Reflection

Initially when the course began I did not think there was much I wanted to expand or improve upon in terms of my writing. As my first response may have indicated I felt relatively prepared for this course. I am not saying that in the span of a few months  I have reached an epiphany and come to realize that I should completely alter my writing style or anything tremendously drastic, but I do recognize that certain aspects for my writing can be improved. In addition, I have identified some weak points in my writing and learned some useful rhetorical tools that will unquestionably improve my writing ability.

Reading for content is a skill that is vital to successfully understanding a text, in textbooks this skill is not utilized too often because it is factual but in this class key information is weaved in with similes, metaphors and examples. If this course has taught me one thing it is that the way the author presents an argument is directly correlated to how it is perceived and understood. Evidence, organization and writing styles vary between authors, the topics and the types of audience to which they appeal. My ability to better understand the types of arguments and rhetorical tools used by others has encouraged me to re-evaluate my own, I now try to incorporate a broader spectrum of rhetorical devices which I feel will help me grow as a writer.

In terms of revising I have not really changed the way I edit my papers, but more so I focus on slightly different things when editing. Prior to this class, as I said in Response 1, I put my focus more on grammatical errors and word choice however; I now realize that the overall organization of the paper is what is most important. Although what I write is coherent for the most part, proper organization helps to best get my point across. So my main focus now is to better organize my of my analysis’ and arguments. On another note, writing my paper in a way that will best suit an audience is thin line for me. I do not want to make my comments or analysis too simple so that others can readily understand them, but at the same time I do not want to alienate the audience by making this too contrived and infusing too much of my personal opinion and ideologies. I don’t consider my course of thinking as a negative thing in anyway, if anything I think it shows how much consideration a put towards the audience. I am positive that once I find a good balance between everything mentioned my writing will only improve further.

Sometimes the best decisions are the ones made on the spot. Flexibility is a key component to the writing process. Previously, whenever I wrote anything I always tried to construct everything as if it was a puzzle or as if everything had to be organized in an precise order. Even prior to this course knew that this was a weakness of mine, but this course has given me the opportunity to work on writing in a more flexible way. What I mean by this is that I recognize that the order in which I write things isn’t necessarily the most effective way to get my point across. A draft is a draft for a reason, it is designed to toyed with and be altered if necessary. As I recall for project two I had all the ideas I wanted to touch on in the paper, but with my English instructor’s constructive criticism I realized the need to bring in more effective examples to better support the claims I was making about the media trying the “sell” people certain lifestyles. As the course went on I find myself mixing around my paragraphs and allowing myself to change my initial ideas to serve my overall purpose.

Research plays a key role in bettering on argument, when executed correctly it adds a significant amount of support to claims being made. Therefore, being able to research efficiently and effectively is an important skill to have because it those facts and figures allow for the proper establishment of my personal ethos. Honestly, I feel of all aspects in regards to my writing this particular skill has changed the least because I still research in the same way or at least a very similar way as to when I started. Personally, I do feel that I am a relatively effective researcher and that the quotes I bring in directly correlate to the whatever issue I am discussing. I am also able to identify that although a quote maybe good, that was does not mean it has any importance to the paper, such as the following exert, “Every city faces problems, and more often than not the problems existing in a city can be found in all cities, such as in the case of blight. G.E. Breger notes, “…the city has ever been a paradox of splendor and squalor. Unmatched in magnificence among works of human endeavor, the city is also the site of appalling human misery, disorder, and decay. Much that is urban is indeed dismal and devoid of urbanity, and reproachfully odious to man. This which man would dispel form the city has come to be called urban blight” (Breger 369)” (Project 2). This was a quote that I  tried to work into my project four, but for some reason no matter how hard I tried I found myself writing around the quote rather than having the quote fit naturally into my paper. So I realized that as much as I loved the quote it just did not work within context of my paper. With the all the editing practice I’ve had throughout the class I have come to see that just because I like a quote, or a statement I make, if it isn’t effective in supporting my claims then it needs to be taken out.

The methods I use for research have evolved a bit from throughout this course but it can also be accredited to all the research I’ve had to do in other courses as well. Before I always tried to incorporate books into my papers, because I thought they would help better establish my ethos, but now I am aware that there are many academic sources available online. In addition, prior to this course I had never heard of Google Scholar, which is a shame because it is useful tool and helps filter out some of junk that sometimes appears in regular searches. Overall, I can honestly say that for almost every paper I’ve written during winter semester nine out ten have been based upon research found through online databases. The databases are easy to use on the more concise, whereas with books searching is more challenging because I have to skim one by one through each to see if they contain any information that pertains to my topic. Of all the databases I’ve use this year, JSTOR and Google Scholar have become the two most integral databases I use for research.

