How to become a village elder
Glennis and I arrived in Wakefield in 1984 to join the village tribe of Wakefield. Before that, we had lived in Ottawa, and before that, we had fled from the United States. Nineteen-eighty-four was the year George Orwell cast his prescient dystopian novel, which he wrote just before the second world war. Nineteen-eighty-four was the year Glennis and I, two refugees from the big city, moved into our farmette by the Gatineau River and started raising chickens. For us, 1984 marked the beginning of our relationship with this tribe of Wakefield and the unceded Anishinaabe territory, which provided us with a fertile climate where we could grow into the elders that we are today. In the beginning, in 1984, we came by accident to this predominately anglo village founded by Irish Protestants. The village still felt the negative impacts of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) coming to power in 1976. Because of the vacuum of village leadership that the PQ rise to power had caused, Glennis and I had no problem becoming involved in the Wakefield Library and organizing festivals. In about the year 2000, a renewed momentum developed in the village to replace our beloved run-down recreation centre and build the brand new community centre that we have today. The collaborative effort was led by a team of theatre and library people, youth, nuts and bolts quarterbacks and different levels of government. It takes a village to make a village. Some of these founders’ names are on the opening day poster beside the front door and other memorial plaques around the building.
Today, in 2023, our world is in the midst of another dystopian period characterized by climate change, COVID and an overall rising level of political hatred that we learn about through the silos of big brother’s mass media. Once again, there are newcomers to our village who are refugees from the dystopian world that surrounds us and have the opportunity to damn the torpedoes, ignore the machinations of the outside world and work together as a village to continue building ourselves an even better future. My generation, the generation that helped build this community centre, is still here and working, but we are older now and need the help of the younger generation and the latest wave of refugees to carry the torch.
Thus, my final word to you is GET INVOLVED, not only for our tribe’s sake but, more importantly, for your own sake, for your family’s sake. If you do that, I guarantee that you too will become a village elder and someday be standing here, as I am doing, cheering you on.
Phil and Glennis Cohen