Thinking for ourselves
By Shea Howell
New Culture Emerging
October 21, 2014
There is a new force for life emerging in Detroit. Across the city this week-end people gathered to talk about justice, peace, children, work, music, healing, revolutionary wellness, passion, play, human rights, and freedom. Black farmers and urban gardeners, new work and new culture, water warriors and human rights advocates gathered in intentional conversations, spinning out new ideas and weaving deep connections.
There is a growing understanding that we are confronting two very different views of the future. The corporate elite pursue a future that looks very much like the past, with increasingly brutal attempts to protect their power and privilege by extracting wealth from people and resources from our earth. They ignore mounting evidence that these old ways of living are not only unsustainable, but also are endangering all life, including their own.
In sharp contrast, many Detroiters are moving toward new visions of a future based on care, compassion, and love for one another and the earth. Far from being empty rhetoric, this week end people in gatherings around the city shared practices and principles that are infusing actual activities and life sustaining efforts. Recognizing we are in a moment of great transformation, people talked of new ways we are feeding ourselves, providing for local needs, and developing imaginative and visionary means of producing the things that sustain and enrich our lives. From infusing 3-D printing with the ethics of permaculture to composting, fish farming, and fashion design, a vibrant, local culture is already emerging. It is accelerated by the work of our artists and young people who refuse to think their only future is somewhere else.
There is also a spreading consciousness that sustainable practices are not enough. Rather we need regenerative cultures. We need ways of living that heal us and our earth, that promote the growth of people, the health of communities, and the restoration of our land and waters, made toxic by industrial society.
The toxic values and practices of that old culture were on display this weekend before the whole world as the United Nations special rapporteurs on water and housing gathered testimony in Detroit.
More than 800 people offered testimony and witness to the regressive, dangerous efforts of the corporate culture to shut off water to thousands of people across the city. After touring neighborhoods, reviewing extensive documentation gathered by community activists, and gathering public testimony from individuals, Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on safe drinking water said, “We were shocked, impressed by the proportions of the disconnections and by the way that it is affecting the weakest and the poorest and the most vulnerable.”
She said, “I’ve been to rich countries like Japan and Slovenia where basically 99 percent of population have access to water, and I’ve been to poor countries where half the population doesn’t have access to water … but this large-scale retrogression or backwards steps is new for me. From a human rights perspective, any retrogression should be seen as a human right violation.”
She also offered a strong indictment of the bankruptcy court, saying that bankruptcy proceedings do not exempt the city, state, or nation form its human rights obligations.
In sharp contrast, the Duggan administration, demonstrated its moral bankruptcy. Sounding like every two bit dictator around the globe confronted by their failure to protect and honor the dignity of human beings, they claimed the UN didn’t have its “facts” straight.
This toxic, regressive response, shows how far from basic standards of human decency the corporate culture is. They seem incapable of fundamental respect for people and the earth that sustains us.
Turn the water on, stop the inhuman shut offs, make it affordable to all. Refusing these demands is a cruel effort to hang on to a kind of life and thinking that cannot continue.
Meanwhile, across Detroit there is a ferocious intensity to wage love. Just go to the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference October 24 and 25 at Marygrove to feel the change in the air.