Saturday, June 18, 2005

Talkin' About My Generation


As Red Barber liked to say:

"This much I know."

And this much I know.

I am one of the fortunate ones.

I've got a good job, I'm making more money than I ever dreamed of, my kids are alright, and they and I both will very likely be even more than alright in the years to come.

In other words, I've got two, maybe three, fingers of my left hand firmly planted on the brass ring and I'm poised to go ambidextrous on the bloody thing.

And if anybody asks, I did it all myself.


Actually, no.

Because that would be pure and utter bullshit.


Heather Mallick, buried within a fantastic column about the latest big lie dubbed 'African Debt Relief', said something small, but important, yesterday:

"I'm aware that I already won the genetic lottery by being born in Canada and not in Rwanda."

I am aware of this as well.

I am also aware that, perhaps like Ms. Mallick, I was born not just in the right place but also at the right time.

A time when political will and social justice did their level best to work together as one in Canada.

As a result I got the chance to run away to University.

The year was 1977 and the cost of embarking on that wild-eyed run towards the light that ultimately led me to the Ring mentioned above was the princely sum of $540.

And I'll be damned if I'm going to be one of those fortunate sons who are now swerving way to the right in a selfish effort to turn off the lights on the next generation.

And here's why:

My old man was a Union man.

And the folks in the Union fought like bastards...and they fought constantly, usually for the tiniest of things in each successive contract...things like an extra quarter percent on a COLA clause, or one little add-on like an extra free filling per year on the dental plan.

And when I was a kid, especially during that time when I was a barely no-longer-a-teenager-aged kid, I thought the folks from the Union were just a little bit off their nut....all that energy going into what, exactly?

After all, it was the 80's, and Dave Barrett and the Socialist Hordes were long gone, and the Wild Kelowna boys were rolling along, and Unions were bad, and Expo was coming, and Trudeau was going, and John Turner was hiccupping, and Mulroney was lurking, somewhere off in the distance....

....And if you were a half-bright, apolitical science-geek kind of kid like me, breezing your way through college and thinking about graduate school, you laughed when you saw the boy wonder from Burnaby, Michael J. Fox, shirk his Family Ties and ape the young Republicans while making fun of his willfully neutered Leftie of a Dad on the TV screen...

....And if you were that kid, you thought that you were living in a golden age that was tied, not to the social democratic reforms of the past, but to the coming of Free Trade and the promises of the Reaganites from the South...

...And from that perspective you sure as heck didn't get the irony of Bruce Springsteen singing about the plight of the working class in 'Born in the USA'.

But now that I have spent a good chunk of time in USA where I started a family of my own before coming home, I do get it.

I understand that my Dad spent his entire adult life hauling logs up and down the West Coast, working his guts out to help keep the robber baron families rich because he had to make a living to support his own family....

....And I get the fact that, because of the Unions, my family's standard of living gradually improved, bit by bit, over the years so that by the time I had grown up to be that callow young man described above my parents had saved enough to help me go to University....

....And I get the fact that I was the first one in my family who got to go to University.... ever..... and it wasn't because I was so damned smart....

....And I get the fact that, while my parents' limited financial help and support was important, it would never have been enough to get me into the same good schools if I had arrived on the scene a single generation earlier or, perhaps, later....

....And I get the fact that those Wild Kelowna Boys, and all the other neo-cons that have come since, have being doing their damndest to destroy the dream of a University education for all, and instead have instituted an elitist education for some and one-trick-pony Technical training for everybody else.....

....And I get the fact that, if it wasn't for folks like my Dad and the other lefties of his time, my current world, one in which I make a living with my eyes and my mind wide open, would not be what it is today.....

....And most of all, I now get the fact that my Dad was, and is, my hero.

....first posted Father's Day, June 2004



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