Context is vital to truly understand content. How a claim or agreement came about, who it applies to why the question is important, all of these things must be taken into consideration when reading or analyzing anything. Our class definitely hit on a lot of the tools or “tricks” used by a number of authors to get us to accept their arguments and I find it interesting to learn how they play the game. Because it gives us an idea on how we as writers should format our writings so that we can pull off the same things they do. In regards to using all the tools effectively I think I have a long way to go before things like, enthymemes, fallacies and satire flow naturally into my writing. However, that is the goal and hopefully sometimes soon these things will come more naturally.

Writing styles vary from one to another, the methods and tools used in different content vary as well. The course has allowed exposed me to a number of key moves that can be used to make arguments more effective, some of which I was unfamiliar with, while others I used in my writing unknowingly. One of my personal favorite rhetoric tools I’ve learned to better utilize is exigence, which is when a topic, action, idea, problem and so on bring about the need for communication. One example in which I brought in exgience, “Again, we see here that the problem of combat blight isn’t so much about a lack of action, but a result of many bureaucratic agencies acting against each other. They all view blight differently and believe in different courses of action. It is clear that in order for any true progress to be made, the people and all levels of government must cooperate in order to change the city for the common good” (Project 4). I don’t directly come our and say that we needs to communicate with the government to get things done, but it is implied and often times ideas have more of effect when people come to the conclusion themselves. Writing arguments is about having impact on an audience and persuading them to act, and I consider leading toward the answer, rather than giving them the answer is the most effective build-up toward a proposal.

Lastly, the most important factor to having a successful argument is having had an accurate analysis of the idea, topic or term. Analyses should give the audience a clear understanding of what the item being analyzed is about, and how it relates to them. My first attempt at analyzing was a Smirnoff featuring socialite Amber Rose, first of all a gave the overall meaning and purpose of the video, “Smirnoff’s commercial for their new flavored vodka, features Amber Rose: a high-profile American model, actress and socialite. She is shown enjoying two different types of Smirnoff vodka, Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream; however, both scenes have the same main point: drinking Smirnoff’s flavored vodka is tasty and fun. In both cases Amber Rose is shown in extravagant clothing at wild over the top parties. She is enjoying herself and living a superfluous life. Using an idol like Amber Rose establishes ethos, or creditability, because a socialite like herself is surely credited with knowing first-hand what an extravagant lifestyle is like. Vodka in this case is a shown as a source of her happiness, and therefore, viewers are encouraged to go out and buy this vodka because it is worth it. Happiness is just a bottle away it would appear. Lifestyles and happiness can be bought by anyone nowadays, as long as they are willing to pay the price”. I then bring in my analysis of the effects this has on an audience, “Unfortunately, a number of people’s mindsets and morals have become corrupt to the point where some honestly, look up to the types of individuals I mentioned above. Though this is not to generalize and say that everyone is equally swayed or if at all swayed by the standard of living set by highly paid business men and entertainment stars. A large number of people, however, are affected by the propaganda put out by advertising companies. The audience’s vulnerability towards marketing ploys is based largely off of society and its views on the standards of living. Society has long been on the path of superficiality and materialism, and it has had very adverse effects on society. Our undeniable craving for material goods and luxurious lifestyles makes us susceptible to the ploys of marketing companies everywhere…As people who thirst after status, wealth and entertainment we are susceptible to influences of people and products that promise us the world. After a close analysis of the Smirnoff it is clear that the ad capitalizes on and promotes the audiences sensual and material desires, exploiting them in order to sell their product and the lifestyle associated with it.”(Project 1). In this analysis it can be seen that I began to understand the need to bring in large complex ideas to explain the underlying persuasive techniques used by advertisement companies.

