Celtic Unconsciousness


James Catron

For years, I have alternately loved and hated a book first published in 1981 titled The Celtic Consciousness, edited by Robert O'Driscoll. It is a collection of essays by Scots, Irish, and Welsh writers and scholars dealing with their people's archaeology, history, languages, art, culture, etc.

The book reminds me greatly of a wake, part celebration, part grief. The academic, urbane tone is even more foreign to me than its other-side-of-the-Atlantic focus, but its most disturbing, agitating aspect is the common assumption by all the contributors that the Celtic, Gaulic culture is moribund, that one cannot legitimately call oneself Celtic unless he speaks (and writes mournful poetry in) a Celtic tongue.

An old Celtic saying is "Gan teng, gan tyr," which translates to "without a common language, there is no nation." So, this handful of Gaelic speakers foolishly declare themselves to be the Last Of The Gaels. As my mother would say, "Tain't so, McGee!"

A careful observer could easily demonstrate that their beloved culture is alive and well in the highlands of the interior of North America. There is an ancient Gaelic saying that where there are Gaels (Celts), there are mountains. In the Appalachians and in the Rockies, the old attitudes and ways still survive.

True, the language is English, not Gaelic or Welsh or Cornish, but it is arguable that a Gaelic speaker selling stocks and bonds in a skyscraper in downtown Glasgow or Dublin is not living the Celtic culture, while an English speaking monoglot redneck rancher in Nevada works, lives and believes very, very nearly the same as the Gauls conquered by Julius Caesar, and as the highlanders who fought the English monarchy for 700 years.

The really distressing feature of all this is that neither the academic in Great Britain nor the American redneck knows that the rural productive culture of the InterMountain West is Celtic, altered and augmented by others, but still recognizable. We are unknowingly, unconsciously living an ancient culture, lifestyle, belief and value system.

The political dissatisfaction of the American West is tied to the restlessness of the Celts in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Flanders, etc. The ancient, passed-down urge for Celtic self-determination, for local control, for autonomy is expressing itself even in Australia, where there is a strong movement to pull that country from the Commonwealth and all ties to the English monarchy.

Our federal government has demonstrated over and over its willingness to destroy entire American industries in the name of environmental protection; it is, however, politically incorrect to commit cultural genocide. The West's strongest defense against destruction by federal environmental extremism is cultural, not legal.