a bridge.

I’m finding it hard to keep up with the fast changing meaning of words these days.  Some time ago I inadvertently signed up to an American website that sells drum samples. Now, every week they test my understanding of the English language as I knew it.

It does seem strange that they also use my full name in their emails. 

‘Hey Maldwyn, we are looking for some dope producers to use our sick beats!!!’

Apparently, that phrase is supposed to make me immediately log onto their website because they think I’m ‘DOPE’ and that I am in desperate need of their ‘sick beats’.  I can’t help thinking after this pandemic the last thing any of us need is a sick beat.

Having said that I do try to include some of these new phrases on social media to show I’m down with the kids.  For example my new single ‘The Border’ has just dropped on ‘Spotify’. In the old days I would have said my latest recording has just been released but no, these days it drops.

Another of those terms which I really had to research was WOKE.  I saw it starting to appear on social media as an accusation rather than a term of endearment so I assumed it must be something bad. 

The term is said to have originated in the African American community in America and it does come from the terms being asleep or being awake; woke being the past participle of wake. 

The idea is that people need to stay alert to racial prejudice and discrimination and not be asleep at the wheel. Now when you put it like that, in my mind, being awake to what’s going on in the world is probably a pretty good idea especially at the moment.

The term became associated with Black Lives Matter and therefore became easily used by people who didn’t agree with BLM.  It soon became a tool to divide people in what is now called ‘Wedge Politics.’

This was a term I only heard for the first time this week, but I understood its meaning straight away.  I’m sure the concept has been used for thousands of years.  In the old days they used to call it ‘Divide and Conquer’.  The Romans used to do it all the time.  If you think how many Celts there were on these islands compared to the Roman Army that arrived in 43 AD you would have thought it impossible for the Romans to triumph.  The Romans were smart and knew human nature. They courted some Celtic Tribal leaders, giving them gifts whilst nurturing their mistrust and jealousy of other Celtic Tribal leaders and before you know it we are all wearing togas and speaking Latin.

The Brits did it in India.  In a straight fight you wouldn’t have given the East India Company’s 3000 men much of a chance against the 50,000 Indian Soldiers under the Nawab of Bengal who had gathered for the Battle of Plassey in 1757.  The thing is it wasn’t a straight fight. What the Nawab didn’t know was that the East India Company’s military leader, Clive of India, had done a deal with The Nawab’s Indian Bankers so most of his army wouldn’t fight.  Clive had driven a wedge between various sectors of Indian society and at the end of the day he found himself in charge of everyone.

So why am I so surprised that these tactics are still being used today. 

Maybe it’s my background that taught me that we are all in this together.  United we stand divided we fall.  My understanding of the Second World War was pretty straight forward, it was a time when we all stood as one to fight against evil.

Growing up with free health care, including dental, free education, including university, I think I took it for granted that we were working together to build a better society for everyone. Maybe I was naïve?  Or maybe I was being Welsh?

The Tale of Branwen and Bendigeidfran can be found in the second branch of the old Welsh book the Mabinogion.  It was probably written sometime in the 11th and 12th century. It’s a bit of a long story but this is the bit I wanted to get to about the bridge.  

Bendigeidfran, or Bran the Blessed as he was also known, was in Ireland to avenge a wrong perpetrated upon his beloved sister. By the time he got to the Shannon River the Irish had destroyed every crossing.  His army didn’t know what to do. 

Did I mention Bran the Blessed was a giant? Bran was so big that he had actually waded across the Irish sea followed by his army in their boats. 

Anyway, standing at the side of the River, Bran the Blessed announced..

A fo ben, bid bont – He who would be a leader, let him be a bridge’

With that, his army walked over him from one bank of the river to the other. When this happened the Irish decided they had seen enough and sued for peace.  (To be honest there’s a bit more of the story than that but time is short!)

So what sort of leaders do we need today?  Do we really want politicians who will try to drive a wedge between us in order to rule us, all making some cheer whilst the others feel excluded and thrown aside?

In this world, recovering slowly from a pandemic, with war in Europe and the cost of living crisis the last thing I would say we need are more wedges to divide us.  The story of Bran the Blessed might be nearly 1000 years old, but we can learn a lot from our own stories here in Wales.

In 2022 we need leaders who are giants like Bran the Blessed who are prepared to be walked over to bring people together.

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