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The last generation

Beth Richards — October 1983

If you grew up in the forties, the biggest threat in the world was Communism. Communists were purple people-eaters that lurked in children’s closets deep in the night.

If you grew up in the sixties your world almost ended in the Cuban missile crisis. But you knew you were safe because your parents would pack you up in a car and go to the cottage as soon as the bombs started to fall. Then you could water-ski and eat blueberries for the rest of your life, so if the bombs fell, you didn’t care.

But children growing up now are painfully aware of reality. They know, more than most of their elders, that there is no escape when the bombs fall. And this knowledge hurts, perhaps more than we adults can possibly comprehend. In teenagers, it creates a sense of despair and futility that leads to pre-mature cynicism, nihilism, and sometimes even suicide.

And their despair is now shared by children as young as five or six years of age. One five-year-old came home from school several months ago and told her grandmother it wasn’t fair that she would never be able to have children. “What on earth are you talking about?” her grandmother asked. “We’re the last generation, Grandma, everyone at school knows that.” The last generation!

No-one can understand the poignancy of those words, save another five-year-old child. We don’t have to wait for the holocaust to find the casualties of the arms race. They are all around us — we bring them into this world and its time we started listening to them, with sensitivity and compassion.

On December 3rd the Toronto Disarmament Network will sponsor a “Youth Festival for Peace.” Most of the organising and performing will be done by children and teenagers with adults playing a background role. There will be theatre, dancing, music and art and all children and teenagers are welcome to participate. Planning meetings and rehearsals will take place throughout October and November. Our youth has a lot to say and it’s time we gave them a ‘chance to say it. The first planning meeting is scheduled at CANDlS (in Holy Trinity Church, behind the Eaton Centre) on October II at 5:30. If you want to take pan in the Festival, please contact 80th Richards at CANDIS xxx-xxxx.