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“Democracy is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision-making; it has little to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed. This is dependent upon the governed being adequately informed about the issues in question, and upon the decision makers having the capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard. Democracy should not be confused with the “freedom” of binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding of people into statistics. These are its pretense. Today the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally without any open consultation or participation.” ~ John Berger

I. Dance, reconstrueism [rek-kun-stroó-ism], dance!

My impulse used to be to dismiss it. But nearly six years after returning here to my hometown of Detroit after my decade living in Miami, it has become more and more difficult to go on living and working in a post modern, post industrial, casebook ‘capitalist endtime’ city like Detroit, ignoring the hyper-reality and the hype of American rust belt era gentrification and post gentrification; to go on ignoring the post industrial situation: the poverty, loss, and disintegration in weird concert with the outlandishly enthusiastic, intrusive media junkets that spin across the dance floor in disco mode even though the music is a mournful dirge.

While local Detroit’s news media have steadfastly ignored for two decades now the steadily growing din of community protest and outrage, the gulf between politicians and the governed, between the suburbs and the city, between the haves and the never-will-haves again, between official public media and real life has grown into an ocean; and the two continents are drifting. Citizen outrage over both a political establishment’s and media establishment’s practice of treating community voices and groups as if they were invisible, is as the feeble complaints of Hebrews in the work pits of ancient Egypt, cutting stones for pyramids they will never see the end of. The same newspapers, radio broadcasts, and so-called ‘alternative’ media that have steadfastly ignored post-civil rights, post-nationalist, and post mass culture complaints of racism and abandonment lodged by the mostly Black, mostly poor populace, are peculiarly attentive now to the interests, ideologies, and the dogmas of the forces of Republican triumphalism. They are likewise quick to lick the hand of the interests of ‘urban renovation’ politics, and of what I call ‘settler chic’.

‘Settlers’– the slowly increasing trickle of returnees from suburbs, and new arrivals from other cities (of which I was one, six years ago) are a new dispensation, but all these forces and interests make up ‘the media junket’: journalism at its worst. Nothing covered by American Journalism, or rather, nothing that is blipped, blurbed, byted, and blurted, is presented with adequate depth, meaning, or critical content. The two major city newspapers, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, cover the city either sensationally through a blanket fascination with crime and petty corruption (as opposed to deeper, more far-reaching corporate corruption), or else in so diffident a way (emphasis upon what Miami cultural critic Dr. James Nadell sarcastically calls ‘that local media life-giving, all important, precious sports coverage’) that all the city’s greater complexity is flattened out into purely entertaining, descriptive, lurid and titillating ‘copy’ for creation of a salable commodity by a media that abhor political, economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity and legitimacy. Thus, the rot, the collapse, the poverty, the slow

The Rot

disintegration of a city center and of its neighborhoods, is the daily commodity that turns the profit motive. With a few human interest and ‘poor folk make good’ stories sprinkled in for plausible deniability’s sake, pathos, suffering, and rot are the papers’ real bread and butter, and crime is the spice. News is wrapped like liver and sold slightly bloody with little meaningful, ongoing attention to the past and its economic and political causality. In Detroit, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’, and that motto controls the daily fare (‘crime reporting’ being a perfect avatar for it all) of TV, radio, and print journalism. It’s a corporate standard, a nationally pervasive style of media coverage of cities that is shallow in focus, stereotyped, smug, and presumptuous–not just because it leaves citizens uninformed, which it does, but because it leaves citizens altogether: it has fled us; or it floats above our heads, unconcerned with our real, material lives as it arbitrarily selects what it chooses to spill down upon us–information as scat. If this is what has become of ‘the watchdog of democracy’ then Detroit has what is more accurately described as a cadaver dog of complacency. The media, conglomerated by Gannett (newspapers), Clear Channel (radio and satellite access), and New Times Corp (‘alternative publication weeklies), and their subsidiaries, have long ago broken democracy’s leash, to root through the details of the dead, the unburied casualties, with no concern for or memory of democracy as John Berger defines it, and even less concern for democracy’s discontents (sudden gun battles at police precincts notwithstanding).

Jeffries Projects Demolition

Lately in fact, a characteristic of inappropriate playfulness, even of exuberance, is being displayed by the current incarnation of those junkets ridden by suburban settlers touring the inner city, assessing property values, and planning renovation. These excursions are peopled by ‘creative class’ types [see Richard Florida further down this page]. The tone of their safaris has veered, nauseatingly, over toward the extreme of what some call ‘ruins porn’ (a growing fascination, nationally, with American cities’ shattered, disintegrating architecture and that dying architectures ‘antique’ quality; fascination with the even more fetishistic practice of doing ecstatic and politically mute photographic ‘studies’ of urban wreckage shots offered as aesthetic objects and as visual commodities).

Typical Detroit 'Ruins Porn' Shot

The corporate ghouls–the land developers, real estate vampires, expensive condo prospectors, and strip mall developers, are only some of the many junketeers who have for years now been descending upon modern dying cities. However, when a city that has lost its industrial basis and its economic base begins to die, and also happens to have a high percentage of people-of-color, of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, or members of the working poor, the ghouls are double in number and strength, and even more easily can they buy access, authority, and fiat from easily bought-off, corruptible local public and elected officials who fail to protect constituents from these revelers at The Ball. Their claim, the caption that scrolls across their faces calls them ‘rescuers’ of dying urban space.

Among suburban rescue parties and among citizens of the inner city alike, the endtime ecstaticism has veered over into the unsustainable positivism of ‘urban farming,’ ‘beautification projects’ that plant flowers in the middle of scarred, scabrous inner city vacant lots, and even includes a new form of indigenous collectivism emphasizing food co-ops, ‘green building’, and cultural ‘self image enhancement’ projects that are oddly lacking in a corresponding rational recognition of the necessity for community representation in political chambers and in the precincts of power. Of course, this was exactly the sort of far-sighted understanding that an earlier Detroit community organizing group named ACORN actually did possess. ACORN disregarded the Detroit fallacy of ecstatic positivism over the election in the late 70’s of a Black administration, that of Mayor Coleman A. Young, whose campaign slogan and governing motto was “Power for tomorrow.”

What’s past is prologue in Detroit, in fact, and not just in terms of Coleman Young’s preview of the present-day national animosity toward ACORN. Young’s first order of business when he took office was money.He aggressively lobbied and bullied the state legislature and corporate and lobbying interests inside Detroit, seeking tax hikes to fund bonds and to make sure the city would be kept away from state-ordered receivership. This was political necessity, yes, and was often a dirty game, but it was a fundamentally different kind of necessity than that practiced by his successors, like Mayor Archer, and the current, Detroit Mayor Bing. Young fought dirty, in order to shore up capital that could give him the power to be self-determining (within a certain, racially and regionally limited framework!) while successors have been and are fighting simply to survive. One of the strengths of Young’s administration, besides his having been lifted up upon the backs of a living, thriving labor movement, was the potency of what he symbolized: Black rage, Black power, Black self articulation (all the things that were the sine qua non of the Young machine, the things that have literally shriveled and died (as the labor movement is shriveling and dying) in present-day Detroit politics and in Detroit politicians).

