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to mention Detroit, a city which does not seem able even to declare itself bankrupt successfully, now forty-six years after it should have begun processing the papers. For the entire city resolved to surrender to rioters in 1967; to not even clean up after them. That was when they should have declared complete public incompetence, & submitted their collective application to be enslaved. Looking at the pics the media have exhumed of the decay & abandonment, it struck me that the ruins of Detroit are more haunting & beautiful than Motor City ever was. And yet part of this beauty is in the ache for that lost past: for the men & women who made “normal” lives here, once upon a time — who went about their jobs & housework; raised whining kids, made their mortgage payments; watched movies & television; pressed their noses into the shop windows; ate hamburgers, & macaroni with processed cheese. And see the pride of the world in these gutted mansions, where the more successful accountants used to live. How grand they must once have been: the turrets & the gardens & the servants bringing iced tea! (Of course, there is always more to it than that, more in every life, even among the most craven materialists. And perhaps that, too, is easier to see when the people are ghosts, & nothing can be concealed any longer; & even the houses are ghosts, & we can see right through. We know, that because they were human, these people who lived & died in Detroit had joys & loves, fears & hatreds, precious memories & precious things. We know that each was a secret universe, shared only in moments with his neighbour, & then only partly seen. We know, or should know, that each life was worth living, regardless of the externals. But here I am only discussing the externals.) Detroit embodied our North American promise of “equal opportunity” — wealth in return for willingness to work. Arbeit macht frei. The promise was empty, as all such promises are empty, that turn on the wheel of fortune. The city was built on false promise. It died. It is true that you could once get a job, in return only for docile behaviour; that you could once get rich, if you had the right sort of insolence, & luck. But even those promises stale-dated. And now that part of Michigan is a suburban encampment of economic refugees; a ring in space around a black hole. From the Google height, of low orbit, one may detect the crescent of malls & parking lots, the spread of docile labour in their ticky-tack boxes, & of gated management in their monster homes — all of it pushing outward in search of fake freedom, or spinning inward to the expanding hole. And rather ugly, except the flowers & trees. The term that stabs is “equal opportunity.” The rich & poor had always lived together, everywhere else in the world. One might argue that America’s chief export has been “the gated community,” at the crown of a system of segregation or “apartness”; of by-laws enforcing neighbourhood by class. It works with retailing by market stratum, & “lifestyle” advertising to postal location; everyone within a given neighbourhood having tastes & wants much the same. By increments we have become a continent gerrymandered for “democracy” — for the purposes of mass marketing, & mass politics, also much the same. Detroit developed this product of the Industrial Revolution. It went beyond what Birmingham & Manchester had achieved. Race was added as a self-organizing factor, & another poison to hasten its demise. The city became an array of non-communicating cells, a “multiculture.” European cities survive to the degree that they do not import this disease, & people of different classes still mix. But each is now under siege, being ghettoized by unassimilable immigration, into mutually uncomprehending sheikhdoms. London we may still have, for some years yet, because after the riots two summers ago the neighbours came out in solidarity with their brooms, the morning after — in Hackney, Brixton, Chingford, Walthamstow, Peckham, Enfield, Battersea, Croydon, Ealing, Barking, East Ham. It was as if they were confronting the rioters, by turning the other cheek. I was deeply impressed by that spontaneous response, from Londoners I thought had nothing left in them; by all those “middle class” petit-bourgeois types (of quite various races), actually taking responsibility upon themselves, & not waiting to blame the politicians they had elected. And when the Mayor turned up to deliver a little speech, his constituents drowned him out with, “Where’s your broom?” — until he stopped blathering & started sweeping. The “white flight” to the suburbs — not only in Detroit — was, it seemed to me even at the time, the domestic equivalent to the American surrender in Vietnam. Ditto the surrender of college administrators to over-indulged, rioting students; & a hundred other indications that defeat was now being accepted by the “silent majority,” wherever it was made available to them. They would vote for Nixon, & leave it to him. They would meanwhile retreat inside their (literally or figuratively) gated communities. Having lost round one, they would now wait, patiently & apart, until they were entirely outnumbered. They would, when required, pretend to like it, & give lip-service to anything the Zeitgeist now ordained. They would even agree to be called “oppressors,” when in fact they were simpering cowards.
materially. self-defeating. (And now they are welding beer cans to the fenders in Shenzhen. This is a principle of economics that Joseph Schumpeter partially discerned. But they will fade in when they. or saw more clearly than the other Austrian economists — that liberal democratic capitalist materialism is. goods that are merely the means to some end that was never thought through. Eventually hunger will kick start us again: hunger alike for bread & for meaning. eat & defecate. & seek some “spiritual” component they can somehow plug in. or were. That is to say. fantastically large conurbations in which “the people” may work & sleep. like cars: faster & faster ways to get nowhere. in one ascending voice: “We are not worth saving. In a sense. in its very nature. on the improved Detroit model. aesthetically. & therefore less amenable to arbitrary change.” & all the other cant. You can’t regrow a world without children. A few nice museums. starting from Shenzhen — perhaps the ugliest urban agglomeration ever assembled by compelled human labour. skyscraping concrete hives for their worker bees. as an older. It made money. You can’t kick start an economy that has burnt itself out. insider tax breaks. The Red Chinese in their turn have done a better job of exploiting the history-is-bunk worldview. Detroit died of boredom.) * I noticed several Detroit photographs were spoilt. They couldn’t be bothered competing any more. before religion & family bled away. I gather Chinese planners have begun to fear these omissions. And now they ruin the harmony of the ruins. Production line goods. too. They have created. July 20. Middle America once had. lots of money once upon a time. Cities built yesterday. who work desperate & cheap. nor on empty abstract expressions: “democracy. They are. But it had very little use for the money. But let me not get carried away. is where the “opportunity” society checks out: at the Dollarama. The desire for bread alone will never keep people working. It decays inevitably. Everything from Roe v. 2013 . are abandoned in due course. not spires. It will only keep them working until they get the bread. I earnestly believe. without flavour. in meandering welfare socialism. before the whole thing blows up in their faces. Wade to “same sex marriage” declares. & churches while there were still Christians.” They were only good enough for Asiatics. & focused planning corruption of urban regeneration schemes. & quite explicitly Christian. Detroit was marked for self-destruction from the beginning. among people not yet isolated by class.” And now we discover that even some fey Europeans have more spine: one vertebra still connected to another. that in the larger Darwinian view we ought to be extinct.” And now. but the rest was all production & consumption of essentially worthless goods.” “progress. without “soul. As even Detroit had. a moral order not as fully disintegrated. Decades ago.) That. Nanny State’s way of saving the city — big business & big government in partnership to provide gleaming anthills of fresh bureaucracy. or rekindle belief without belief. without history. strange to say. “These jobs aren’t good enough for Americans. not goods of any intrinsic merit. through the generation since they caught up with America. until it was overtaken by a dozen more in the same country. (Though pretty darn amenable notwithstanding. as the Japanese have also discovered. Good old Henry “Bunk” Ford provided their model of industrialization: smokestacks. by the grand scheme. Man cannot live by bread alone. by the sight of glass office towers in the distant background — erected. They were dying of consumption. It cannot generate anything but decadence. the high-paid workers began welding beer cans inside the fenders on the automobile production lines. At heart (not according to Schumpeter but to me) materialism is boring. thanks to the major subsidies. It was Henry Ford the Soviets so admired. We need another reason to live.It is almost half a century since Americans (including Canadians) decided that our habits & values were not worth defending. as I understand. building instant cities.
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