All week on Absolute Michigan we’ve been featuring Detroit.
David Byrne of Talking Heads fame was in Detroit to perform the title track for This Must Be The Place by Paolo Sorrentino, one of the big budget pictures now filming in Detroit. In his journal entry Don’t Forget the Motor City he relates his thoughts & photos as he wanders the city, mostly by bike. It’s well worth your time. He also writes:
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called Requiem For Detroit by British director Julian Temple, who used to be associated with the Sex Pistols. It’s a great film, available to watch on YouTube, that gives a context and history for the devastation one sees all around here. This process didn’t happen overnight, as with Katrina, but over many many decades. However the devastation is just as profound, and just as much concentrated on the lower echelons of society. Both disasters were man-made.
We’ve got the documentary below. Featuring a wealth of great historical and present day footage & music, knowledgeable experts on the city’s history and even Mitch Ryder, it’s an unflinching look at what created the amazing fall of the city, from the rise and dominance of the auto industry to its catastrophic, slow-motion fall. Setting the stage, the narrator intones:
“Not since the last days of the Maya have the Americas witnessed a transformation as traumatic as that which has befallen the Motor City. Here time seems to be running backwards. What was once the frontier city of the American Dream, the Paris of the Midwest, is now in its strange beauty the first post-American city. It’s a darkly cautionary tale for the entire industrialized world.
But as you listen to the buzz of cicadas among the wildflowers and prairie that have reclaimed one third of the city, it is possible to feel you’ve traveled a thousand years into the future, and that amidst the ruins of Detroit lies a first pioneers map to the post-industrial future that awaits us all.”
That, I think it the thought I’d like to leave you with. Yes, Detroit is a city that has fallen to perhaps the lowest depths that any US city has ever fallen. However, many of the challenges that Detroit is facing are those that we will all have to face as we run into the hard realities of wanting to spend more than we have, being equipped to make things that nobody wants and having cities that are built for purposes that no longer exist. Detroit is a cautionary tale about changing before you are forced to change to be sure, but within its story lies the hope of a thousand stories of people working to create a new way of being.