At any rate, throughout the seventies, as Young wheeled-and-dealt, ACORN of Detroit fought for the rights of those who inevitably would be pawns in the game–ordinary Detroiters. ACORN (Association of Community Organization for Reform Now) lobbied and organized and pressured the majority Black administration and city council to do more than present Detroiters with symbolic representation (in the person of their Black bodies), and demanded power for today: the group (they and other community based religious, cultural, and political pressure groups like them, as well as public employee unions) publicly questioned the city’s practice of neglecting neighborhoods while in relative terms lavishing exorbitant building projects, development funds, and city economic initiatives upon Detroit’s downtown sector. Young’s response to ACORN was to accuse them of ‘Blackmail tactics‘ (See “Coleman Young and Detroit Politics, by Wilbur C. Rich, Pg. 253), essentially overdetermining the power of those who harried him. As author Wilbur C. Rich points out in his book, Young, shortly after being elected was in the process of lobbying for and demanding the clout to raise taxes, and ACORN was far from being a real impediment to the mayor:

The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now offered to support the tax increase if the mayor would agree to use the revenues in neighborhoods. The mayor called their demand “blackmail tactics.” ACORN did not have the following of resources to mount a credible threat to the mayor’s plan, but the public employees union was another matter.
Bob Johnson, president of AFSCME, met with nineteen local chapter presidents and declared the union’s opposition to the tax plan, citing the tie bar language as his reason. “We were not originally opposed to the Tax Plan but the legislature included a wage rollback and we can’t buy that approach. Based on that, we have to attack the whole system,” he said. The statement was echoed by labor leaders Lloyd Simpson and Tom Turner. For the union the campaign against the vote was one of principle. (“Coleman Young and Detroit Politics”, pg. 253)

Young’s calling their activism ‘blackmail’ was a preview of the later-to-come demonization of ACORN in the national media via the tried-and-true political tactic of rhetorically overdetetermining their power (and in present day-tactics against them this includes overdetermining their actions and their ‘crimes’).

One hastens to admit that the inequity between gifts showered upon the wealthy and those showered upon the poor was a practice under Young for very many reasons, some of those presumably being typical public corruption such as corporate kickbacks into the coffers of (newly Black) city elected officials, but some of them undoubtedly being the politically unavoidable continuation of previously existing payola schemes and influence, and some being the reality that a Black administration in an Anglo controlled state situated in the heart of the Midwest, could only practice self-determination up to a point. Corporate and commercial interests, and ultimately at least some tourist economy interests, had to be satisfied. White flight after the urban rebellions of the sixties, along with increasing economic opportunity and strengthening of the Black middle class, had led to growing urban Black political power; Black administrations that had newly taken political power due to civil rights and Black power politics in Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, Gary, and the rest, however, could pave new political tactics and practices in line with Black power ideals only up to a point.

Still, that ‘point’ is indeed the focal point of democracy: the contention, struggle, and tension between official expediency and citizen demands for equity and access to power is the very heart and soul of all municipal democratic praxis. The Young Administration, though careful to construct and to diligently maintain a racially transformed Black power structure that was responsive to Black voters, sought in reality to maintain a transformative Black crony system that promoted, supported, bribed, and offered access to, middle class advantage for BLACK businesses, through BLACK sub-contracting, BLACK vendor support, and BLACK promotion to the local civil service and through municipal job creation and access. All of which reinforced the ways of capitalism itself, however colored that capitalism admittedly was: votes translate into access to the system, but could not as easily translate into fundamental shifts in public policy to satisfy the Black masses. The greater benefits were as always realized by a ‘Black’ bourgeoisie, while the Black working class, the Black masses, enjoyed merely a greater ratio of leftover benefit and leftover power. If democracy then, is what happens in the interspaces of class conflict, then ACORN’s role, and the role of all community organizations, was to do battle with the administration, in order to facilitate incremental increases in that ratio.

But the Young Administration was deliberately practising a very early version of the logic of tourism economies now fatally infecting most inner city economies; and the result some thirty years later, given the wholesale collapse of public health, public education, and industrial employment in Detroit, is total economic collapse both for citizens and for the city government (Detroit’s operational and general fund budget deficit is currently reported by the city to be $155 million). The current administration of Mayor Bing, taking a bit different tack by proposing what the city’s unions call ‘crippling’ budget cuts to transportation, pension, and healthcare costs. “This deficit elimination plan represents a strategic approach to fiscal stability and the need to address pension and health care costs. It is an unprecedented forecast of our revenues and expenses over the next five years and what must be done to ensure Detroit’s survival,” Bing said just last month in a statement to Detroit Crain’s Business, a corporate owned and published business newspaper published in downtown Detroit. Previous administrations, such as that of Mayor Archer, touted the building of several gambling casinos and expansion of hotel and service industry infrastructure–failed strategies that did no more than buy time for the deficit to increase. Bing works under an ever-increasing threat now that Michigan has joined other states reeling under the austerity policies and government takeover policies of radical Republican governors. As Coleman young feared State interference with Detroit if the city budget went too ar into the black, and as Mayor Kilpatrick feared receivership before Bing took office, Mayor Bing now has to fear the imposition of state receivers and ’emergency financial managers’ being appointed by Republican governor, Rick Snyder under a new, constitutionally questionable ’emergency financial managers law’ that would allow the Republican governor to appoint a paid ‘manager’ to run the city of Detroit, with the legal power to dismiss the elected mayor, the elected city council, or both, and run the city without oversight, without restrictions on his or her authority: a new level of cronyism that allows a governor the Machiavellian power to run any city in the state by fiat. Several legal and community groups here have discussed filing lawsuits against the governor for violation of citizens’ constitutional rights if such a thing is done. A financial manager plenipotentiary of this sort, has already been appointed in the predominantly Black city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. The mayor and city council of that city have been ejected and their access to city hall and to city business denied, which has led to mass protests there, and talk of lawsuits.

