Detroit — the soul of America
It bothers me to no end what has happened to Detroit. It is the perfect story and lesson of a major metropolitan city and the changes that can happen in a city fighting to stay on its feet.
Let’s be honest, Detroit has had deep systemic problems way before I was born and continue to have them. Between the rampant city-wide corruption, the industrial sector’s relentless campaign to dismantle and demolish the UAW (Union of Auto Workers), and rampant poverty and lack of quality of education, no wonder Detroit is dying a death of a thousand cuts.
When I look at the story of Detroit, Michigan, I’m actually looking at the story of the American working class.
Detroit is ground zero when considering the changes that are happening to the labor forces in America. Through various methods, the American working class has been uprooted from the comfortable and cozy 1960s, and has been demoralized and dragged into a globalized world. It is pretty easy for a corporation now to take a factory or plant and move it across the ocean and lay down the ultimatum; we need to remain competitive.
Allow me to decode that phrase for you: We need you to take a pay cut, less hours and fewer benefits. If American organized labor complains about it, the plant in Mexico will start to overproduce and you will become jobless anyways. True competition in a free market only means true exploitation of labor in a sector of manufacturing. Work for cheap or don’t work.
On top of that, unions have just about been annihilated in the private sector. This has been a two-pronged approach. Firstly, corporations are always hostile to the idea of the unionizing and the democratization of its workforce. It’s much harder to tell someone what to do when they think they have rights of any sort. Lately, it has been morning in America for corporations breaking the will of unions. The trend started with Jimmy Carter subverting unions, but under Ronald Reagan illegally not enforcing the Wagner Act, it has been done with zeal under Neoliberalism.
Broken unions and stagnant wages — as one looks at the plight of Detroit, they can see the same problems in their own town, city or county. Instead of wage increases, you get a credit card to put you into virtually infinite debt. It makes it really easy to make sure everyone just shuts up and remains obedient. It has happened in Detroit years ago, and now everyone is starting to realize that it’s happening to them.
So why look at Detroit now? Why would you want to look at a once great urban city in which literally half of the population got up and left? Why would anyone want to care about a city that has recently gone into receivership because it was bankrupt? Should you care that things are so bad in Detroit that in every public school classroom, there is an average of 60 students per teacher? Should you care that the wheels of the ambulances in Detroit literally fly off?
To look at Detroit is to look at America.
In Detroit, the world headquarters of General Motors stands The GM towers are in an area that’s dubbed Renaissance Square, which contains seven interconnected skyscrapers: four 39 story tower skyscrapers for office work, two additional 21 foot towers that were added in the 1980s, and a central 73 floor tower hotel skyscraper that is a cathedral of current day Capitalism called the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Renaissance Square is literally a city within a city and in a lot of respects is symbolic of the attitude of corporate America.
We have our skyscrapers — you can have the buildings with the copper tubing that has been ripped out of it. Enjoy your decrepit ambulances, Detroiters.
Detroit was one filled with a robust middle class that was able to simply work hard, put their kids through college, and live a happy little life of little consequence. Now, it’s literally 1% of the population that has its skyscrapers and the 99% that gets to live or loot the rubble of a city that once stood tall.
Why care about Detroit? Because Detroit is coming to a town near you.