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My generation, talkin’ ’bout your future

By G.D. Maxwell "Why don’tcha all f-f-fade away, And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say." — Peter Townshend My generation sucks.

By G.D. Maxwell

"Why don’tcha all f-f-fade away,

And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say."

— Peter Townshend

My generation sucks.

When John Entwhistle died a couple of weeks ago in a Las Vegas hotel, The Who were about to hit the road again. With thinning hair, hearing loss and, for all I know, adult incontinence, the boys of the most underrated rock group of the British Invasion – I know, you thought that honour belonged to The Kinks – were about to spring the Geezer Tour ’02 on the world to wring millions out of aging schmucks willing to pay a C-note for the chance to wallow in cheap nostalgia for an hour and a half.

Like mountaineers who lose one of their party to a misstep or yawning crevasse, the band decided to soldier on when their bassist was felled by a heart attack and departed for that big gig in the sky. After all, their fans would want it that way. So would their accountants, their wives, ex-wives, roadies, toadies and hangers-on. So would they. Too much was at stake. Too much time, too much practice, too many contracts to unravel, too much rehabilitation so Pete Townshend could windmill power chords he can barely hear and Roger Daltry could squeeze his Clairol-mained tush into tailored Sans-a-Belt blue jeans.

It was all just too much.

And that’s what sucks about my generation. It’s all about too much.

It’s pointless to argue John Entwhistle was irreplaceable. It only took 24 hours to scare up a replacement and decide to tour on. It’s equally pointless to argue he was maybe the best bassist of his generation. Pointless because it’s true, pointless because it can’t be proven except by digging out a bunch of scratchy, mouldering LPs and listening to a guy elevate what most people thought of as a rhythm instrument by noodling intricate lines generally only heard on jazz records of the time and leading soaring breaks that had nothing to do with keeping the beat going.

"My Generation" was an anthem. For many of us who "grew up" in the 1960s, the song marked an awakening to our massive, culture-defining cohort. It provided a badge of distinction, snarled both an excuse and a warning, and outlined the limits of our difference and defiance – "Hope I die before I get old." It also had a damn fine bass break in the middle.

So what happened?

What turned a bright, privileged, committed, consciousness-raised, altruistic, we-can-change-the-world bunch of kids into the corpulent, money-grubbing, pollution-spewing, monster-home-building, blind-eye-turning, corrupt, sleazy bunch of adults doddering toward retirement, we’ve become?

I thought my generation might change the world, might succeed where our parents hadn’t, might end poverty and inequality, might clean up the air and water, might take only photographs, leave only footprints. Hell, we stopped a war, brought down a president, and made it possible to go to church wearing Levi’s. Why not?

How did we get from the first Earth Day celebration in the spring of 1970 to Ford Excursions, 5,000 square foot vacation homes, private ice rinks and those silly, silly stainless steel kitchen appliances?

How did we get from Wavey Gravey’s exhortation to share our food at Woodstock – "They’re your brothers, man." – to the vile, greedy corruption at Enron, Worldcom, Merrill Lynch, Global Crossing, et. al., that screwed millions of people out of jobs, savings and a future where only the cat would have to eat cat food?

How did my generation go from Save the World to Screw the World?

I wish I knew. I keep waiting for the fever to break, the nightmare to end, the dim rays of consciousness to once again begin to glow brighter. But it doesn’t happen. We stumble from one disaster to another, each its own sideshow with the power to blind us to the others and hide the interconnections. We keep electing self-serving politicians who get turned to the dark side by the twin lures of money and power. We discover wrongdoing at high levels and shrug our shoulders, knowing the wrongdoers will go unpunished or be hit with token justice by a blind dame with a broken scale.

I’m not tryin’ to cause a big sensation. Just talkin’ ’bout my generation. The scum.

Unfortunately, it’s my generation who will have the biggest voice in forming the policies and implementing the strategies that come out of Whistler’s grand effort to define the future. I’m not sure how comfortable that makes me. It’s kind of like the Pope continuing to set birth control policy for the world’s Catholic women and reminds me of the associated joke – You no playa the game; you no maka the rules.

My generation will pass into compost before all the implications of Whistler. It’s Our Future – even the title is more sizzle than steak – are realized. Maybe we shouldn’t be playing the game. Maybe we ought to be leaving more of the future planning up to the people who will have to live with it. That, of course, assumes we can find a way to drag them away from their video games and skateboards long enough to get them involved in their own futures.

But it won’t happen that way. The stumbling, stuttering, heavy-lidded, earnest young person who screws up the courage and idealism to get involved in this effort will, more likely than not, be ignored and marginalized. The big decisions will be made by people who don’t have to worry whether their landlords are going to jack up their rent to leave-town levels next year or whether their employer is going to cut back their hours because business is a little slower than expected.

The crucial decisions will be made by and for Trend 1 people – second home owners who drive the real estate market – not Trend 3 people, the ones providing the service to the more service-intensive destination resort.

That’s too bad because the future of Whistler is, in may respects, the same as the past. It’s the people, stupid. The future of Whistler belongs rightly to the idealists, not the property owners, of today. They have the least to lose and are more likely to make the best decisions about what keeps a place vibrant and exciting.

If you want to see what’s wrong with Whistler and what we ought to be fixing, turn the page. The biggest threat to the continued success of this resort is right there, in full colour. $7,900,000. $3,950,000. $2,975,000. $1,399,000.

The people who buy those homes – my generation – don’t give a rat’s ass about this place; few of them will actually live here. They don’t give a rat’s ass about whether Jean-Luc is living in a house with nine other people and all 10 of them are being hosed by their landlord. They don’t give a rat’s ass whether all the Jean-Lucs live in Pemberton, Squamish or Outer Mongolia.

They only care about themselves.

Get involved. Take back your future before it’s pissed away by a generation that’s squandering theirs.