I must add here that late breaking news has been that Bing may have been as late as last year secretly asking the former, Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, to appoint at least one emergency manager–to direct the Detroit Board of Education, displacing the Board’s elected officials, a request that had come to pass. Further, local radio newscasts are (as of June, 2012) breaking rumors that Mayor Bing is at it again, with secret wooing of the new, arch conservative Republican Governor, Rick Snyder. Bing introduced last year a widely discussed plan to reduce the operating budget by implementing a startlingly unique, potentially chaotic and certainly legally suspect plan to ‘downsize’ the city. The so-far vaguely defined plan is to evict residents of areas of the city that have gone ‘prairie’ (sectors of the city with up to 50% vacant lots), and to spur residents to willingly leave those areas and be ‘relocated’ by cutting off services such as water, electricity, sanitation, US Mail, and gas service to all but  7-9 ‘designated neighborhoods.” The Plan’ has yet to be completely detailed, and the Mayor has been said by insiders in his administration to be floundering in putting together a coherent, fundable way forward or a workable, affordable incentive program to decisively convince thousands of Detroiters to abandon their homes and neighborhoods to be ‘relocated’ into ‘designated relocation areas.’ Citizens have chafed under the proposal, now ten months old, comparing it to apartheid, to the forced relocations of Native Americans by the US government, and to historical schemes by Anglo ruling establishments to seize the land and property of Black Americans. In short, the local news rumor ia that Bing is at it

Bing Wants to Shrink Us

again: that in desperation over not being able to formulate an affordable, workable plan, Mayor Bing  is secretly asking the Republican Rick Snyder to appoint an emergency manager to bail him out and back him up against a resistant city council by removing council’s veto power. These rumors and leaks are causing consternation in Detroit citizens on the heels of the mayor having missed several scheduled meetings with citizen leaders and with his own project directors to discuss how the plan to downsize will be implemented in an equitable way. One of the missed meetings was to have been with 200 Detroit pastors. The time limit for implementing the plan is approaching, and as far as media, citizens, and the city council can tell, there is no plan to carry out.

It coul be argued–should be, I believe–that this increasingly alarming disregard for the rights and will of citizens is typical of local political leaders who are not products of movement politics, but of the interests of money. Ironically, though local politicians such as Detroit’s mayor must depend on the votes of the masses to win office, they must then depend upon wooing money interests if they hope to manage public policy once they have taken office. Just as ironically, if not more so, the dominant ideology of money interests can hold sway over the presumptions and expectations of even an exploited and dis-empowered electorate in the absence of labor and community coalitions, organization, and activism: polls taken about and articles written on the Detroit electorate during the last mayoral election found that an appreciable percentage of Detroit voters were approving of Bing because he was not a career politician but a ‘businessman’ (president of Bing Steel Company) who during his campaign promised ‘to run city government like a business.’ “He understands business, he’ll get us jobs,” said citizens. Again, ironically, Bing divested himself of his interests in Bing Steel just ahead of potentially ruinous liability for a company that had descended into crushing debt. Likewise, his inheritance of a city headed to hell in the same handbasket as Bing Steel, is to downsize, sell out, and divest rather than grow production or profit. These are the emergency measures that are all that is left to the urban, Black politician representing economically ravaged Black citizens in dying cities.

Such emergency measures of course far outstrip the threat Young endured, for the current ’emergency management’ policies in Republican states include the radical authority of governors to dismiss school elected boards, elected city councils, and elected mayors, legal powers that simply did not exist when Coleman Young was mayor.

Mayor Coleman Young in Victory

The Young administration in the 70’s, though enjoying far more authority and working under less threat than Mayor Bing, nevertheless sought, like any power structure, to neutralize dissent and to silence opposition. The administration managed to undercut, to demonize, and to silence groups like ACORN, and to forestall or hold its own against the masses’ democratic demands for access and for true, transformative economic justice. These demands were voiced by Black power inspired political and union-affiliated groups such as The League of Black Revolutionary Workers (one of many revolutionary workers movements spreading in the 60’s and 70’s across the industrial labor spectrum). Young therefore had to balance the dangers and compromises of the reality of White supremacy and the pragmatism White supremacy forced upon every Black elected official in America at the time, against various calls for democracy from a spectrum of constituents. from politically progressive and radical church groups to block clubs, from voter activist leaders to union leaders, and from the economically influential Black bourgeoisie to Marxist-Leninist and Maoist workers’, citizens’, and mass political movements. Unlike present-day mayors, Young had to contend with that entire spectrum of politically aware, vocal, and active citizen groups in operation in Detroit in the 70’s.

Record Town, Detroit

By the late decade however, and at the start of the 80’s, ACORN was largely cut out of influence over public policy, and the age of radicalism was drawing rapidly to a close due to the liberal duplicity of the national Democratic political machine and due to Reaganomics’ reactionary abandonment of inner cities, of public services, of respect for human and civil rights. With little real opposition from the Democratic Party (due largely to the wholesale desertion from the democratic party of the White, suburban working class who voted Republican in numbers not seen since the days of Eisenhower), President Ronald Reagan’s primary project: shutting down democracy in America from the street level to the federal level and the achieving of that aim chiefly through elimination of all manifestations of the public sector; through the act of starving government itself, and the program of corporate tax cuts, destruction of public education, and the destruction of the influence and power of union movements. The mark of the impotence that descended upon the Democratic Party during the Reagan administration is demonstrated in Reagan’s attack on and ultimate destruction of PATCO (Port Authority Transit Corporation), the national air traffic controllers union, which became the first showcase for Reagan’s and the Republican party’s power. PATCO’s being successfully cut from the pack and killed heralded a right-wing plan to utterly eliminate the role that unions had played in American society since the 1930’s.

Diego Rivera's 'Detroit Industry' Fresco

As for Detroit, it is clear, if one is honest about realpolitik, that a historic, transformative Black administration rather predictably failed to transform fundamental economic relations. Instead, through both grassroots mythology and through mass media rhetoric which painted a picture of Mayor Young as all-powerful, as invincible, as a machine boss and kingly power broker, popular culture and media trumpeted his development projects while the Young administration practiced Capitalist business as usual. As usual, the total well-being of the city and of the masses of its citizens, were not the major part of the administration’s blueprint. Projects were launched such as “The Renaissance Center”–a business, shopping, and hotel complex; “The People Mover”–a rather pointless multi million dollar elevated rapid rail line constructed to run only a self-defeating, limited route through the downtown area; and expansions of downtown sporting and convention venues, completed in part by offering considerable tax breaks to commercial owners and vendors while casting the city’s municipal wealth solidly into the arena of tourist economics which, as with impoverished Caribbean nations, places populations’ fates on a table exposed to the wholly commercial vicissitudes of exogenous populations from suburban, national, and international origins.

