Posts tagged Canada

On Detroit, or: Cities don’t go bankrupt, city governments do.

If you have been reading news headlines over the past couple weeks, then I think it might be important to keep in mind that the city of Detroit has not been razed or destroyed in the past few days. The city of Detroit is not over; the city of Detroit has not failed; and the city of Detroit is not gone. It’s still right there, where it has been all these years; see, look, here it is:


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Here’s what has happened, over the past several days, and all that has happened: One institution, out of the millions of things going on in Detroit — specifically the single most confining and abusive and irresponsible institution within the city — the government which latched on to the city of Detroit and has tried to rule and exploit it for decades — has announced that it no longer intends to pay off the people and the institutions and the banks who paid it loans in advance of future tax revenues. That one institution, which claims, arrogantly and fraudulently, to speak for the whole city of Detroit, and which intends to force the whole city of Detroit to pay for its mistakes — the same city government which has bulldozed Detroit neighborhoods and tried to sell out the city to the auto cartel and to corporate developers at every opportunity — the same city government whose attitude towards the people of the city has over the years ranged from one of constant low-level antagonism and hectoring, to one of repression and open warfare against them — the same city government which is now run by an appointed Emergency Manager from the state government, installed in a last-ditch effort to loot the city without the normal political restraints, for the sake of institutional bondholders, before things came to this pass — that one institution within the city of Detroit has announced that it wants to default on debts that most of the city never were asked about and never agreed to take on. And this may mess up that institution’s budgeting process for some time to come. What’s happened is something notable, but it is also something far less important than it’s being treating as, and something with far more political fascination than human significance.

There is no threnody of grief to be had here, no punishment for hubris or failures or sins, no final unraveling to reveal, no long-coming tragedy of decline or death for the city, if the city is supposed to mean anything at all other than the government. That government has taken over and inserted itself into so many parts of the city of Detroit that this may make things rough. Perhaps it will even make things rougher than they already were — although the reasons that are usually given for thinking that always seem to me to depend on some assumptions about the role of government in Detroit which I think are probably false. (If it is hard for the city government to allocate more money to the Detroit police department, is that going to make life worse in the city? It probably depends on what end of the stick you find yourself on.)

But the important thing is this. Detroit is not the crisis of a handful of elected, appointed and installed government officials. Detroit is not its most abusive institutions; it’s not a political project; it’s not a single institution at all, no matter how dominating its intent or arrogant its claims. It’s something much bigger, much better, and much more important than that. Detroit is the Ujamaa Food Coop and the Masonic Temple, UAW Local 174 and the Reuther Library. Detroit is the Tigers, Friday fish-fries and Paczki Day, the Red Wings and the Pistons, the Movement Electronic Music Festival and John King Books, the giant tire on I-94, the Eastern Market and the Afro-American Music Festival. the People’s Pierogi Collective and Joe Louis’s arm.

Here is a photo of the cast bronze statue of Joe Louis's arm and fist
Jefferson & Woodward, downtown Detroit

Detroit is fresh kielbasa and original Coney Islands (whichever one you think deserves the title); barbecue pork, and felafel and fries with a fruit smoothie; blind pigs and warehouse raves, Arabic signs[1] and pointing to the knuckle of your thumb to show where you’re from. Detroit is 19 year olds making the pilgrimmage to Windsor for booze[2] and to Royal Oak for coffee. Detroit is the home of Rosa Parks and of Grace Lee Boggs. Detroit is the Michigan Citizen and the Metro Times. Detroit is the Rouge plant and Fifth Estate. And Detroit is the long history of displacement, homecoming, work, music, food, culture, strife, love and building that the city grows up out of. Detroit is bigger, stronger, more resilient and much more important than the government’s budget.

Detroit did not cause this crisis. The city government and the state government and the bankers they deal with, who dominate and exploit Detroit, did that. And though Detroit will be forced to pay much of the bill, Detroit is not threatened by this crisis and will not be ended or killed, because Detroit never depended on the city government or the state government or the institutions they deal with for what it is or what it has done. To grow, and to survive, and to thrive, Detroit depends on its people, on the collision and the seeping-together of its many cultures and subcultures and neighborhoods and scenes, on those people’s work and their industry and their craft and their experiments and their interconnection and solidarity and mutual aid. The city of Detroit is its people, not its politics, and it will live on in those people over, above, beyond, and in spite of, the ongoing efforts of local governments and state-appointed emergency governments and corporate-political managers to somehow bail out and save government’s place within Detroit. Everyone would be better off if the austerity government, along with all other local governments, just took this as an opportunity to pack it in and leave the city entirely alone — rather than attempt to somehow auction off, bail out, and save the essential command-posts for its political takeover of people’s space and public life. But even without that, the city continues, and lives, no matter how much the politics falls apart.

