The Masonic Temple Of Detroit

Via Curbed Detroit. (via David Thompson)

70 photos of the abandoned, foreboding Temple.  Mysterious symbols and a certain sad grandeur that’s come to represent Detroit these days.

-Photographer Ben Marcin has a series called ‘Last House Standing.’ Solitary row-homes…the only ones left on the block.

Also On This Site: From Buzzfeed: ‘Why I Bought A House in Detroit For $500:’

How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

More from Megan McArdle on the behavior that comes with pension bonuses.Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself?  See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Modernism At The Movies.

Hipster Romanticism?-From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’

Photos here.

Isn’t ‘urban exploration’ a bit ruin-pornish?

The individual travels along with small groups, trespassing through cityscapes and abandoned buildings as though they were archeological ruins.  Breaking the law or possibly breaking the law is part of the appeal.

Perhaps such folks are traveling as well through their own imaginations, romanticizing themselves as transgressive outsiders, taking the idea of archeology as fixed knowledge and applying it to their own present as though it were a mythic, imaginative quest, where some camaraderie, historical meaning and beauty are to be found.

A video explanation:

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Naturally, one impulse expressed here is the desire for group membership and meaning. Like kids who’ve found something new and cool to do, some recognition is desired from others or from society at large, even if it’s negative.  There’s a vagabond-hipster feel to much of this, and it’s easy to imagine listening to an indie-music-montage with the latest stop-motion technology or documentarianism when one looks at the photos.

Readers will know I tend to think some of this is a sign of a newer, more anarchic/nihilistic individualism and subsequent collectivism in our culture that is partially, but not wholly, a product of the 1960’s.

One theme of this blog is how this process of increased nihilistic individualism merges with a search for meaning, group membership and identity in our culture,  as in the above.  This can increase the desire for collective solutions to problems, which can cast increased upward pressure on old boomer/nationalistic liberalism and liberalism in general.

At the very least, we end-up rehashing the battles of the 60’s in perpetuity.  Liberalism follows the logic and incentives it’s helped to create.

James Fallows at the Atlantic, former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, is now exploring the wonders of post-hippie settlers in Vermont to stay relevant to a new generation of readers:  Vermont Report:  Shaping The Soul Of A School.

I didn’t know schools had souls.

Don’t you want to live in Austin, or Boulder, or Portland, or Williamsburg (not colonial, addition: yes, there’s sarcasm here )?

NPR looks at hipsterism while their guiding ideals have helped create hipsters through all that boomer’s 60’s activism.  One challenge is mixing the Lawrence Welk crowd while staying relevant with the hipsters they’ve helped create.

Related On This Site:What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?:  Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’.

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized Leftism in the Arts:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Repost: ‘A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

This will be a slightly longer post, so thanks for hanging in there with me.

From Land That I Live: In Defense Of Ruin Porn:

So what is ruin porn? Take yesteryear’s environments, our forgotten factories and collapsing hospitals, and airbrush them for public consumption. Here, devoid of their context, we can revel in the beauty of these crumbling sanctuaries.

And they are beautiful – but in ruin porn, the beauty is exaggerated and presented in a way that precludes any thoughtful interaction with the subject.’

For some examples, see Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Our author’s defense here is: Stick to your subject. Be true to your art.  Make it beautiful, but don’t make open to criticisms of art as porn, giving too fleeting and superficial a pleasure.

She goes on:

‘Little thought is given to how to reuse as much of our resources as possible, except when it is economically advantageous to do so. The ecological repercussions of our actions have also been largely ignored until recently.’

Here’s where we can argue more clearly over ideas.  Some reflection on the fact that industry has consequences is useful when staring at such decay.  We have to face up to some grim facts of our condition, including how our economy is changing.  Some environmental laws can even help clean up cities if those laws get the incentives right (big business doesn’t always have your interests in mind).

That said, I see the creep of this kind of thinking all throughout our society, and it’s usually presented as though it comes without tradeoffs.

Few people talk about how the ethos of environmental sustainability often precludes sentiment for economic sustainability and an understanding of what made Detroit an industrial powerhouse in the first place.  We live in a world of scarcity and lack of resources.  There are costs to economic and political freedoms that result from simply relying on politicians and environmental activism to shape the world.  It seems to have become a platform of the Democratic party.

