Sunday, March 08, 2009

Yup, that sounds about right.

Boing Boing points to an article about the state of affairs in Detroit from the Financial Times. I thought the article sadly rang true. In his description at Boing Boing, however, Cory Doctorow touched on how the decay of Detroit holds a strange fascination:

From Boing Boing:
I was at Confusion, a science fiction convention in the Detroit area recently, and I got to thinking that Detroit may be the most science fictional city in the world -- if sf is about the way that technology changes society (and vice-versa), then Detroit, the first New World, world-class city built around a high-tech industry that collapsed, is about as science fictional as it gets.
For decades, scribes from America’s coasts and beyond have been parachuting into Detroit to marvel at its horrors. The city never fails to deliver colourful copy: the urban decay, the $1 houses that still go unsold, the tragicomic city politics. Jerry Herron, a writer and scholar at Detroit’s Wayne State University, likens journalists’ morbid delight at Detroit to that of Victorian travellers reaching Pompeii. “City of the dead, city of the dead,” Thackeray wrote. The words might as well apply here.

. . .

Detroit may be the archetypal down-and-out rust-belt city, but to call it “dying” masks a more complex reality. Greater Detroit still has three to four million residents, a world-class university next door in Ann Arbor and the bone structure of a great city, as a car-industry consultant with the ear of a poet put it over lunch one day. Why, then, the relentless focus on its failings? Nearly everyone you meet is either weary or angry at seeing their home town made the butt of jokes on late-night television and the subject of anguished political commentary. But no one denies that the region’s property market is abysmal, its finances a mess and its industrial base shrinking at an alarming rate.

Instead, Michiganders, despite being self-deprecating to a fault, make a point their countrymen won’t want to hear: Detroit is no longer the nation’s worst-case scenario, but on its leading edge, the proverbial canary in the coal mine. “It’s like the rest of the country is getting to where Detroit has been,” said Peter De Lorenzo, who writes the acerbic and very funny blog. That means that smug mock-horror is no longer the appropriate reaction to the frozen corpse. Instead, get ready for a shock of recognition.


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