In such an economy, as citizen groups spent the 70’s and early 80’s reminding Detroit public policy makers, the majority among the indigenous population who were not employed by tourism industries would come to suffer through a lessor city infrastructure, fewer returns on their tax dollars, and a growing lack of modern efficiencies such as mass transit, responsive city services outside of the tourism zones, and civil support from adequate funding of libraries, community centers, and police precincts. Despite the then-thriving auto industry, citizens agitated for continual diligence in maintaining civic services and support for citizens, pointing out that Detroit would always require proper peripheral (community oriented) bus service, and affordable and sufficient transport to and from airports for all, not just for tourists and suburban visitors, and would always require adequate rail and interstate bus stations maintained outside of the city center and the tourist zones. Citizens also protested the growth of city investment in service industry job creation versus the more productive and more wealth creating use of city muscle to pressure major living-wage job creating corporations such as the automobile industry, to pay equitable city and property and business taxes, to provide Detroit employees with substantial benefits such as COLA (Cost Of Living Allowances) and indexed wage increases.

Post Industry, Inequality

Again, ACORN had proven to be far-seeing. As the national economic sector deteriorated throughout the 90s’, these public services as well as the private job market itself, spun into decline, and has now all but crashed. Respect for collective bargaining for safer working environments, and health and retirement benefits (as well as binding arbitration to enforce contracts and settle contract disputes) are now little more than a thing of the past; worse, a thing unremembered, since younger Detroiters, suffering record illiteracy rates due to an essentially dead public education system, have difficulty with remembering the past.

Catalogued briefly, Detroit has suffered a succession of increasingly bourgeois (Mayor Dennis Archer), increasing venal (the current Mayor, David Bing), and even outright criminal and nihilistic (Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) mayoral administrations since the death of Coleman Young. Where Young did at least maintain a basic interest in serving the more pressing needs of his core constituency and in supporting basic municipal institutions, the succession of Black mayors who have taken his seat over twenty years have steadily deepened fundamental fiscal and public policy crises in the city while setting the city’s service and investment policies solidly on the road to catastrophe: successive administrations have mimicked the self-destructive practices of the federal government by failing to adequately tax corporations, lowering the prices of city services to the suburbs, squandering public funds and thus deepening budgetary and fiscal crises to the point of desperation, and offering poorly reasoned, short-term ‘fixes’ for those crises through expansion of non sustainable tourist schemes (such as a proliferation of building casinos, sports stadiums, and needless hotel space).

Detroit Pop. Trends,1890-2009 Source: US Census Bureau and http://commetrics.com/articles/2009-week-31/

As Detroit’s population has dwindled from a high in the 1950’s of approximately 1.5 Million to the numbers of the last census figures, newly released, that place the city’s population at approximately 713,700 and as those numbers continue to decrease, young Detroiters who can afford to, continue to flee the city after high school graduation in search of jobs, and the city’s birth rate is not equaling the death rate, but lagging behind it. Thus, city administrations continue to reduce city services, the result of which has been less a hoped for saving of operations costs, and more a deepening of the crisis due to reduction of mobility, health, well-being, education, and access to work for the city’s citizens. It is , by any definition one could cite, a death spiral. In the words of The New York Times, from last March, three months ago:

Laying bare the country’s most startling example of modern urban collapse, census data on Tuesday showed that Detroit’s population had plunged by 25 percent over the last decade. It was dramatic testimony to the crumbling industrial base of the Midwest, black flight to the suburbs and the tenuous future of what was once a thriving metropolis.
It was the largest percentage loss for any American city with more than 100,000 residents over the last decade, apart from the unique situation of New Orleans, where the population dropped by 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College.
The number of people who vanished from Detroit — 237,500 — was bigger than the 140,000 who left New Orleans.
The loss in Detroit seemed to further demoralize some residents who said they already had little hope for the city’s future.
“Even if we had depressing issues before, the decline makes it so much harder to deal with,” said Samantha Howell, 32, who was getting gas on Tuesday on the city’s blighted East Side. “Yes, the city feels empty physically, empty of people, empty of ambition, drive. It feels empty.”
Detroit’s population fell to 713,777 in 2010, the lowest since 1910, when it was 466,000. In a shift that was unthinkable 20 years ago, Detroit is now smaller than Austin, Tex., Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla. (NY Times, March 22, 2011)

Public health, education and welfare, as well as the practices of democratic access, are being weakened to the point of death across the country in more and more urban centers. These alarming facts ought to be the true focus of any coherent and rational discussion of the plights of dying cities (far more so than endless discussions in the media and even among current government representatives, of ‘crime’ and of ‘citizen safety’.) ACORN, and dozens of other community organizing groups across America working for the same principles as ACORN was, were as correct in their analysis as they were necessary for the health of democracy: although city and private unions were strong during the Young administration, the influence and the power they commanded then, was not destined to endure. From the Regan administration on (from the 1980’s on), the steady erosion of union and community power in all American cities has forced a paradigm shift and promoted ruling class and corporate-finance interests, weakening, and now finally killing off the remains of, community based democratic power and freedom. Young’s administration was itself spurred into office on the heels of national movements such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, and country-wide voter registration drives, fair electoral districting, and progressive judicial support for democracy (not to mention adequate funding of public schools and federal enforcement of statutory protection of civil and constitutional rights and enforcement of The Voting Rights Act). He was made possible by unions such as AFSMCE (American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees), the UAW (United Auto Workers), and the AFLCIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, a national trade union federation composed of approximately 56 national and international unions, all representing more than 11 million American workers).

Surrounded by empty hotel rooms, ostentatious tourist attractions that are only operational and active periodically–when an influx of outsiders pour into the city to party and revel–one begins to think not of the ‘ruins’ of long dead cities such as Carthage, Tenochtitlan, or Pompei. Instead one thinks of great cities that somehow go on living even after shattering, devastating wars (Nubia’s Nabta Playa; Lebenon’s Beruit; Somalia’s Mogadishu –once a great city of the بلاد البربر Bilad-ul-Barbar (“The Land of Berbers“); Vietnam’s Saigon; Germany’s Berlin; Palestine’s Jerusalem; Iraq’s Baghdad. Detroit somehow goes on living even with her astonishing wounds, and living here all begins to take on the scary continence of a crazed post war cotillion, a ball, a millenarian zombie dance at the end of time for the existence of all cities.

