While it seems as though the 21 st century is shaping up to be the epoch when words become more or less meaningless, we're not quite there yet. To be sure, many words have had the guts ripped out of them and been left empty shells, verbal flotsam and jetsam in a swelling tsunami of talk-noise.
This is a natural offshoot of politics becoming polarized and demagogic, and power concentrating more and more in corporations where words are just so much spin and marketing hype. When you read as many press releases as I read, you begin to wonder whether anyone with a working knowledge of English actually reads them and, more to the point, whether the ghost of George Orwell is writing them: war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.
In Ottawa, Stevie the Hun talks about open, transparent government while bringing the curtain down on the democratic, parliamentary process, all the while hunkering down behind closed doors to avoid the embarrassment accompanying revelations of his government's facial tick that forces them to turn a blind eye to torture. But what can we expect from a man committed to enacting "meaningful" environmental regulation to reign in greenhouse gas escaping from so much overheated talk while gutting the rest of the world's efforts to actually do something about it. Must be time to recalibrate... whatever that word means now.
Closer to home, it's best we don't wade too far into the desert of meaning we've contributed to the concept of sustainability. When Olympic fever breaks, when the last mascot's been given the bum's rush out of town and we stop pretending McDonald's fare is the kind of thing you ought to be feeding athletes, we're going to discover one leg of the sustainability stool - economic - has turned into an outsized club and splintered the other two to kindling.
But despite out best efforts, the one word we haven't rendered entirely meaningless in this town is affordability. We've certainly stretched it, fractured it and turned it into the butt of several good jokes, but we've also embraced it, coddled it and nurtured it along like no other resort town's done before.
The work of successive councils and the Whistler Housing Authority is an unprecedented success. Full stop. There have been set backs and mistakes made as we've scrabbled up the learning curve but let's not lose sight of the fact we've been operating in terra incognita , making things up and making things work on the fly.
Because of those efforts - the successes as well as the failures - our pool of non-market, employee-restricted housing is both the envy of and the model for other resort towns, hell, other towns, around North America. We house a percentage of our workers within our municipal borders other towns only dream of. And we do it without sticking our hand in taxpayers' pockets for subsidies. This isn't social housing we've asked everyone else to pay for. It is a social good, a municipal infrastructure if you will, paid for by the people living in it, people who have traded a market return for affordable buy-in.