On that note, I wanted to further dip into the culture wars:

Ed Driscoll at PJ Media discusses ruin porn extensively (you pesky nihilists are leading us to Hitler!), and quotes Robert Tracinski’s ‘Why The Oscars Were So Bad.’:

‘This is the dead end of Modernist culture, which sought to break down traditional values and rules but was unable to replace them with anything better. It left us in a cultural void where, as the New York Times piece puts it, everyone is afraid that “serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst.” In the second half of the 20th century, this corrosive Modernist skepticism brought us the ruling concept of contemporary popular culture: the “cool.” Remember the original meaning of the term. To be “cool” is to be emotionally cool, to refuse to be caught up in enthusiasm. Early on, this could be taken to mean a kind of manly reserve, the ability to be calm, cool, and collected in the face of strife, or to refuse to be carried away by momentary or trivial emotions. This is the sense in which James Bond was “cool.” But by the end of the 20th century, the culture of cool increasingly came to mean a studied lack of response to values. It meant refusing to be carried away by enthusiasm about anything.’

I can understand why many conservatives and traditional thinkers are upset about the decline, as they see it, of our culture.  They arguably control less of it than before, and have much less influence in the public square than they used to, as does organized religion.  Many people with conservative views feel targeted by Hollywood and the media generally, as though it’s turned against them, espousing ideas which undermine the virtues and duties which maintain civil society.  Even the technology sector tends to vote non-Republican.

Enough! goes the refrain.

Perhaps we could take a look at hipster culture for some clarification (about much I will invariably be wrong):

Instead of how many conservatives might want individuals to live;  looking for meaning and group membership through church and civic organizations, intimacy and love directly through marriage, and vocation through traditional means of work, many hipsters (those who can afford it) withdraw into a bubble of irony, seeming to lack outward enthusiasm for anything.

They tend to seek meaning and group membership (while remaining totally individualistic) through the arts, fashion, music and popular music.  There is some real drug-use there, and a few real artists.  There are definite counter-cultural undercurrents as well.  Intimacy and love are explored further away from marriage, but maybe not terribly far (gay marriage is now the hot topic).  Vocation for hipsters often incorporates ideas of the local, communal, environmentally sustainable, and more often anti-corporate. Sometimes it can veer into the collectivist.

Haven’t we seen these folks before?  I’ve heard the argument that they are less radical, and milder copies of the beats and original hipsters.

On the conservative view presented above, we’ve gotten sick on Continental philosophy.  We’ve been sick for a while, and there are larger, Western forces at work. Just as the Western artist has become increasingly isolated over the past few centuries from his society, so are individuals increasingly isolated in American life from the traditions, civic culture and religious virtues that conservatives think should unite us once again.  This drifts us Europe-ward over time.

Continuing this line of thought, the 1960’s in American life were a rough time for conservatism.  We broke out into a postmodern flu, which started out as just a modernist tickle in the back of the throat after many long-past nights of romanticism and nihilistic revelry.  This flu involved a nasty outbreak of full blown New-Left radicalism which buried asunder the old liberalism.  The fever eventually subsided and the patient recovered, but the 60’s generation, including the hippies, feminists, environmentalists and old counter-culturalists have become institutionalized in the media, academia, and in our culture.

During the current progressive administration, under the ascendency of racial issues (progressivism has been around much longer, obviously) the same 60’s groups are now forming larger voting blocs and more powerful lobbying and interest groups seeking to extend their reach through politics and culture.  Unions, feminists, rent-seekers, a few crony capitalists and environmentalists all benefit to the exclusion of many others.

All this during a near recession!

In short, conservatives have good reasons to think they are losing the culture wars, and some are thinking there is a larger vortex leading us towards Europe.  Detroit ruin porn, hipster culture, the isolated individual, the overall drift of culture, all have conspired to make this a darker time for conservative principles.

I have to admit that upon writing this, it’s clearer in my mind than ever that neither political party has all the answers to our problems, while many people are looking for political solutions to solve many of our problems on the old “greatness” model.  This will make for interesting times ahead.

***Meanwhile in Detroit, despite all this talk, it’s declaring bankruptcy.  We’ve got problems with municipal bond  defaults across the country.  Some reflection is necessary.

