Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

So i could talk about 'actual' wolves here. And how much i like them. Look at Yellowstone for example. Look at the undisputable benefit from releasing wolves back into the eco-system. Now imagine a 'Lewis & Clark' type system that the Yellowstone system could feed into. I'd like to see some wolves back in Michigan. I almost shit my pants when a friend told me he saw a bear up North. I wasn't busy eatin snowmobilers...odd. But that's a story for a different day.

But, Wolves don't specifically have anything to do with this posting. Instead, the title is referring to our inability to fight the cannibalistic machine. Especially, here in Detroit, we deal with alot of upper echelon backroom handshakes and tips of the hats. A sub-culture, if you will, of; the few big businesses willing to continue to exist within this flailing city of ours, the mega-property owners within this town vying for the suburban entertainment dollars, the city government playing mixed-roles with mixed bags trying to skim a few off the top just to keep basic services running (personal or public), and a notoriety driven ego component. The wolf becomes big money in big hands, fumbling with large quantities of investment dollars, for the satisfaction of its sociopathetic -'wolf-like' trait.

The wolves i'm talking about here are simply large invested interests in the city/ies. Their inability to come to terms with the other 2% invested interest has simply left them competing against each other for the same percentages on any given day. The players have changed over the years, but the same game exists. On some days, Poletown gets erased and a major Chyrsler Manufacturing Plant gets built, on others, Campus Martius pops up. But what they failed to realize, was that the 2% of the population was the other 98% of their food supply.

In some small respect, those percentages put the food supply into a fairly leveragable position. So, being a sheep, i feel pretty confident that the wolves will start acting like wolves, with a 'pack' mentality. As i said, I like wolves, we can't be afraid of them, we just need to establish the rules of the pack to them. It's simple, this is the geographic boundary we exist within, this is where people will tolerate us, these are the bounds of our family. We may eventually be able to even get along with other packs, but for now, let's simply leave an open invitation, and welcome them to the table.

Our territory is the single most important thing to both the sheep and the wolf.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Competition is in our nature

It's probably fair to say that Detroit is in the fight of its life right now. Day by day we get sucker punched by something new. I like to think, however, that we are simply doing the rope-a-dope. Dodging, ducking...taking a few glancing blows...we have a strategy...Don't we?

Week after week, the news media slams our little city with impunity. We've been tagged as one of the worst places to do business, we been slandered with being at the pinnacle of criminal activity, most recently...we've been labeled as one of the fastest dying cities in America. We took a one-two with the mayor being hauled off to jail like a common thug. What does that say about us? Is America's perception of Detroit, that of common criminals...? Don't answer that, i know the answer.

But i have to ask, all of my fellow Detroiters, are we more than the sum of our local government? I'd shake my magic 8 ball if i had one, but i can see the strategy sparkling in the eyes of my friends and coworkers. I see our careful manipulation of American perception as a tactic. Let me explain...

This city was built upon our ability to compete. Dating back to our founding by the French, this city was a strategic position for trade. The Brits recognized the value of our city and it's geographic location being prime for corralling natural resources. When we became part of the Nation, the competition continued with the lumber barons all the way up to our ability to compete for labor with the advent of a living wage. Competition has always ruled the form and size of our city. Even Augustus Woodward recognized this as his masterful masterplan for the city was abandoned for more competitive parcel sizes conducive to businesses at the time.

Over the years we have competed to provide what we have now as the cities current form, the pinnacle of an American ideology.
We have the perfect mix of rural living with city amenities. We have what 'The City of the Future' promised, an auto-centric lifestyle. Every convenience we need, is a short car trip away. Every desire we have, can be found within a few hour trip. Camping, skiing, cinema, theatre, arts, entertainment, libraries, snacks, fashion...etc. But as it stands now, it is something we are simply clutching at with both hands to desperately hold on too. What is left once an apex is reached? There are only two directions on that path, it's either down, or we find a new path.

As it stands now, we are competing for intellectual labor. With that comes quality of life. There is a fundamental shift occurring in the populace. The world is becoming urban. This isn't to say, that we should not have seen this coming. For two thousand years, civilization has naturally evolved into city structures capable of sustaining life. It is only within the past sixty years that we have turned our backs on evolution and shunned the natural order of things. So whether or not people can explain why they want to live in cities is irrelevant. It only matters that it is natural for them to want to do so. We are losing the brightest and the best to places that will be where we are now in a few short years. This puts us ahead of the pack. When the sunbelt starts charging water for what it's worth, Michigan will start to look pretty appealing.

As a student of cities i can honestly say that Detroit is strategically aligned, and becomes more so every day, to redefine the American city. We may be standing with our backs up against the ropes, shifting and ducking, but i like to think we are merely conserving our energy for the final round. So when national press paints an unflattering picture of us, or when our mayor ostracizes his regime a little further, i can honestly say that those are happy days for me. I have been around this nation and have seen the places we are competing against. I know what Pheonix has to offer and i know the draw of sunny San Francisco, and to me, those places are illusions. I stay here because we are rooted in reality. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. At the end of the day, we can sleep well knowing that what we accomplished mattered. This is the Detroit i know. The more we are underdogs, the harder we will work to prove our worth.

So what is our strategy then? you ask. I can only ask you the same question. This is Michigan after all, if you have a seed, simply plant it and then watch it grow. We have the intelligence and the manpower to make our dreams come true, now we have to ask, do we have the consensus and will power to compete at an international level?

I'm game. Are you?