One staple of a city after war is of course stray dogs–hundreds, thousands, limping, starving, dashing to avoid traffic, slavering, weak, mute, witnesses of the war; abandoned. In 2010 A local humanitarian and reality warrior whose tag is “Hush” worked with Emmy nominated producer, Monica Martino (whose cable productions include “Whale Wars” and “Deadliest Catch”) to create a Cable show for the DISCOVERY CHANNEL called “A Dog’s Life.” The production dwelled in part upon the lives, sufferings, and miserable deaths of abandoned dogs in Detroit. Hush now produces his own reality video (chronicling his humanitarian dog rescue project–found on YOUTUBE), called, “Detroit Dog Rescue.” The NBC Nightly News has done a segment on “Detroit Dog Rescue”, which you can watch by clicking HERE for NBC NEWS VIDEO, which will take you to Hush’s YOUTUBE page where the NBC footage can be seen. Hush’s videos are an example of the underlying reality the Detroit media junket often by-passes, or gives single bytes to for sensationalism’s sake or for the equally vapid ‘human interest story’, but with no depth or analysis or further investigation. Local TV in Detroit refused in 2010 to accept and broadcast syndicated episodes of the show, “A Dog’s Life”, and in fact, rumor is that the city pressured to have the video journal shut down. As Aldous Huxley writes, however, facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. You can watch an episode of Hush’s own YOUTUBE journal, “Detroit Dog Rescue” by clinking links below:

'Detroit Dog Rescue'

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZOA_Y_dGeo&feature=player_embedded]

I’m sure that if dogs here could talk they would earnestly inform you that the unseemly and frankly irrational promises of gentrification as a (non sustainable) panacea for the suffering here is in fact merely a mask for the opportunism of Capitalists who are wilding at a fire sale. capitalist opportunists are the very reason we use the phrase in English, ‘to capitalize upon misfortune’. Below is a video announcing a coming documentary film that focuses on another, national example of gentrification unmasked, in Brooklyn in this case. The video focuses on the ways in which the ghouls behind gentrification politics are demonstrating in that city their intention to usurp democracy in communities of color and communities of working class composition:

Still, these kinds of feudalist takeovers are part and parcel, are they not, of the ‘endtimes’ for capitalism (as the wolf of Capital dies, it grows all the more vicious and desperate to feed)? The tactic of destruction and ‘reconstitution’ of cities as privileged enclaves and as gentrified, remodeled/renovated fortresses for the wealthy is to be expected. What is unexpected, at least by me, is the latest evolution of the party at the end of industry: a new, flamboyant, predominantly Anglo and young, lower middle class or itinerant class of ne’er-do-well dilettante, outsiders, and reconstructionists.

Falling to Pieces

Reconstrueists is what I’ve decided to call these late arrivals to the party who are now descending upon the remains of African-American and Latino inner cities and gleefully (often disrespectfully and unconsciously) picking through the wreck and ruin to find what is to them ‘useful’, ‘cool’, ‘aesthetically pleasing’. Their typical take on poverty and disaster in the shadows of unemployment, plant closings, productive collapse, and urban misery is to prospect for titillatingly horrific trash that they will ‘reconstitute’ as spectacle or even as installation ‘art’. This can be seen happening in Newark, in DC, In Pittsburg, in parts of LA, in parts of Chicago, and lately even in not-as-yet collapsing cities such as Brooklyn, where corporate gentrification is in the early to mid stages of buying out still-thriving local business, buying out landlords with generations-long record of stable renters, driving stable neighborhood renters out with rent-hikes, then tearing down traditional neighborhoods, and corporatizing communities.

What I can report from Detroit is what will sooner than later happen to your city, and to you: what will inevitably follow those top-tier Capitalists you see dispossessing Black and Latino and poor folks will be what I am seeing now in Detroit: small groups, individuals,

Richard Florida, Global Economics Consultant & Gentrification Shill

and collectives, many of them mysteriously well-funded, skittering among the wrecked precincts seeking ‘value’ in the ruins, even fetishizing the wreckage itself: this is the rise of the so-called ‘creative class’ of young, hip, and clueless revisionists re-imagining gutted industrial giants like Detroit and Pittsburg as ‘cool cities’. It is also the new pornography of ‘ruins art’ and the ‘reconstruction’ of communities that are to be ‘re-visioned’ in the positivist language of new age gentrification gurus much like Richard Florida (author of the combination dogma-rationale and pop culture marching map, “The Rise of the Creative Class“). Dying cities then, are now to be re-imagined as avant garde playpens. One such group here in Detroit is sponsored by a grant from “Juxtapoz,” an ‘art and culture magazine’ published in California. The magazine boasts an exuberant online content (http://www.juxtapoz.com/Home) that somewhat haplessly provides in each of its issues a scatter-shot of images, anthropological grist, blurbs, essays, and junkets

Juxtapoz, Issue #88 - Racial Stereotype as Art?

about and into American visual culture, American cityscapes, and sub-urban youth iconography, all of which is decidedly lacking in respect for the sources these bytes and bites of reality are taken from.

Very little of the content in this magazine is thoughtfully contextualized by history, economics, or politics, and it is in fact as if history or economics never did exist, much less racial history, racial politics, or god forbid, racism. The flippancy that becomes, in the magazine’s lesser moments, a dreary, typically California ethno-sarcasm, and in its better moments a relentlessly positivist naiveté, that damages the possibility of social consciousness for this magazine and its mise-en-le-monde. The resultant published work in Juxtapoz comes off as naive; as colonialist, or as the American youth culture form of Zionist settler chic. This unfortunate ambience of the settler type betrays itself in the above-mentioned group of ‘reconstrueist ‘artists funded by Juxtapoz here in Detroit…

Reconstrueist”: Noun. One who re-conceives urban, historical, and/or cultural reality to suit his own wishes; Adjective. Of, related to, or concerning reconstrueism [re-imagining or reconstituting what already exists, or is already certain].                -Ray Waller’s Imaginary Urban Dictionary, 2011

…Quite often these groups, individuals, and collectives seek out, inspire, or aggressively provoke media attention, where the efforts of community political organizers and of protest and resistance had earlier been ignored by both national and local media. For instance, Memphis Tennessee neighborhood action committees fought in the 90’s to oppose so-called ‘Entertainment Real Estate” corporations seeking to seize communities, the sort of ‘tourist industry’ gentrification trumpeted in Memphis by

If Beale Street Could Talk

Performa Corporation. By 2005, severe flooding of the Memphis Chattanooga waterfronts had provided power elites with an excuse (as hurricane damage did in Louisiana and in Mississippi) to bully and seduce city and state elected officials to ignore if not crush citizen opposition to gentrification. Lately, even relatively conservative groups in Memphis such as Friends for Our Riverfront have been shunted aside and smaller community groups, in a fashion typical of the methodology of corporate-driven gentrification, are either silenced by buy-outs or starved out, and are now scarcely remembered. The city itself, its city center and waterfront having expunged the working poor, is heralded as a ‘success story’.

