Don't step aside, step back

Posted 09.07.11

Although here in the Ottawa Valley we live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas of the world -- not dramatically breath-taking, but calm, pastoral and clean -- and although we are not crowded like even New England, nor are we subjected to the thrashing of tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, or major flooding, and although we are not subject to rampant corruption, drug wars, and criminality, the Pontiac often feels like an unhappy place.

These positives do point to a negative, to a general decline, which can only grow worse as it unravels. As well, we are now virtually without an economy. We see other areas where people cannot make a living or support their communities. We were not always like this.

From the '60s to the '80s while our great forests of red oak, sugar maple, beech, white and red pine and yellow birch were being destroyed and shipped away for a quick buck, well, in those days everyone had a buck.

No doubt there are solutions to our decline, but we don't have them. Our political representatives express their frustration that there are so few ideas and projects being put forward; the couple of people that they are cannot come up with solutions to our problems.

Why can't we? Maybe we've become too tired fighting the inevitable? Maybe we have grown comfortable in our cramped niches? Maybe we've run out of ideas, or maybe we haven't traveled, read, studied or even thought enough about the world outside to generate or adapt new ideas to our situation? These are not accusations.

Maybe some of us are too old. Old age does carry wisdom and experience, but maybe more is needed, besides wisdom. I include myself in this group; I have been involved in various community efforts here since 1971.

Maybe it's time for us to retire.

It is remarkable that the Pontiac has been able to sustain so many municipalities for so long within a world that is increasingly dealing with global pressures. We've generated hundreds of municipal leaders, most of them remarkably able and intelligent. They couldn't do their job otherwise. But maybe they, like me, have been at this job too long, and maybe it's time for us to step aside and make space for younger minds, curiosities, and will power.

This is true also of many businesses and farms, and although it is no easy thing to pass along a multi-million dollar dairy operation to younger (cashless) hands, maybe we should be making a greater effort to give younger people the position and power to introduce new ideas, new projects, new ways of doing things? That's a question.

Many of our youth leave -- another sign of regional decline. One of several reasons for leaving is the lack of opportunity here. Are we maybe standing in the way, not necessarily their way, but in the way of our Pontiac community being reborn?

Wisdom, and the judgment that comes from long experience, is not something to dismiss, and given our region's history, our seniors, retirees, and our elder mayors, councilors, creators, professionals and businesspeople have, as a group, an immense reservoir of wisdom, experience, and good judgment. We would not wish to lose this.

So why not have the MRC create an unofficial Council of Pontiac Elders, made up of the very leaders who can guide the new generation they have made way for by retiring? Here's my challenge: let's step aside. I will, if you do; you will, if we all do. There's time before the next municipal elections to make this happen.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/0.11