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Progressing Into the Stone Age: A Look at America’s Anti-Industrial Revolution

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Very often, I hear various left-wing pundits and politicians extolling the virtue of moving forward for the sake of creating a more progressive America, in which total societal equality is achieved, the sun shines endlessly, and manna falls from the heavens as the rivers run with milk and honey. Typically, I shake my head in amusement and resignation at their utter stupidity. After all, it is now, has always been, and forever shall be, a futile action to attempt dealing with one that basks in his or her lack of intelligence via reason and logic.

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to watch a most fascinating documentary from BBC America, named Requiem for Detroit? It brilliantly detailed the downfall of the Motor City, from the tail end of its halcyon era, which came about during the very early 1960s, to today, when one can observe relatively tall trees growing from the tops of abandoned downtown skyscrapers. Many local residents were interviewed, each of a different racial, economic, and social standing, bringing unique perspectives on exactly why Motown is presently No-town-at-all. The makers of the film came to the conclusion that it was, of course, the greed of big business and appalling consumerism of the American people which, in a toxic brew, brought down Detroit once and for all.

Needless to say, their conclusion was wrong on every level. How can I prove this? Easy. Pajamas Media did a segment of its own on the D’s half-century-long suicide-in-progress. In it, journalist Steven Crowder meticulously accounts how Jerome Cavanagh, a firebrand leftist who upset incumbent Republican Mayor Louis Miriani in the city’s 1961 municipal elections, strived for and succeeded in creating a slew of F.D.R.-style government programs for the underprivileged by way of destroying Detroit’s pro-business atmosphere and gleefully replacing it with one wholeheartedly devoted to the preservation of a welfare state. Childishly believing that he could create a utopia on the shores of Lake St. Clair, Cavanagh managed to witness his hometown and life’s dream quite literally fall to pieces all around him as productive citizens left and the underclass grew more demanding, eventually to the point of engaging in terribly destructive riots as a means of displaying its newfound sociopolitical power and influence.

Should one wish to see what America will be like only a few decades down the line under progressive control, then a trip to what was once one of her great cities should most definitely be in order. By far the most ironic thing about Detroit and the living hell it has damned itself into is that this was done in the name of progress and looking ahead, all the while discarding those evil, selfish notions of capitalism and sustainable private sector growth. Motown has indeed gone places since instituting leftist economic policies. It has travelled far; so far that, as I write this, farms are being created on virtually worthless tracts of cleared land in what were once bustling urban neighborhoods. Detroit has managed to do what no other first world city has done before; wage a full-scale anti-industrial revolution and banish itself to what is essentially the Stone Age.  The only good it can do now is to serve as a lesson for those of us who have not had to experience its decline in the first person.

We would be fools not to learn from what the once Motor City shows us in each and every day of its miserable existence, as it continues its solemn march towards attaining the status granted to other lost cities such as Atlantis and Pompeii.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Frank

    Utopia is a world where “I” always get my own way. But if “I” always get my own way then others might never get their own way. One problem is that “I” cannot always articulate what “I” want so defining utopia is an exercise in futility.

  • kurt brigliadora

    YES, I understand what you say; but what is your take on the problem of “gas prices” and the northeast not being able to pass the “high speed rail” project?

  • http://afrodaddy.com Jordan Guy

    Firstly, if you want to make a comparison between Requim for Detroit and Detroit in Ruins (Crowder goes Ghetto!) you should include links and titles for both so people can make a fair and honest comparison. The titles alone would give an indication about which should be taken seriously and which one is propaganda and fluff. With that being said I watched both videos. Reqim for Detroit is a 113 minute, well-thought out and well produced documentary containing eyewitness accounts and testimonials from dozens of credible individuals. The Crowder piece is a 13 minute rant from a pseudo comedian/reporter. In addition Crowder’s video dedicates approx 3 minutes to fact and 10 minutes to sensationalism as he walks through abandoned buildings commenting on their run down state in a mocking fashion. This is not journalism, but simply grandstanding, designed solely to play on peoples emotions and biases.

    Requim on the other hand takes into account the historical and current socio-economic conditions of Detroit. Crowder simplistically blames the unions and political policies without taking into account any of the other factors presented in great detail in Requim. Your article does the same thing. You blame political policies for Detroit’s demise, completely ignoring every factual piece of evidence that was stated in Requim. Anybody can write an article to push their own political agenda but it takes a lot of gall to cite these two competing videos and come up with the conclusions you assert.