Jacqueline Smith of Memphis

Even the memory and legacy of Reverend Martin King is fodder for the propaganda of developers: a much vaunted project to turn the Lorrain Hotel, the place where King was assassinated in 1968 into a national civil rights museum ‘in the name of respect for history’ has a typically slippery, silent agenda: eviction and gentrification. Much to the shock of tourists who visit the Lorrain Hotel, now a major tourist attraction, neighborhood residents surrounding the motel and a growing

Lorrain Motel Protest

number of Memphis citizens are protesting what has and is happening to the community because of the museum. A major figure in the anti-gentrification movement in Memphis is a homeless Black woman named Jacqueline Smith, who was the last official tenant of the Lorrain (before being evicted) and who has lived on a street corner across from the motel for more than 14 years. Her surprising clout is due to a groundswell of attention and support she has gotten from Memphis citizens and tourists alike. One tourist on a typical southern junket, a Ms. Libby Pozolo, was moved to write her impressions of Smith after visiting Memphis on her way to visit Mississippi:

Memphis Tourists Confronted by the Truth
An excerpt from Libby Pozolo’s journal:
. . . Right now I am in Cleveland, Mississippi. The National Civil Rights Museum was way cool! It was basically a bunch of timelines and various exhibits summarizing black history and the civil rights movement from slavery all the way up to King’s assassination. After you walk through the entire museum it leads up to the actual room and balcony where King was shot. I found it to be very moving to be standing in the same spot that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when his life was ended. The NCRM has recreated the room so that it looks the way it did when King was staying there. Then we went and talked with Jackie Smith. She has a booth set up on the corner across from the Lorraine Motel. She has been sitting in that spot for over 14 years! Ms. Smith is protesting the fact that poor people were kicked out of their housing in order for the hotel to be transformed into a museum. Some of her points were understandable and made sense to me. She feels that King would not have wanted people to be evicted in this fashion in an effort to commemorate him. This woman is a prime example of someone who feels so passionately about something that she is willing to devote her entire life to her cause.

II. The Pornography of  ‘re-imaginaing’

Thus, the ‘reconstrueists’ can be understood as the last wave of arrivals to the ball. After the corporations have finalized plans to evict, to renovate, and to rebuild in the interests of the wealthy and of returning suburbanites, then come the reconstrueists, some arriving to awaken the media that slept through our struggle to repel corporate invasion, and some even traveling with media already in tow. The “subject” they raise and mobilize in their media junkets? It is, I argue, a form of pornography–the porno of collapse, of ‘ruins, and of ‘rescue’ not for the exploited and abandoned populations of the cities, but for the detritus that is left in the wakes of those dead and dying urban centers. The detritus, the blasted streets and homes, the vacant lots and the massive rotting manors, factories, and warehouses of the city’s physical space are to be cherished, as if what was once a home to industry, to families, and to thriving communities is now no more than a fetishized art installation. The latest such porno media coverage to be seen here in Detroit came a few days ago in the form of a highly problematic Detroit News article entitled, “Fly-by-night artists decide to stay in Detroit” by Det News art columnist, Donna Terek:

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Donna Terek: Donna’s Detroit

‘Fly-by-night’ artists decide to stay in Detroit

Last fall, the California-based magazine “Juxtapoz” gave a grant to Detroit’s Power House Productions to buy four abandoned houses on Moran Street south of the Davison in Detroit. The magazine of contemporary and underground art chose six artists and set them loose to turn those houses into works of art.

This seemed interesting, but when I visited and met some of the artists chosen by “Juxtapoz” to participate I was sorely disappointed to find most of them were from out of town — way out of town. Not just Royal Oak or Grand Rapids, but Oakland, Calif., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Now, I’ve been called a “Detroit snob,” but it smacked of cultural imperialism. I mean, Detroit didn’t have enough artists to fill the bill? Really?

My Detroit pride was hurt by the idea of these interlopers, despite their obvious talent. And this was a two- to three-week visit by these artists. How much impact was this going to have? It was an art drive-by.

This was in the community north of Hamtramck where Power House founders architect Gina Reichert and her husband, artist Mitch Cope, live and have been conducting an experiment in integrating artists and their work into the fabric of a neighborhood.

The community is a mixture of Eastern Europeans, African Americans and a whole lot of immigrants from Bangladesh, making this slice of Detroit seem like an extension of Hamtramck

So, I thought, what were these fly-over artists doing to benefit this community in the long run?

What indeed

Then, this summer, I met Ryan Doyle, who came to Detroit for the “Juxtapoz” project and decided to stay.

At the advanced age of 31, Doyle describes himself as “an aging punk, anarchist, interactive-kinetic sculptor.” His current project is a 69-foot-long, 22-foot-high metal dragon called Gon KiRin.

Doyle came to Detroit in October to help his friend and fellow Oakland artist Monica Canilao and her assistant/boyfriend Harrison Bartlett work on the house “Juxtapoz” invited Canilao to transfigure with her art.

Doyle says once he got here he fell in love with the city and its people.

Canilao and Bartlett felt the same and they wanted to keep working on the three-story art project they call the “Treasure Nest.” When they asked Cope and Reichert if they had plans for the house, the couple said they’d sell it to them for $2,000.

They consulted Doyle, who was seduced by Detroit’s artistic opportunities and its proximity to Hanover, Ontario, and his wife Zarah Ackerman’s base of operations for her performance art.

The two couples agreed to buy the house.

Doyle and Ackerman, 27, moved here in January with daughter Dynamite, now 9 months old. Canilao and Bartlett, both 27, will keep their base in Oakland but plan to spend as much time in Detroit working on their house as possible.

Changed mind

Part of the interior is an art installation, but the duplex has lots of space and the four plan to make it an informal artists’ hostel and invite their friends from around the country to visit, experience Detroit and perhaps stay to create their own projects.

“I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to move to Detroit,” says Doyle. In fact, his assistant and his girlfriend have already moved in and will be in charge of the urban garden being created next door.

So, of the six artists officially invited to Power House neighborhood, two decided to put down roots and brought four more — five, including Dynamite — to make Detroit at least a sometime home. Those are not such bad numbers.

And the Bangladeshi neighbors I spoke to seem thrilled that they are taking a home that had been vacant a year and bringing it back to life.

In a way, what they’re doing seems a hipster cliche by now: move to Detroit, buy a cheap house, plant an urban garden. But so what? Cliches develop because they are methods that work. Detroit could use more like these.

In fact, it can use a lot more. In a city bleeding population, can we afford to look askance at a transfusion of creative plasma like these enthusiastic Detroit-ophiles?

We need as many of them as are willing to come. And, while I was skeptical about the magazine’s helicopter artist drop, this is exactly the kind of thing that creates buzz about Detroit on the coasts where the majority of cultural opinion makers resides and publishes.

If Detroit becomes the neo-Brooklyn, let’s celebrate.

Both couples are fascinated by the large supply of abandoned buildings and easily obtainable “found” objects they love to repurpose in their art. Canilao filled “Treasure Nest” with them and constructed a room-filling chandelier made entirely of abandoned light fixtures and glass.

