Panic In Detroit

Not so much a panic as an exodus, but David Bowie didn’t write that song!

New Orleans had Katrina, New York 9/11. Both awful events, one natural, one the result of actions by mad, sad deluded men. Both, quite rightly, attracting huge levels of sympathy from across the globe. But in the Midwest, Detroit has experienced, and continues to experience a silent, more lingering and perhaps more permanent act of destruction.

There is now no rush hour in Detroit.

A city built for 2 million is the home for around 800,000. The decline of the motor industry which was responsible for the city’s greatness, means that hundreds of thousands have abandoned it, leaving it to the mercy of criminals and now back to nature itself.

Former well off neighbourhoods are becoming overgrown with trees and greenery, to a point where and an urban prairie is growing on the shores of Lake Erie. Detroit now resembles a post apocalyptic landscape. The town where Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Four Tops and so many other artists from Motown flourished, is dying.

Although Detroit is the largest casualty of this depression, other cities – Pittsburgh and Cleveland (cruelly known as, ‘The Mistake on the Lake’) are suffering badly also.

In his documentary, Requiem for Detroit, British producer and director, Julian Temple, gets to the heart of what was allowed to happen here. It’s a chilling tale, but one I believe needs to be seen and understood on a far wider scale.

As I’ve now learnt, there’s traditionally no love lost between Chicago and Detroit. But in the week that Richard Daley announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election as Mayor of of the city for a sixth term, I think Chicagoans have plenty to thank him for in developing his city into a beautiful 21st century example of what can be achieved and saving it from the fate of Detroit.

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