13 Aug 2016

Driving Motown Back on Track

Detroit's road to recovery will need more than a Berry Gordy song and the pep-talk speech of a presidential candidate but big things start small. Detroit stands forlornly like a forcefully doomed industrial Gotham and has become a purveyor of choice to the Urbex back catalogue.

Once hailed as Motor City, the Michigan automobile heartland revolutionarily put wheels on America and made it mobile and packed its car radios full of smoochy love songs that engendered the next generation of Americans. But the city has long lost its manufacturing panache. Trouble crept up in the late 1950s with the closing down of the Packard Motor Company, already a sign of the restructuring automobile sector, and trouble never left town. Detroit has now become the stuff of nightmares: a major redundant ghost city potholed in limbo, lumbered with high unemployment and poverty rates slammed against a high exodus rate, resulting in thousands of empty, unsaleable private properties and public amenities crumbling away with neglect and the passing of time.

Flower House Detroit installation, 16-18th October 2015

It is difficult for someone like me to remain indifferent to the human, economic and historical tragedy of a city like Detroit. By the same token, it would be easy for most to look away and drive past and write it off with the strike of a pen, which is exactly what has already been done when the city declared itself bankrupt in July 2013. Yet rather than look at it as a town doomed to decay further, some - mainly artists and visionary entrepreneurs - see it as a sleeping giant waiting to be jump-started back to life, with sorry looks, decrepit figure and raw talent to be capitalised upon.

In the political realm, it would be easier for a presidential candidate to bypass Detroit and aim for sunnier climes and shinier streets than chance stopping over to address an audience of would-be voters in a once Democratic, Trade Union-led, working-class stronghold. You would also have to pen a speech - because in its current state of abandonment, Detroit would indeed require a tailored speech. Donald Trump and his VP acolyte Mike Pence hit the brakes nonetheless and stepped in. The Republican candidate never shies away from a challenge and his speech in Detroit was invigorating and well received. It stated the stats and packed the punches. But above all, it put Detroit firmly back on the (road)map. Trump believes in Making America Great Again (his motto!) and with employment his utmost priority, as with Americanism over globalism, the billionaire businessman aims to address full-on the rigged economy that has laid off American manufacturing in its swathes, and he has vowed that the renaissance shall start in Detroit.

Flower House Detroit ibid.

I believe in purpose, I believe in work. I believe in a country that is industrious and autonomous, with a strong economy, and relies on homegrown: strong agriculture and manufacturing base. I believe in a government that is non-intrusive and empowers its citizens through free enterprise and the spirit that goes with it. I believe in minimal bureaucracy and lighter taxes. I believe in hope and faith and dream and opportunity and feasibility for all. I believe in quality education and those good old-fashioned Christian family values. I also believe in Law and Order and national sovereignty. Detroit, America and the West at large have long been forced to relinquish what used to make them functional and prosperous, and there they are now - to different degrees - shadows of their former selves.

Like Mr. Trump I have faith and refuse to accept what current governances are forcing us to accept as inevitable: widespread unemployment, low-paid ungratifying jobs, large-scale imports, foreign takeover of national ressources and assets, warmongering politics and meddling into the Middle East affairs, and redundancy of talent and creativity in order to fit the tight uncomfortable mould that we are being forced into by the oligarchs. I believe that Detroit can and will resurrect under a constructive, populist, work-centric governance. And I might as well say it with flowers... because big things start small.

Flower House Detroit ibid.

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