Also.

  1. [1] These are of course mostly in and around Dearborn. But Dearborn is of course part of Detroit. Detroit is its communities, not its municipal administrations or the lines that they draw on maps.
  2. [2] Yeah, that’s in Canada. It’s the part of Detroit that happens to be across the Canadian border. Detroit is all its communities, not its municipal governments. Or its national ones.

Whiteness Studies 106: Neutrality

(Via @ami_angelwings, via Roderick.)

This is from a recent report from CBC News:

The Bank of Canada purged the image of an Asian-looking woman from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.

The original image intended for the reverse of the plastic polymer banknotes, which began circulating last November, showed an Asian-looking woman scientist peering into a microscope.

The image, alongside a bottle of insulin, was meant to celebrate Canada’s medical innovations.

But eight focus groups consulted about the proposed images for the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknote series were especially critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination.

Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian, says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

. . . The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing what a spokesman called a “neutral ethnicity” for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her Asian features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.

The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin, bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes.

But obviously when we got into focus groups, there was some thought the image appeared to represent a particular ethnic group, so modifications were made.

Harrison declined to provide a copy of the original image, produced by a design team led by Jorge Peral of the Canadian Bank Note Co., which was a test design only and never made it into circulation.

Nor would he indicate what specific changes were made to the woman researcher’s image to give her a so-called neutral ethnicity. . . .

Because, you see, the way to give someone a neutral ethnicity is to make them look White. You might think that that’s not so neutral after all; you might even think that putting a white person on the bill does seem a bit like depicting a member of a particular ethnic group. But you’ve got to remember that an ethnicity is a social marker, and white people aren’t socially marked out from the background. Because as far as the Bank of Canada and its focus groups are concerned, white people are the social background. An East Asian scientist is part of a particular ethnic group, but a white scientist is not, because white Canadians don’t have ethnicities. Only colorful people do.

Also.

Borders vs. Scholarship and Intellectual Freedom

From the Institute for Critical Education Studies:

Abraham P. DeLeon, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio was refused entry to Canada today. He was scheduled to deliver a papers at the American Educational Research Association meeting and the pre-conference meeting of the Rouge Forum @ AERA, both which are being held in Vancouver, BC this weekend.

DeLeon, who holds a PhD from the University of Connecticut, does research in the areas of cultural studies, anarchist theory, post-colonialism, and animal studies in educational theory. His articles that have appeared in The Social Studies, The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Educational Studies, Equity & Excellence in Education, and Theory and Research in Social Education. He is associate editor of Critical Education, which is based at the University of British Columbia. He has also co-edited two books: Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (Routledge, 2009) and Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education: Towards New Perspectives for Social Studies Education (Sense Publishers, 2010).

DeLeon was scheduled to deliver an AERA paper titled: “Lured by the Animal: Rethinking Nonhuman Animals in Educational Discourses” and he was also scheduled to speak at the pre-conference Rouge Forum @ AERA on “What might happen when teachers and other academics connect reason to power and power to resistance?”

Canada Border Services Agency refused to give a reasons for denying DeLeon entry to Canada. CBSA has also repeatedly denied entry to American educator Bill Ayers, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The CBSA’s actions raise serious concerns for Canadians and Americans who value free speech, open debate and academic freedom.

— E. Wayne Ross, Anarchist scholar to speak at RF@AERA denied entry to Canada

Wednesday Lazy Linking

  • … but the streets belong to the people! Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-06-10): The People’s Stop Sign. In which people in an Ottawa neighborhood take nonviolent direct action to slow down the traffic flying down their neighborhood streets — by putting up their own stop signs at a key intersection. The city government, of course, is now busy with a Criminal Investigation of the public’s heinous contribution to public safety.

  • Abolitionism is the radical notion that other people are not your property. Darian Worden (2009-06-09): The New Abolitionists The point is that the principles of abolitionism, which held that regardless of popular justifications no human is worthy to be master and no human can be owned by another, when carried to their logical conclusion require this: that no human is worthy of authority over another, and that no person is owed allegiance simply because of political status. When reason disassembles the popular justifications of statism, as advances in political philosophy since the 1850’s have assisted in doing, the consistent abolitionist cannot oppose the voluntaryist principles of the Keene radicals.

  • Mr. Obama, Speak For Yourself. Thomas L. Knapp, Center for a Stateless Society (2009-09-09): Speaking of the State

  • A campaign of isolated incidents. Ellen Goodman, Houston Chronicle (2009-06-08): Sorry, but the doctor’s killer did not act alone

  • Let’s screw all the little guys. Just to be fair. (Or, pay me to advertise my product on your station.) Jesse Walker, Reason (2009-06-09): The Man Can’t Tax Our Music: The music industry wants to impose an onerous new fee on broadcasters.

