Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Rose Red City...



I've been away, dear reader in Canada and the States.

Apart from putting on about half a stone ( 3.5kgs if you are under 40) I had an excellent time.

The most interesting part was being in Detroit.

This once truly great American city has lost about 65% of it's population over the last 7 or 8 years. Whole sections of the city are derelict, cut off from their surroundings by the roads and dead car parks that leaders of the Automakers insisted be provided.

There are no buses or trains or trams - they wouldn't allow them. But they needed to get their workers to and from the huge plants dotted about the city, and they wanted them ALL to buy a car every year, so the roads got built.

Over time, it meant that sections of the city lost people, then imploded. All the shops are no longer in Detroit - they are in the malls, half an hours drive away.

The first Black Mayor ever in Detroit in the '70s ( not really surprising - over 80% of the population is Afro-Caribbean) tried hard to help the City, right into the '90s. All the things he wanted to do to redress the balance were fought tooth and nail by the car companies and by the whites. When he stepped down, he had achieved virtually nothing to redress the problems.

Now, the (white) mayor is beginning to suggest some of the things that should have been done nearly 40 years ago.

There are no people wandering around - why would they? There's nothing for them to do in terms of shopping or sports or anything. The car parks stand as mausoleums to a failed environment.

What struck me most forcibly was that even before the cars came, Detroit was a rich city. Indeed, one of the reasons the cars got built there was that the money and the infrastructure existed. The rich executives and owners of Ford, General Motors, Chrysler ( and all the long forgotten firms they swallowed up) gave millions to the city to found schools, art galleries, concert halls - they gave to the City in their droves, as well as building fine buildings both for themselves and their businesses.

Now, many of these buildings have no future other than being flattened, and the land underneath returned to pasture. Even Henry Ford's first production line factory lies derelict - a plaque claiming that in 1925 it produced over 9,000 Model T's in one day.

But why -what has happened now? People are still making money in Detroit - lots of it.

They just don't give it back, they take, and take again.

John F.Kennedy and his brothers still hold a strong grip of American's souls, and Teddy's death last year boosted that, as does the 50th Anniversary of Jack's Presidential address.

His words are everywhere, and they are as relevant today for America and for ourselves as they ever were:

" Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your country."

We've all forgotten what that means.
PS The picture is of the Renaissance Centre, GM's world headquarters.
It's a fabulous building - with nothing round about it. They are starting to landscape and riverscape round about, but all the shops have gone and there are either expensive good restaurants or hash-joints in terms of food.

1 comment:

Winchester whisperer said...

Welcome back, KL