    To be clear, the Requim documentary DID NOT come to the conclusion that you stated in your article. They showed how the full history of Detroit led it to its current state with many factors contributing including and in order: the invention of the car, the Great Depression, WW II, segregation and racism in Detroit, “white flight” to the suburbs (loss of tax base), the building of the freeway system in the 50’s, police brutality leading to race riots in the 60’s, more “white flight” (more loss of business and tax base), the oil crisis of the 70’s, blunders on the part of GM, competition from Europe and Asia, the crack epidemic of the 80’s and finally the housing bubble and the Wall street meltdown of the new millennium. NOWHERE was there a mention of any political policies to create a utopian society as you assert in your flawed argument.

    You are free to push a right-wing agenda. I am not pushing an agenda at all. I do however ask that you respect your readers by presenting your arguments factually. With a credible argument based on fact you might be able to sway some public opinion in your favor.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Frank,

    Totally agree on the concept of “utopia”. In essence, it is the grandest dream of a fool.

    Kurt,

    High gas prices are the result of a select few, who control a great deal of the world’s oil output, exercising their powers in a virtual monopoly. As a capitalist, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this, but we could give them a serious run for their money should the eco-loons come to see reality and ease up on their nonsensical opposition to offshore drilling. The high speed rail project in the Northeast would be a novel idea to reduce millions of Americans’ dependancy on automobiles, but it would have to be executed in a careful fashion, as the potential for obscene fiscal waste exists.

    Jordan,

    Are you sure that we watched the same documentary? In Requiem, the narrator specifically stated that, amongst the other things you listed, the materialism of American consumers, as well as the actions of automobile manufacturers, were key contributors in turning Detroit into the massive slum that it is today. I did not post a link to Requiem as it, to the best of my knowledge, is not available on any mainstream video sharing websites.

    Also, Crowder’s statements about unions, anti-commerce crusaders, and the one-man wrecking ball that was Jerome Cavanagh are all factual. If you do not believe this, conduct a quick Google search, and you should find that what he said and I wrote are both accurate. Furthermore, I did not create this article with a partisan agenda in mind. If I had, believe me, between the shenanigans of Monica Conyers and the schemes of Kwame Kirkpatrick, there would have been much more to opine about.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Sorry about that. It should have been Kwame Kilpatrick. That’s what I get for trying to type quickly and take inventory at the same time.

  • http://afrodaddy.com Jordan Guy

    Requim did accurately state that American Consumerism and the actions of the auto makers played a hand in the demise of Detroit. I agreed with that. The point is these things played a part in conjunction with the other things I mentioned and Requim mentioned in the film. What the film did not say was what Crowder said in his piece that you echoed with your following quote about leftist policies:

    “Crowder meticulously accounts how Jerome Cavanagh, a firebrand leftist who upset incumbent Republican Mayor Louis Miriani in the city’s 1961 municipal elections, strived for and succeeded in creating a slew of F.D.R.-style government programs for the underprivileged by way of destroying Detroit’s pro-business atmosphere and gleefully replacing it with one wholeheartedly devoted to the preservation of a welfare state. Childishly believing that he could create a utopia on the shores of Lake St. Clair, Cavanagh managed to witness his hometown and life’s dream quite literally fall to pieces all around him as productive citizens left and the underclass grew more demanding, eventually to the point of engaging in terribly destructive riots as a means of displaying its newfound sociopolitical power and influence.”

    Political corruption and mismanagement surely played a part, but discounting the majority of Requim’s argument and pinning the blame on “leftist policies” seems disingenuous and appears like an article pushing a political agenda instead of acknowledging the totality of historical facts.

    BTW blacks did not riot in the 60’s to exert some “newfound sociopolitical influence”. They rioted out of frustration related to decades of police brutality, racism, discrimination, unemployment and unfair treatment.

    Regarding the “welfare state” – When the people of inner city Detroit were abandoned in the riot aftermath with no jobs, no businesses, no tax base and a flailing auto industry something had to be put in place to help the people or they would simply die. Of course those programs (or any programs) would fail without any real business growth and the result is the sad city we see today.

  • http://afrodaddy.com Jordan Guy

    FYI: A really good piece on Jerome Cavanagh.

  • Cannonshop

    Detroit had industries before Henry Ford moved into the city.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/joseph-cotto/ Joseph Cotto

    Those who are interested in the defining factors of Detroit’s decimation may find the 1990 ABC PrimeTime special interesting.

    Though recorded nearly twenty-one years ago, it hits all the key notes on Detroit’s past, present, and future, as well as how the city serves as both an example and a warning for America as a whole. Do keep in mind that Detroit’s socioeconomic situation has, almost unbelievably, deteriorated rapidly since this segment was aired, though it has remained more or less the same politically.

    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the video was downtown Detroit being supposedly on the cusp of revival, yet finding itself in vastly inferior condition over two decades later. This makes one wonder about Motown’s supposed imminent “comeback” as a cosmopolitan urban center.

