The history of marginalized peoples is a relentless march towards, well, the margins. Many problems arise from the intractable fact that the margins - geographically, politically, economically - keep shifting.
When the Dutch arrived in the New World, they looked around at Manhattan Island - undoubtedly called something else then - and thought to themselves, "Wow. We could build the greatest city in the world here. And if that doesn't work, at least we can cut down these trees and grow tulips." Problem was, Manhattan was already inhabited by native American, First Nations peoples who, until that very moment, had absolutely no idea they were marginal. Like so many of their brethren, the Lenape simply considered themselves The People, ergo , the centre of the universe. As far as they knew, these hilariously-dressed foreigners could have been apparitions, figments of their imaginations.
The Dutch, of course, knew right away the Indians were marginal. They knew this because the Indians weren't Dutch and the Dutch were smugly confident in believing they were superior and occupied the centre of the universe. They were sure about this because they had superior ships, superior firepower, a superior god, Dutch Masters cigars and 60 guilders worth of beads, trinkets and assorted junk jewelry they were able to offload to the Lenape for what would become, at least in the latter half of the 20 th century, the centre of Earth's universe, New York City.
In keeping with their status, the Lenape were moved to, you guessed it, more marginal lands. Brooklyn if I'm not mistaken. Where they eventually formed the Brooklyn Dodgers and were ultimately moved to even more marginal lands, Los Angeles. But I digress.
North of the border, the scenario was much the same. The French and English battled on the Plains of Abraham. This was, of course, after they'd already booted the Indians out. The English, rumour has it, won the battle but with unaccustomed generosity, pretended they lost, leaving Quebec - who'd want it? - to the French and moving themselves to marginal lands: Toronto... where they booted the Indians to yet more marginal lands, Mississauga, where they elected a female elder, Hazel McCallion, Chief. She still holds the job, though rumour has it she has an increasingly hideous painting of herself squirreled away in her attic.
And so it went. Rulers, conquerors and the monied classes rolled over the landscape like a relentless glacier, pushing less desirable classes ahead of them and scattering them over the more marginal edges of land like so many erratics. The displaced made things as homey as they could and frequently made them too homey. What was the margin became the border, became the mainstream and it was time for the undesirables to move on yet again.
Often, the only places to go abutted industrial lands where the monied classes made their money. Neighbourhoods sprung up around abattoirs, smelters, smoke-belching factories, tanneries and airports. Okay, airports came later, same idea though. As lands once thought of as marginal were re-branded as desirable suburbs, two interesting developments took place. First, people who thought it was cool to live in the cities decided it was way cooler to commute and moved to the suburbs. And since the 'burbs were now cool, there was nowhere for the lower classes to go - they either had to stay next to the abattoir or move into the newly abandoned inner city and create their own private ghetto.
The ones who stayed, agitated to get the abattoirs moved to even more marginal lands. That's how Taber, Alberta got its start. The ones who moved to the inner cities made the classic mistake of making them so homey, the children of the suburbans decided they were cool and moved back to the city, booting out the underclasses and replacing them with Starbucks and Lululemon stores. That's why people live on sidewalk grates in Toronto.
But nowhere in this brief yet sweeping history of marginalized people have the marginalized had it as good as they have it in Whistler.
You could have been forgiven for thinking such was not the case if you attended the public Q&A that preceded Tuesday evening's council meeting. You might have come away thinking a grave injustice has been visited upon the residents-to-be of Cheakamus Crossing. You may also have come away questioning your commitment to participatory democracy.
Marginalized Whistleratics, the workerbees who make this place run, have profited greatly from the farsightedness of those who came before and decided to fight the good fight to house as many as possible in a place they couldn't have ever afforded had markets been left to their own capitalistic brand of ruthlessness. Make no mistake though, Whistler as a resort town and every business owner here has profited as well. Housing the marginal cheek-to-jowl with the monied classes has been a winning symbiosis, though I'm certain any number of the latter would disagree.
It's never been easy. When council decided to build the 19-Mile Creek project on marginal land - former gravel pit, current flood plain - they were excoriated by the monied classes who feared the hoi polloi would mostly consist of drug dealers, pornographers and, ugh, transients. Discouraging words were heard in Tiny Town, most eventually retracted. It would have been so much easier to give up and move the underclasses to the margins: Squamish and Pemberton.
It would have been easier as well to build the athlete's village down in the Callaghan. No asphalt plant down there. But the collective pollution from all those workerbees commuting the extra miles would have created a far worse impact. So another hard-fought decision was made; more discouraging words were heard.
Lots of discouraging words were heard Tuesday. Many seemed of the petulant variety, the kinds of words parents usually discourage their kids from speaking when they haven't gotten their way and are verging on tantrum.
No one on council got their way with the compromise negotiated to move the asphalt plant 150 metres away. Everyone on council would have preferred to move it to a more marginal location. Doing so would have been costly, litigious and imprudent. Sometimes, doing what's possible isn't doing what you want. That's life.
I actually came away from Tuesday's meeting feeling sorry for Kenny and the Boys. I thought they showed admirable restraint in the face of petulance. I thought they'd hammered a good deal out of a bad situation, given no one had a magic wand to make the asphalt plant disappear.
And I suspect most of the rest of the future residents of CC - who maybe stayed home to watch the Habs lose - felt the same way. Keith and Mick were right, you can't always get what you want. Nice that all those future homeowners managed to get what they need though.
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