The second analysis our class did dealt with analyzing someone else’s fully developed argument. In my case it was analyzing Chuck Klotserman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, in which he examines some of the pitfalls of pop culture. Throughout the paper I analysis each argument, further breaking them down to their core purpose. I concluded the paper with main points of both my paper and Klosternman’s book, “Society has a multitude of downfalls, some of which are discussed in Klosterman’s Manifesto, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs for example the misconception of how power plays into relationships, the alterations of the truth, the loss of individuality and identity for the sake of conformity. A relative flaw with Klosterman’s book us that though it discusses a number of important issues it does not offer any proposal or solutions to these problems, which is one reason why it seems to fall sort in terms of being a manifesto. The author’s intention seems to focus more on enlightening the masses and encouraging them to become socially aware. In addition, though Klosterman pokes fun at a number of irregularities in society but he does not take a firm side on every, if any, of the issues instead he keeps himself somewhat detached as if to not directly influence the audience with his bias. The only concrete stance he takes is that he is just as guilty as everyone else in terms of contributing to the social and perhaps moral downturns of society. After all he concludes his book with this quote: “I’m hoping all those nuns were right: I’m angling for purgatory, and I’m angling hard” (243). In end Klosterman’s goal is to have us all recognize that society has many issues and we all contribute to them, it is important that we accept the fact that we’re not all that different and that we all share the blame for society’s social decline. It is this level of honestly and directness that allow the book to be effectively raw and insightful. Klosterman’s book tells it like it is. It is essentially all his claims and “truths” about society completely uncensored.” (Project 2). Personally, this is definitely one of favorite concluding paragraphs. It is clear and understandable, but it also shows a understanding of complex ideas and makes valid claims as to the flaws of Klosterman’s argument. Going from project one to project two it clear that my ability to breakdown ideas and arguments have unquestionably improved.

Overall, this semester I feel I’ve strengthened my writing ability because I now write more consciously. Meaning before I often unintentional did certain moves without knowing why I did them, let alone what they were called. Now, however, I better understand what I’m doing when I write an argument, why I do certain moves, how to better play up my strengths and minimize my mistakes and fallacies. So I honestly say, for me, it has been a pretty successful semester.

Blight: Detroit’s Image Problem

Urban blight is an issue that has serious effects the future. In order for true change to made against blight, especially here in Detroit, the public must become more politically and socially aware. Anyone can go and say they understand the problem, even a child is able to say that something should be done. But who is out there doing something? For the most part no one is. It is easy to blame the recession and governmental corruption for all the problems in Detroit, but truthfully so many factors contributed Detroit’s decline. Citizens chose to give up when city life began to get tough, they packed up and drove away. People from the suburbs often complain about having to live near a corrupt, dirty, fallen city, but I am certain next to none have actually tried to invoke any change in the city. So for all of those people complaining about city problems, its time to take action, this is for everyone, especially the youth who are sick of hearing about how dangerous Detroit  is and who want to make a difference. This is for the people who wish to be aware about just what urban blight is and how it has eaten away at our city. The city of Detroit brings the effects of de-industrialization, civic disengagement, urban sprawl and flight into sharp relief. For everyone who believes in the future you must first reflect on the past, take an objective look at the present and think long hard about the future, because for any change to be made we must all take action.

Within the last month Mayor Bing gave the State of the City address none of the proposals were really anything new and truthfully, at this point the idea do not mean much because a more serious course of action has been taken by state. As of April 1st Detroit’s city council had been given a deadline to approve a deal backed by Mayor Bing with Rick Snyder. If the city council does not approve of the deal the Snyder can legally appoint an “emergency manager”. The public and city unions are pressuring the council to reject the deal with the state, but in doing so the council will likely lose its power if Snyder ends up appointing an emergency manager (Isidore). One draft, which Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis felt was largely acceptable, left a number of council members were disappointed, particularly with lack of cash assistance the city would receive from the state. Because with the way things are going, Detroit is on track to run out of money to operate in sometime May (Landon). Again, we see here that the problem of combat blight isn’t so much about a lack of action, but a result of many bureaucratic agencies acting against each other. They all view blight differently and believe in different courses of action. It is clear that in order for any true progress to be made, the people and all levels of government must cooperate in order to change the city for the common good. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as of April 5th the city accepted the deal with the state and Detroit is slated to undergo a number of revitalization projects for the foreseeable future.

The United States once stood proudly as the leading example of democracy, economic stability and growth. Now, it stands as a reminder to the rest of the world, the effects of deindustrialization and consequences of when the government stops working in the interests of its citizens. By these standards no city is a better example than Detroit, a city once driven by industry, with one of the most rapidly growing economies in the 1900s. The city is now riddled with vacant lots, homeowners have fled to suburbs, educational systems have declined as a result of a dwindling tax base and blight continues to eat away at the city remains urban blight results from a failing economy, a lack of human responsibility and ineffective policies, the solution lies in the depends not only on institutional change, but also individual agency.

