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City of Detroit as metaphor


It’s difficult to start, so I’ll begin with what my father used to say, when speaking of his childhood in our hometown, Detroit. He would always say “I knew the banker, the butcher and even the   produce man”. I, we knew everyone in our community, he would say. He liked telling the story of how he delivered Sebastian Spering Kresge his newspaper. You might know him as the founder of SS Kresge, which later became Kmart. 

When families immigrated to America, having landed at Ellis Island, many would find welcomed sanctuary in Detroit. There was at that time a German Town, a Little Italy, an Irish Town, and Greek Town.   And, Detroit had a large African American community, descendants of the “Underground Railroad”. In each of these ghettos, everyone spoke with their native tongue. They danced and sang to their native songs. And they grew and prospered. I speak of course from the end of the 19th Century up to the war that was supposed to end all wars, but didn’t.  Then suddenly European Americans became White People and African Americans became the Blacks.  But, I digress, I’m talkin bout Motown, the Motor City, please don’t forget that.  They call Detroit the Motor City for a reason, the automobile. Sorry, I meant THE AUTOMOBILE. Now stay focused, it’s difficult but, I’ll do my best. The Auto begat the highway and the highway begat the suburb and urban blight, the shopping mall and the parking lot.  Acres and acres of fertile, succulent earth were devoured. Which I might add, during the “great recession” was struck by suburban blight. Societal nihilism, I think that describes “it”.

             Societal nihilism is when a community more or less believes that all is basically good and as it should be but, if you stand outside of their purview one sees how they are destroying themselves, how they are doing harm to themselves.

Detroit is a beautiful city. Michigan is a beautiful state. The land and lakes are full of life, of nourishment. Its universities are full of knowledge. If Detroit, and its extended community, can acknowledge its societal nihilistic ways, like a drunk or a drug addict has to acknowledge their problem, before they can be reborn, and experience its promised renaissance.  Detroit can be the city of the future. As it should be. A new design, new technologies, Sun wind and Water!