Hey there, I’ve got two new posts up at the Facile Gestures blog. Check ’em out!
As others have said previously, the introduction to Slaughterhouse Five may be the best thing Kurt Vonnegut has ever written (and he’s written a lot of good shit, natch). Just look at this excerpt:
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.” It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand-glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.
Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. they do not love one another because they do not love themselves. Once this is understood, the disagreeable behavior of American enlisted men in German prisons ceases to be a mystery.
For the past two or so years, I have been fascinated by Detroit. The most visceral case of the American rise and fall. Once the French-owned Détroit, deemed the “Paris of the West,” is now seen as the country’s dirty backside that no one wants to talk about. Detroit. Detritus. Detriment. Decay. Desperation. But now we can begin to say “thrive” where we used to say “die.”
I am very much an outsider to this world, I will admit, but recently it seems like my views of the city might be painfully one-sided. (I am no expert, and you should not consider my writing on this subject to be in any way authoritative.) Coilhouse and Vice both have great pieces on the pervasiveness of “ruin porn” and how we seem to ignore the strong, hardworking badasses who are slowly reviving the city. Continue reading “Detroit is more than a decaying skyscraper.”