Poor Detroit:

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Related On This Site:  Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?… some people don’t want you to have the freedom to move to the suburbs and are attaching creativity to political goals: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized feminism, multiculturalism, moral relativism and environmentalism:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

From The Detroit Free Press: ‘Detroit Files For Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Amid Staggering Debts’

Full piece here.

Well, it’s official, as Detroit cannot avoid bankruptcy any longer:

‘The filing begins a 30- to 90-day period that will determine whether the city is eligible for Chapter 9 protection and define how many claimants might compete for the limited settlement resources that Detroit has to offer. The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities.’

As written before: The industry went away, but also, the Model Cities program as part of LBJ’s ‘Great Society‘ helped incentivize the city so that its politics became a system of patronage and its treasury like a cookie jar. It was a slow, increasingly corrupt decline, with many of the people who could leave having left (serious white-flight, some black-flight). The ones who did stay continued to argue over a shrinking pie as the tax revenue dwindled and the lights eventually shut off.

Detroit has been extrodinarily poorly managed…more to come, no doubt.

Addition: Over four years ago, when GM stock was selling at $2 a share and the debt-holders had been wiped out, this blog put up the video below.  Here’s a brief 2:00 min explanation by Bill Ackman of Pershing Square on why the GM bailout was likely a bad idea:

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Exactly the kind of civil service, bureaucracy, and vast redistributive apparatus that helped lead to Detroit’s decline is likely being implemented with Obamacare right now.  Eventually you run out of other people’s money, and many of promises made to push the bill through hid costs.

Addition: Michael Barone reviews Charlie LeDuff’s book, and discusses how growing up in Detroit in the 60’s turned him into a conservative (Barone).

Some links on this site: Charlie LeDuff, Detroit’s populist, citizen journalist’s youtube channel here.  At least he’s sticking around.

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

A garage sale for the city’s art? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A.’From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

From Bloomberg: ‘Detroit Recovery Plan Threatens Muni-Market Underpinnings’

A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

This will be a slightly longer post, so thanks for hanging in there with me.

From Land That I Live: In Defense Of Ruin Porn:

‘So what is ruin porn? Take yesteryear’s environments, our forgotten factories and collapsing hospitals, and airbrush them for public consumption. Here, devoid of their context, we can revel in the beauty of these crumbling sanctuaries.

And they are beautiful – but in ruin porn, the beauty is exaggerated and presented in a way that precludes any thoughtful interaction with the subject.’

For some examples, see Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).

Our author’s defense here is: Stick to your subject. Be true to your art.  Make it beautiful, but don’t make open to criticisms of art as porn, giving too fleeting and superficial a pleasure.

She goes on:

‘Little thought is given to how to reuse as much of our resources as possible, except when it is economically advantageous to do so. The ecological repercussions of our actions have also been largely ignored until recently.’

Here’s where we can argue more clearly over ideas.  Some reflection on the fact that industry has consequences is useful when staring at such decay.  We have to face up to some grim facts of our condition, including how our economy is changing.  Some environmental laws can even help clean up cities if those laws get the incentives right (big business doesn’t always have your interests in mind).

That said, I see the creep of this kind of thinking all throughout our society, and it’s usually presented as though it comes without tradeoffs.

Few people talk about how the ethos of environmental sustainability often precludes sentiment for economic sustainability and an understanding of what made Detroit an industrial powerhouse in the first place.  We live in a world of scarcity and lack of resources.  There are costs to economic and political freedoms that result from simply relying on politicians and environmental activism to shape the world.  It seems to have become a platform of the Democratic party.

On that note, I wanted to further dip into the culture wars:

Ed Driscoll at PJ Media discusses ruin porn extensively (you pesky nihilists are leading us to Hitler!), and quotes Robert Tracinski’s ‘Why The Oscars Were So Bad.’:

‘This is the dead end of Modernist culture, which sought to break down traditional values and rules but was unable to replace them with anything better. It left us in a cultural void where, as the New York Times piece puts it, everyone is afraid that “serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst.” In the second half of the 20th century, this corrosive Modernist skepticism brought us the ruling concept of contemporary popular culture: the “cool.” Remember the original meaning of the term. To be “cool” is to be emotionally cool, to refuse to be caught up in enthusiasm. Early on, this could be taken to mean a kind of manly reserve, the ability to be calm, cool, and collected in the face of strife, or to refuse to be carried away by momentary or trivial emotions. This is the sense in which James Bond was “cool.” But by the end of the 20th century, the culture of cool increasingly came to mean a studied lack of response to values. It meant refusing to be carried away by enthusiasm about anything.’