  • Some dare call it torture. Just not the cops. Or the judges. Wendy McElroy, WendyMcElroy.com (2009-06-08): N.Y. Judge Rules that Police Can Taser Torture in order to coerce compliance with any arbitrary court order. I think that Wendy is right to call pain compliance for what it is — torture (as I have called it here before) — and that it is important to insist on this point as much as possible whenever the topic comes up.

  • On criminalizing compassion. Macon D., stuff white people do (2009-06-05), on the conviction of Walt Staton for knowingly littering water jugs in a wildlife refuge, in order to keep undocumented immigrants from dying in the desert.

  • Freed markets vs. deforesters. Keith Goetzman, Utne Reader Environment (2009-06-04): Do You Know Where Your Shoes Have Been?, on the leather industry and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Utne does a good job of pointing out (by quoting Grist’s Tom Philpott) that the problem is deeply rooted in multi-statist neoliberalism: because of the way in which the Brazilian government and the World Bank act together to subsidize the cattle barons and ‘roid up Brazilian cattle ranching, the report is really about the perils of using state policy to prop up global, corporate-dominated trade.

  • Well, Thank God. (Cont’d.) Thanks to the Lord Justice, we now know that Pringles are, in fact, officially potato chips, not mere savory snacks, in spite of the fact that only about 40% of a Pringles crisp is actually potato flour. Language Log takes this case to demonstrate the quasi-Wittgensteinian point that, fundamentalist legal philosophy to one side, there’s actually no such thing as a self-applying law. (Quoting Adam Cohen’s New York Times Op-Ed, Conservatives like to insist that their judges are strict constructionists, giving the Constitution and statutes their precise meaning and no more [linguists groan here], while judges like [Sonia] Sotermayor are activists. But there is no magic way to interpret terms like free speech or due process — or potato chip.) I think the main moral of the story has to do with the absurdity of a political system in which whether or not you can keep $160,000,000 of your own damn money rides on whether or not you can prove to a judge that your savory snack hasn’t got the requisite potatoness to count as a potato crisp for the purposes of law and justice.

  • Small riots will get small attention, no riots get no attention, make a big riot, and it will be handled immediately. Loretta Chao, Wall Street Journal (2009-05-30): In China, a New Breed of Dissidents. The story makes it seem as though the most remarkable thing about the emerging dissident movement is that they are safe enough for the State to tolerate them, rather than launching all out assaults as they did against the Tienanmen dissidents in 1989. Actually, I think that that misses the point entirely; and that the most interesting thing is that they have adopted such flexible and adaptive networking, both tactically and strategically, and that they now so often rise up from the very social classes that the Chinese Communist Party claims to speak for (not just easily-demonized students and intelligentsia, but ordinary farmers, factory workers, and retirees) — that the regime isn’t tolerating them; it just no longer knows what to do with them.

  • Counter-Cooking and Mutual Meals. Julia Levitt, Worldchanging: Bright Green (2009-06-03): Community Kitchens (Via Kevin Carson’s Shared Items.) If I may recommend, if you’re going to work on any kind of community cooking like this, particularly if you’re interested in it partly for reasons of resiliency and building community alternatives, you should do what you can to make sure that it is strongly connected with the local grey-market solidarity economy, through close cooperation with your local Food Not Bombs (as both a source and a destination for food) and other local alternatives to the state-subsidized corporate-consumer model for food distribution.

  • Looking Forward. Shawn Wilbur, In the Libertarian Labyrinth (009-06-06): Clement M. Hammond on Police Insurance. An excerpt on policing in a freed society, from individualist anarchist Clement M. Hammond’s futurist utopian novel, Then and Now which originally appeared in serialized form in Tucker’s Liberty in 1884 and 1885. (Thus predating Bellamy’s dreary Nationalist potboiler by 4 years.) Hammond’s novel is now available in print through Shawn’s Corvus Distribution. The good news is that, while Bellamy’s date of 2000 has already mercifully passed us by without any such society emerging, we still have almost 80 years to get it together in time for Hammond’s future.

  • Here at Reason we never pass up a chance to have some fun at the expense of Pete Seeger. Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-06-09): They Wanna Hear Some American Music. On brilliant fakery, the invention of Country and Western music, the cult of authenticity, and the manufacture of Americana. For the long, full treatment see Barry Mazor, No Depression (2009-02-23): Americana, by any other name…

  • Anarchy on the Big Screen. Colin Firth and Kevin Spacey have signed on for a big-screen film adaptation of Homage to Catalonia. The film is supposed to enter production during the first half of 2010.

Technological civilization is awesome. (Cont’d.)

Communications

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Communications: