Visionary Organizing in Detroit
By Grace Lee Boggs
Jan. 14-21, 2012
In planning the program we recognized that finding a job is now the main concern of Detroit’s young people. Also that for most of them Dr. King and the civil rights struggle are nearly as remote as Frederick Douglass and the struggle against slavery in the 19th century.
Our program began with a video montage of small groups growing their own food and building community in Detroit. This was followed by a power point presentation of excerpts from King’s speeches,. I especially welcomed this excerpt from his 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech:
‘”We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.”
Our main speaker was philosopher and community catalyst Frithjof Bergmann. Bergmann said that one of the main reasons why we are a thing-oriented rather than a person-oriented society is that most jobs in our industrial society manacle us to machines.
So we try to compensate for our dehumanization on the job by struggling for higher wages that enable us to buy bigger cars and fancier clothes. In other words, we become consumers and materialists, more concerned with our possessions than with community or our relationships with each other.
However, this job system is only a few hundred years old and it is rapidly being made obsolete by HI-Tech which eliminates jobs but also makes it possible for local groups to produce most of our real needs ( e.g. for clothing, housing and transportation) with the same ease with which it has made possible independent book and film production.
Therefore since we can now practice the system of self-reliant local production of most of our real needs, we should not be trying to bring back a job system which is not only dehumanizing but has jeopardized all life on our planet by poisoning our air and our waters.
Instead of organizing marches and demonstrations demanding jobs, as many radical and community organizations have been doing, we need to use Hi Tech to make our commiuities more self-reliant.
Church of the Messiah Pastor Berry talked aout how much his congregation has grown since his church created a. neighborhood housing program and self- help work programs for young people.
We broke up into small groups to share our thoughts, activities and questions.
In my closing remarks I suggested that participants go to the Bogggs Center website boggdscenter.org to learn more about New Work and Bergmann’s ideas.
I also recommended The Third Wave, the best selling book by Alvin Toffler which was published in the 1980s, in paperback is readily available in second hand bookstores..