“I knew once I got here I wouldn’t be able to leave,” says Bartlett.

So now Doyle has set up a studio in the Russell Industrial Center to complete Gon KiRin in time to show it at Maker Faire July 30-31 at The Henry Ford. It’s really a giant art car and Doyle says the Detroit connection was just too hard to resist.

While he feels perfectly comfortable here, Doyle admits it’s pretty rough around the edges, but it seems, in the media at least, “it’s turning from being some toxic hole that you can’t fix to being the new city of opportunity. And I really hope it is. And I’m going to help that happen if I can.”

I hope he can, too.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110605/OPINION03/106050313/‘Fly-by-night’-artists-decide-to-stay-in-Detroit#ixzz1OiW7GtoQ

http://www.detnews.com/section/videonetwork?bctid=977895243001

________________________________________________________________

I was much in agreement with Donna Terek when I read the original print edition of her article on the artists visiting Detroit. However, I did not go along with her change of heart due to those artists saying they will be remaining in the city. I also find it unfathomable that the article manages to not mention one of Detroit’s most profound and nationally known ‘environmental’ artists, Tyree Guyton. Guyton’s work with ‘found art forms, with

Detroit Artist, Tyree Guyton

environmental installation, and with ironic, critically potent re-conceptualizations of urban space, are works of primarily conceptual power, though local media, which has been increasingly covering his work (due to, one strongly suspects, Tyree’s growing acceptance as an artist of global significance) have been slow to catch up to the accolades and honors being showered on Tyree nationally, internationally, nd in our own home town museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts. Yet, increased coverage in the local media has not translated into increased understanding. Local arts critics seem ignorant of the deeper meanings of his work, preferring instead to see him in simplistic, positivist terms.

Guyton at work

The typical local media attitude toward him is that if he is, as a man, whimsical, decorative, light hearted, if he is a Black man who is smiling (as he often does), then his work is to be taken as purely decorative–an attitude that would make no sense were it applied to a modern artist like say, Joan Miró, a great modern conceptual artist. In fact, no art critic or art historian has ever suggested that Miró’s paintings should be seen as simplistic, ‘happy’, or decorous simply because Miró was known to smile. Quite the opposite is said of his work, as it turns out, as is clear in this comment, typical of art critics’ descriptions of Miró:

Miró painted figures derived from Catalan folk art. In 1928 he began painting images based on postcards of some Dutch interiors he had seen in Holland, by such painters as Jan Steen. The images he worked from were crowded with forms; he gradually simplified the forms and stripped the image down greatly, using geometric divisions and curving movements in the compositions. At this time he moved further away from his points of departure, and began using unusual sources, such as a diesel motor, influenced by Surrealist thinking.(http://www.ndoylefineart.com/miro.html)

A Smiling Miró

Nevertheless, the objects that Guyton incorporates into his installations and into his single pieces and paintings, are not the ends in themselves, are not being fetishized, but are being transformed into a critique of Late Capitalism. As a native of Detroit, a widely hailed African-American artists treating his own

Miró, Environ- mental work

city in his art, not acting as an outsider ‘settling’ or ‘resettling’ here, but as a nativist conceptual artist, it seems almost impossible that Terek would not know of his work, and doing a search of Detroit news and Detroit blog sources I found references to Tyree’s work and to coverage by Terek including the photograph below that was taken by Terek herself. Yet, no mention, of Tyree appears in the article above, either as being possibly an influence on the

The Work of Tyree Guyton

Detroit movement of so-called ‘environmental art installation’ or at least as the artistic context into which such projects enter when they arrive in Detroit and in which they necessarily are taking place in a Detroit that Tyree has already transformed by sheer artistic will, into a space that can be rationalized as an art installation space.

A typical local comment on Tyree as a modern, conceptual artist in the American tradition of folk sources, a common heritage Tyree clearly shares with Miró, was written by Detroit Journalist, Jack Lessenberry in 2004, betraying Lessenberry’s initial arrogance and ignorance not so much of folk art, since he admits he eventually accepted Tyree as a conceptual and folk artist, but rather betraying his racism which he at least admits to here, however indirect the admission is shown in the following quote:

When I first saw Tyree Guyton’s work, I was not very impressed, and for a long time I had no idea how political it was. This was partly because what I first saw of his work was some painted automobile hoods in an art gallery….Primitive art, I thought. Colorful, crude. What’s all the fuss about? That was years ago, after Coleman Young had destroyed some of Guyton’s buildings but before Dennis Archer decided he, too, needed to prove he was something of a cultural know-nothing by doing the same thing…..Not until I went to Heidelberg Street by myself one day and looked closely at the brightly painted houses and at the other “found objects” in their glory, did I realize all these were symbols that had been carefully (and seemingly carelessly) arranged to send a powerful series of messages about life in Detroit.(http://www2.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=6442)

To this point, there is a quote from the article by Donna Terek that particularly exposes a problematic for the Reconstrueist Outsider Urban Art movements, whether executed by foreign or domestic white suburban ‘arrivals’ (some Black artists in Detroit are referring to these people, who are highly positivist, relatively privileged, and easily recognized by media sources, as ‘arrivals):

“At the advanced age of 31, Doyle describes himself as “an aging punk, anarchist, interactive-kinetic sculptor.” His current project is a 69-foot-long, 22-foot-high metal dragon called Gon KiRin” From The Detroit News:(http://detnews.com/article/20110605/OPINION03/106050313/‘Fly-by-night’-artists-decide-to-stay-in-Detroit#ixzz1OaiLod7f)

Anarchist? Punk? A Japanese reference in his artwork? There is something tragically unfocused in how the artists defines himself–tragic in the context of very serious post war zone such as Detroit, if not in the whimsical terrain of Los Angeles.

As for Mr. Lessenberry, I do not at all intent to be cruel toward him, but only toward his profession, by asking why the media looks askance upon a Tyree Guyton, a native artist addressing the environment of his own city, while fawning upon the typical reconstrueist settler:

The New Urban American Gothic: JUXTAPOZ Reconstrueist Artists in Detroit

 

 

III. Why This Belle Ain’t Invited to the Ball

The real problematic here, perhaps strangely enough, is not the cliché of ‘racism’, which is merely an effect, not causality. The real problematic here, is the rapid, virtually landslide fast fall of intellectualism in the arts, and of the role of the public intellectual, as well as the wholesale collapse of the function and authority (if not the very will) of the liberal class, which once provided some modicum of vigilance over the rights of the masses, and over the enforcement of civil and legal rights; the rights of The Commons, thus protecting at least the idea of democracy.

That is the crucial historical development–this collapse–that Terek’s article exposes, exemplifies, yet does not in any conscious way address, antagonize, or even attempt to describe.

