“We are dealing here with later interpolations that were deliberately calculated to confirm – as if they were the earliest intentions of the Divine – what are actually political situations that were first established by force.” – Thomas Mann, “Descent into Hell” (prelude to Joseph and His Brothers)
The politics of the times present questions about how we perceive and change reality. The material realities of the times manifest radically differing subjective understandings of “reality”. The Powers That Be find it convenient to use lies, wars, theft, political and psychological manipulations on a mass scale – the whole evil tool box of neoliberal austerity – to enrich themselves at the expense of vulnerable populations, and enhance their powers. Revolutionary change resonates with reality in such rotten times.
In Detroit today it may be helpful to think about these issues in terms of 1) corporate and 2) human realities. Education, water, housing, and predatory finance-as-lawless-democracy frame Detroit’s reality – the corporate downtown and midtown development story is more important than Detroiters’ lives.
Education; What is it good for?
Corporate “reality”: Extracting value from People of Color working class communities; high-stakes standardized tests, faux-“accountability” scams, union busting, a horribly failed educational philosophy that’s fighting with all its billions of dollars to avoid accountability for its own failures. “Own”. “Opportunity”. Educational “reform” as corporate child abuse.
Human reality: Learning is universal and inevitable. People learn all the time, no matter what we do, how or with whom; how this applies to the real Detroit’s human struggles in the context of white supremacy, corporate child abuse thru the state’s failed Emergency Manager Fascists (EMFs), and systematically undermining democracy as authoritarian pedagogy. Do it because we say so!
Water; Who gets it?
Corporate “reality”: Benevolent white regionalizers labeling their extraction as “collaboration” with the bankrupted city that made suburbs’ existence and power possible by financing the water and sewer system; as usual under these rules, extraction via accumulation by dispossession.
Human reality: Basic human rights to water and sanitation mark the flash point for class and capital confrontations over the urban theft, excuse me, “restructuring”.
Housing; Moratorim Now!
Corporate “reality”: No vacancies in downtown or midtown; nothing left to say
Human reality: Mass foreclosures exceeding even the water shut offs, structurally linked to the constitutive strategic racist principles of the region’s grossly inequitable development past and present.
Finance-Destroying-Democracy; of Blankets & Corn
Corporate “reality”: The Detroit bankruptcy was inevitable. Brooks Patterson’s colorful description: “‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.”
Human reality: The emergency-managed looting was strategic, unjust, undemocratic, racist, and it continues today; “grand bargain” arrangements imposed by force are misrepresented by authorities and corporate media as genius-inspired, and somehow beneficial to more than the elite decision makers themselves.
Detroit is a very challenging text and place. We live in a transformative political moment. The nightmare of the 2016 presidential fiasco evolves into the new administration of the same old same old crisis of terror, greed, war and frayed imperial legitimacy. Those of us who hope to survive are working on our civic literacy chops, collective self-defense and commoning initiatives with opportunities for advancement.
How changing narratives can effect changes to subjective and eventually objective realities in the face of the concentrated powers of capital, white supremacy and the state deserves our attention. As the late General Baker said, “We should do more propaganda.” Make ‘em play their cards so that even when they win the exposure of injustice at the heart of their power imposes unsustainable costs on their bullshit.
Frank X Murphyii
October 30, 2016 (Devils Night)
[ii] a pen name