    I believe that a listen to Heart’s 1985 hit ‘These Dreams’ would be an apt response to any fantasies of a legitimate renewal in Detroit, whether it be in the short- or long-term future.

  • Cannonshop

    #9 Honestly, I think Detroit’s a warning of something bigger than “Progressive/conservative” arguments, it’s a fine example of what happens when you allow monopolies and single-party power to run amok-particularly when the two are deeply linked.

    This is especially true, when the productive portion of hte population can go elsewhere, where the baggage (by necessity and entrenchment) can not follow.

    Detroit, and much of Michigan by extension, is ruined land, and misgoverned ruins at that-such places do not attract the builders and creators of the world, and tend to drive off all but the most stubborn of their own. (and since it IS ruined land, the once-burned and the casual observer alike tend to expect it to remain so-which means no new wealth-creation is likely to occur-regardless of political leanings, after all, you don’t see Microsoft or Apple Computer moving in to take advantage of low real-estate costs and an environment desperate for development, yet Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both decidedly Liberal in their politics!)

  • Boeke

    Well, cannonshop, do you think it is the responsibility of ‘liberals’ to make right the predations of monopoly corporate business?

    How does that work?

    After George W Bush incurs $7trillion in national debt is it the responsibility of someone else to pay it off?

    After rightists extremists invade Iraq and Afghanistan is it the responsibility of successors to solve the problems?

    All I see is that you and the other rightist radicals are irresponsible.

  • Cannonshop

    #11: if “Liberals” insist on redistributing the goods, effort, and life energy of other people to “right the wrongs” they identify, I think it incumbent upon them that they also distribute their OWN goods, life-energy, effort…aka Money, to that cause-and not in token amounts.

    Libs are extremely charitable-with other people’s money, they play loose with other people’s freedoms, and they do so through Government. They don’t put their own resources out to address the problems they themselves use as an excuse to centralize their power.

    It’s very simple, really: If you really care that much, why aren’t you doing something about it-why do you need to force OTHER people to do something about it for you?

  • dglp

    This story isn’t about Detroit. It’s a bit of cod media analysis.

    Every once in a while I come across a piece about Detroit aimed more at blaming the city for its misfortunes than about how the people of Detroit struggle to solve a problem that is largely beyond their control.

    This article is one of the former. It strikes me as a mean-spirited rant more than a helpful illumination of factors at play then and now. Even at my great distance from the city, it’s clear the content is more about comparing and cross-promoting some derivative video than it is about Detroit. The reference points are too scattered, the description doesn’t fit with the broad mass of other views and reviews.

    The name of some other city could be spliced into the narrative with no effect on the conclusion. It might be a better article for it.

    Here’s one that fits:
    “The makers of the film came to the conclusion that it was, of course, the greed of big business and appalling consumerism of the American people which, in a toxic brew, brought down Miami once and for all.”

    And another:
    “We would be fools not to learn from what the Miami shows us in each and every day of its miserable existence, as it continues its solemn march towards attaining the status granted to other lost cities such as Atlantis and Pompeii.”

    The piece isn’t focused on Detroit as a city, but on the presumed bias of two videos.

    It’s of no use to anyone with a serious interest in Detroit.

  • Clavos

    Here’s one that fits:
    “The makers of the film came to the conclusion that it was, of course, the greed of big business and appalling consumerism of the American people which, in a toxic brew, brought down Miami once and for all.”

    Except that Miami (of which I have been a resident for several decades) is thriving like never before in its history — even despite the unending national recession.

    Details, details.

  • Cannonshop

    What makes those circumstances beyond their control? that Detroit has lost its core industry, or that it lost its core industry, AND that nobody (including Progressives) sees its political and cultural climate as one worth investing in (at least, with THEIR money)?

    (something, as Clavos can attest, is not the case in Miami)?

    The “Michigan mitten” isn’t resource depleted, it doesn’t have permanent ongoing natural disasters, and it was prosperous before Cars were even popular-the resources are still there, but the industries won’t come back.

    Won’t, as in “Will Not”, which is very different from “Can Not”-the usual bar to investment in resource rich areas-which means whatever keeps the businesses out, it is likely the result of human action. Blame invisible faceless forces if you want, or ‘the rich’, but remember: poor people don’t hire anyone to do shit, and rich people tend to stay that way by not wasting their own money.

    So…what makes Detroit, a bad investment? PLenty of resources, roads, railways and ports, mind you-accessability isn’t an issue, neither are raw materials or real-estate (the usual things that make Capital stay away).

    so…what’s keeping the capital out? In a word, it’s POLITICS. Michigan’s legal structure, and Detroit’s, and the existing political scene are not good for business. We’ve got a poster here on Blogcritics who lives in that area, Her articles are pretty interesting looks into the actual situation from the ground level.

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