Now, I once interviewed for a job at The Detroit Free Press. It was a traumatic experience as much for them as it was for me. Having spoken intermittently with staff writers there since that tragic experience, I’ve fruitlessly tried to convince them that they ought to come to the blighted East Side, to the well-known ‘Skid Row’ in midtown just south of Wayne State University (an area called “Cass Corridor”), or the slowly blighting portions of the West Side, trying to lure them to interview people and cover issues. Thus, I am well aware of how divorced from most forms of reality most of them are (for, reality does not easily filter in through the carbonized fiber of SUV’s hurtling in and out of the city on a freeway, nor does it typically present itself at lunchtime at preppy, gentrified downtown diners where young Detroit journalists eat, or inside hide-bound deluxe wood paneled upscale restaurants full of older, veteran Anglo journalists who’ve been there since 1970, reminiscing about when they used to believe in something). So, you will no doubt say that Terek’s little piece on Detroit art in a corporate owned right-wing newspaper would not in the first place be capable of the kind of ratiocination I am hoping for. Indeed, American journalism as a profession, as a form of public thinking and public dissent, is no longer capable of significant ratiocination, you are correct. So why expect it?

I don’t expect it. I am merely describing what we both can see, and that is what I think I must do, if for no other reason than to defeat both in my self and in those who hear my voice the will toward cynicism that has engulfed those like you and I, public intellectuals of the late modern and late Capitalist liberal class who should be saying this–thinking it at least (I am merely letting you in on my thoughts, telling you my reason for having created ReportFromDetroit and this first blog for AfroSpear). The liberal superstructure, you see, and the liberal ideology that defended that superstructure is dying (perhaps dead), as Chris Hedges has been saying for two years now.

It is THIS FACT, far more than useful abstractions such as ‘racism’ or ‘sexism’, that has left the rural poor, the urban poor and working class in particular, undefended, exploited, and unrepresented by elected officials and public institutions; has left them supposedly as unrecognizable to local media and local officials as Tyree Guyton has seemed to be at first-glance to a local reporter, though that reporter has not only shared a city with the poor, the working class, but might indeed owe his very profession and raison d’être to those poor and working people too many reporters pretend are alien, mute, or indecipherable. This collapse of orthodox liberalism, and arising of neo liberalism, this ghost of orthodox liberalism growing fainter and more incorporeal under Obama, is indicative of what Hedges calls the ‘five pillars’ of the liberal class, which are corrupt and crumbling.

The five pillars are, 1. The Press, 2. Labor organized into Unions, 3. Public Education, 4. The Democratic Party, and 5. Liberal Religious Institutions. The communist, socialist, and anarchist forces that once underpinned these pillars were the engine of widespread public consciousness, and public empowerment–these five pillars of course more often than not owe their very professions, their very raison d’etre, their reason for being, to those urban poor they look down upon or simply now ignore. The power elite’s two wars and its cleanup project of McCarthyism, are at the root of the invention of a more palatable liberalism in the 1950’s, but still, the Liberal Class once had a niche within which class consciousness and working class interests could be and were mobilized, expressed, defended, promoted, and protected.

I am in my very person, a result of all that gathered force that once was the Liberal class in the form of “The War on Poverty” and “The Great Society”, both of which launched and funded programs that fed me, housed me, gave me medical care, and sent me to public schools the Liberal Class had funded. So, speak to me not of the frivolity of Liberal power in the mid-century, because I’d be too dead to hear you if not for that Liberal Class.

But to the final point: against a backdrop of some of the most severe economic, cultural, and civic deracination within a liberal, democratic and advanced industrial society since the post Versailles German depression, has come into Detroit (and the same thing is happening

in other blighted post industrial urban centers) a wave of ‘artists’ without any political vocation or conviction, post liberal, who at best can only be described as well-meaning dunces, positivist outsiders or new ‘arrivals’ in an urban disaster area who are too intellectually feckless to have a political or even an economic analysis of the disaster they are glomming onto. The so-called ‘wreckage porn’ enthusiasts who are crawling about the city now, taking photographs of its ‘ruins’ are one example of these. But at worst, these ‘artists’ must be described as vampires who feed off the blood of the injured, the sick, and the dying. They frolic around, gushing about how much they ‘love’ the

Juxtapoz ‘new arrival’ Artists Playing With Wreckage

city despite its death throes, with none of the things to offer that were the emphasis of the socialist, communist, anarchist, or liberal artists of fifty years ago, a consciousness that Tyree Guyton was produced by, adheres to, and represents. I have more thoughts on the issue, but I just thought I’d share that much with you. The debilitating force of cynicism, particularly, is one

Juxtapoz Detroit Issue

thing that concerns me, as a university professor. The legacies of ruin and deracination that the younger generations have grown up with, have been rendering them both malefic and incapable of critical thought. They are also hesitant to or in some cases loath to muster the energy to do the intellectual WORK that would at least toughen and empower them to begin to think. Their reflection is found in you and I, our generation, those of us who CAN think,

Detroit ‘Drive-by’

who have the tools, the texts, and the talk, but too many of whom are rendered intellectual eunuchs by the poison of cynicism, the penultimate fin du temps self-indulgence common to all dying cultural and civic tribes–like the Rapa Nui natives of Easter Island, perhaps, who some Polynesian elders have claimed to anthropologists built the huge megalithic heads (‘the moai’) that stand at the seashore, in the foothills, and on the slopes on an inactive volcano. The tale is told that these heads were carved and erected because the Rapa Nui natives, dying out, fantasized that the heads would someday come to life and rescue them from their own extinction.

Detroit Breakdown

I see the article about the Juxtapoz project to be an instance of passive cynicism–unintentional, but cynicism nonetheless. The thing that is most troubling about the sterility of cynicism is that one who is sterile cannot reproduce. That seems the situation American Left intellectuals find ourselves in now: if we cannot reproduce an intellectual class in the universities or in the streets, then in another generation or so, we will be dead, with no one to carry on.

Detroit in Ruins

I think cynicism is much like our version of megalithic heads that we build at the seashore, hoping someone will rescue us. Obama is right about one thing: We are the heads we have hoped for. It is now up to us to save ourselves.

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Please Read/Follow:

Detroit Activist Aurora Harris’ Blog: http://auroraharris.blogspot.com/2011/02/feb-23rd-detroit-protest-stop-emergency.html

Young Detroit Writer, Mitzi Kay Jackson: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=62600

Detroit Video Artist “Hush” on his “DDR” site: http://detroitdogrescue.com/

Tyree Guyton’s webpage and history of the Heidelberg Project: http://www.heidelberg.org/

Jacqueline Smith’s Protest Site: http://www.fulfillthedream.net/pages/mlk.jsmith1.html

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