Dispatch from Detroit: Work is What We Want And Not Charity

"Ah, but SEE! He still has a TELEPHONE! And evidently, he has enough money for CARDBOARD and INK! Just as I suspected, another lying hustler! Get a job, loser!" Source: http://goo.gl/d6RW8q
“Ah, but SEE! He still has a TELEPHONE! And evidently, he has enough money for CARDBOARD and INK! Just as I suspected, another lying hustler! Get a job, loser!” Source: http://goo.gl/d6RW8q

In a time of deep de facto austerity policies, when our so-called leaders preach catalyzing economic growth by stimulating the private sector, to demand anything from the government might seem like wishful thinking at best and pointless at worst. The powers-that-be are banking on the Dan Gilberts and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world to somehow pull millions of good-paying jobs out of their magic hats and bring back the once-great American Dream. We have become so collectively numb and acquiescent to the living nightmare of the Great Recession that our once-great expectations have receded with our fortunes, stolen from us by the same reckless capitalists that now promise us a slow but steady recovery. When that recovery doesn’t come, year after year, they turn their armies of lobbyists to our captive government and quietly plead to them on sofas in Washington: more tax breaks for us and a few more crumbs of charity for the rest of them!

And so they go placating us with handouts, feeding our apathy so we survive when we could thrive[1]. Not the banks and corporations directly but their insidious network of Foundations, that glossy façade of corporate greed that some term the non-profit industrial complex. Since 2008, these seemingly benevolent institutions have poured nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in private philanthropy into key sectors of Detroit: education, health, housing and shelter, and “community improvement.”[2] This with absolutely no accountability process or assurance that the funds reach those most in need. In return, the Foundations and their corporate sponsors craft glowing PR statements and curry favor with a deeply corrupt local government. And the people get: crumbs.

Behind their carrots of meager welfare there are long sticks of punishment. We witness deliberate underfunding and privatization of the public commons, or outright usurpation such as during the period of Detroit’s “Emergency Management” under bankruptcy.

They wage economic warfare on us by withholding good jobs and opening the floodgates to the most extractive and exploitative of industries. Solid auto manufacturing jobs may have left for China and Mexico, but the dirty raw crude remains in Detroit: Marathon’s refinery plant sends thick wafting smoke over our heads.[3] Even deeper down the pit of exploitation we reach the vice industry: smoking, liquor, sex work and casinos. This keeps Detroiters paradoxically addicted to hustling by any means for, and quickly losing, the very thing we have the least of: U.S. Dollars. Those who perversely blame the poor for buying beers or going to the casino for a long shot at millions fail to recognize that it is just the worse elements of elite American culture that some in the hood seek to emulate.

Enough. Work is what we want and not their charity.

Unemployment is the real crisis in the city of Detroit, not a decay of morals or work ethic or other such racist and classist nonsense.

The federal government could this very day implement a New Deal-style Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to put Detroit back to work rebuilding itself, the emaciated midwest rustbelt and the entire country’s crumbling infrastructure. Detroit could once again become the country’s manufacturing hub, producing the sustainable energy technologies and equipment to drive this economy forward: solar paneling, renewable batteries, high-speed rail, the list goes on…

In the coming weeks, the Detroit Water Brigade and other community organizations on the front lines of Detroit’s humanitarian crisis will be presenting a plan to put Detroit back to work. Let’s do this.



[1] I borrow the phrase from an exquisite poem from the 2014 Irish Water Revolution, On the 10th of December Ireland Will Rise, https://facebook.com/notes/maximum-homosapien-poet-playwright-artist-performer/on-the-10th-of-december-ireland-will-rise-by-maximum-homosapien/856724671015355/?__tn__=C

[2] Source: http://philanthropy.com/article/Can-Philanthropy-Rescue/142415/

[3] America’s dirtiest zip code 48217, is located in Detroit: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/3/michigan-tar-sandsindustryaccusedofactingwithimpunity.html