I can understand why many conservatives and traditional thinkers are upset about the decline, as they see it, of our culture.  They arguably control much less of it than before, and have much less influence in the public square than they used to, as does organized religion.  Many people with conservative views feel targeted by Hollywood and the media generally, as though it’s turned against them, espousing ideas which undermine the virtues and duties which maintain civil society.  Even the technology sector tends to vote non-Republican.

Enough! goes the refrain.

Perhaps we could take a look at hipster culture for some clarification (about much I will invariably be wrong):

Instead of how many conservatives might want individuals to live;  looking for meaning and group membership through church and civic organizations, intimacy and love directly through marriage, and vocation through traditional means of work, many hipsters (those who can afford it) withdraw into a bubble of irony, seeming to lack outward enthusiasm for anything.

They tend to seek meaning and group membership (while remaining totally individualistic) through the arts, fashion, music and popular music.  There is some real drug-use there, and a few real artists.  There are definite counter-cultural undercurrents as well.  Intimacy and love are explored further away from marriage, but maybe not terribly far (gay marriage is now the hot topic).  Vocation for hipsters often incorporates ideas of the local, communal, environmentally sustainable, and more often anti-corporate. Sometimes it can veer into the collectivist.

Haven’t we seen these folks before?  I’ve heard the argument that they are less radical, and milder copies of the beats and original hipsters.

On the conservative view presented above, we’ve gotten sick on Continental philosophy.  We’ve been sick for a while, and there are larger, Western forces at work. Just as the Western artist has become increasingly isolated over the past few centuries from his society, so are individuals increasingly isolated in American life from the traditions, civic culture and religious virtues that conservatives think should unite us once again.  This drifts us Europe-ward over time.

Continuing this line of thought, the 1960’s in American life were a rough time for conservatism.  We broke out into a postmodern flu, which started out as just a modernist tickle in the back of the throat after many long-past nights of romanticism and nihilistic revelry.  This flu involved a nasty outbreak of full blown New-Left radicalism which buried asunder the old liberalism.  The fever eventually subsided and the patient recovered, but the 60’s generation, including the hippies, feminists, environmentalists and old counter-culturalists have become institutionalized in the media, academia, and in our culture.

During the current progressive administration, under the ascendency of racial issues (progressivism has been around much longer, obviously) the same 60’s groups are now forming larger voting blocs and more powerful lobbying and interest groups seeking to extend their reach through politics and culture.  Unions, feminists, rent-seekers, a few crony capitalists and environmentalists all benefit to the exclusion of many others.

All this during a near recession!

In short, conservatives have good reasons to think they are losing the culture wars, and some are thinking there is a larger vortex leading us towards Europe.  Detroit ruin porn, hipster culture, the isolated individual, the overall drift of culture, all have conspired to make this a darker time for conservative principles.

I have to admit that upon writing this, it’s clearer in my mind than ever that neither political party has all the answers to our problems, while many people are looking for political solutions to solve many of our problems on the old “greatness” model.  This will make for interesting times ahead.

***Meanwhile in Detroit, despite all this talk, it’s declaring bankruptcy.  We’ve got problems with municipal bond  defaults across the country.  Some reflection is necessary.

Poor Detroit:

————————

Related On This Site:  Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?… some people don’t want you to have the freedom to move to the suburbs and are attaching creativity to political goals: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized feminism, multiculturalism, moral relativism and environmentalism:  From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’

Full post here.  (including video link)

Detroit may have seen better days, and may have its problems, but is it to be seen through a tragic lens…as an artifact whose meaning is to be determined by young artists looking for a sense of community, social integration, and certain definition of “culture?”

Does it matter that much if these are the people currently adding value back to Detroit and willing to do the work?

Related On This Site: Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?… some people don’t want you to have the freedom to move to the suburbs and are attaching creativity to political goals: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’… From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar Man

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned City… Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.

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