An issue in combating blight is the uncertainty of how it should be defined and distinguished. Classifying a region as “blighted” is difficult because there exists no precise way to measure it. Blight may be perceived in a different way depending on the individual and situation, “…no systematic analysis has been made by geographers of differential perception of visual pollution on a large scale…There are two basic reasons why we might expect perceptions to vary…first is differential exposure. The second is differences in “taste””(Bales 372). People who grow up around abandoned homes and businesses do not know any differently, and to them blighted areas may seem normal. In other cases individuals may not see the problem with having graffiti and dilapidated buildings here and there.  Lewis and Meinig, of the American Association of Geographers, are working to establish a sound methodological base to transform the study of blight within “the purview of science” (Bales 373). The better our understanding of blight, its causes and how to characterize it, the closer society will be to affectively combating it. As such, this research contributes to an understanding of urban blight as a socioeconomic problem that has a multitude of causes and effects. It also suggests that it may be possible to approach the problem of blight in “the purview of science” but it is a challenge to diagnose this in many respects.

Though the term “urban blight” appears vague, its expansiveness allows it to encompass the escalating number of severe problems presently plaguing American cities. Vacant and abandoned properties occupy one-tenth of the total developed land in “seriously distressed” (Brachman) urban areas; in some Midwestern capitals, rates have skyrocketed: Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and St. Louis endure vacancies of nearly 20% (Brachman). In the wake of the mortgage crisis, three million homeowners suffer foreclosure annually, transforming one of every thirteen properties in some areas from manicured homes into abandoned eyesores (United States, Addressing). In Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, El Paso, Memphis, and Miami, over one-quarter of residents subsist below the poverty line (Mix), and this struggle afflicts the city as a whole.

Nationally, the level of blight has increased across the country. Especially here is Michigan, which was hit the hardest by the decline of the automotive industry. Citizens fled cities  and moved to the suburbs, where the remaining jobs settled. Detroit was once one of the most profitable cities in America, decades later, due to unequal income distribution, racial tensions and declining automotive industry, it has been stripped of it former glory and abandoned buildings remain. These developments have paralyzed American metropolises, allowing lethal plagues of blight to infiltrate streets once flowing with capital. With declining tax bases, cities suffer limitations on urban services and improvement projects. City-funded services like sanitation, landscaping, and beautification efforts decline, neighborhoods increasingly fall into distress, and residents utilize unoccupied properties as repositories for trash and illegal activity. Alongside the hopelessness inflicted by unrelieved years in decaying neighborhoods, situational factors effectively institutionalize blight into the fabric of modern urban society.

On a regional level, cities throughout Michigan including Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Pontiac experience extreme urban blight, with intensive efforts required to reverse this trend, as affliction rates have remained steady over time (Bond). Michigan was known for its centrality in the auto industry, with key factories located throughout the state. With the severe industrial downturn, thousands of people have suffered unemployment. Needing to provide for their families, former autoworkers have had to leave the city in favor of areas with open job markets, generally in rapidly expanding suburban areas (Roelofs). While suburbs experience growth, cities have been contracting socially and geographically while acquiring a suburban stigma: to residents in the outer districts, the city has become a dangerous den of depravity, a place to be avoided if possible.

Often forgotten, however, is the fact that buildings fail to disappear along with the population, but instead remain abandoned and neglected – a serious safety and lifestyle hazard to remaining city occupants. Tenantless buildings throughout Michigan serve as source of concern and shame, as they decrease property values and promote a negative image of the state as a whole (Bond). Dilapidated, abandoned homes “create the perception that the neighborhood [lacks] a future” (Bond), even though, in actuality, the problem could be rectified with proper funding and equipment for demolition; the real estate could then be used for community projects. Undesirable areas in Michigan also “attract vandalism, scavengers, and people…[un]interested in the neighborhood” (Bond) that therefore possess no qualms about inflicting irreversible damage to once-redeemable structures. Should these lots continue to sit vacant, Michigan’s property values will likewise decrease, and the businesses able to stimulate the economy will relocate to more vitalized regions.

In the same vein, Detroit, being a place where de-industrialization, communal apathy, and urban sprawl have come to life, serves as a prime example of industry’s ability at its peak, to bring prosperity and security to a region, and to take entire cities with it as it falls. The city once shone as the leader of the automotive industry, an urban landscape alive with businesses and workers. Now, instead of bustling sidewalks and thriving businesses, the lonely streets of Detroit lay lined with abandoned buildings. Kevin Boyle writes, “Detroit has long been a city of extremes. In the first half of the twentieth century, it became modernity’s great tool room, its vast industrial complex the envy of the world. Since the late 1960s it has become the nation’s symbol of urban decay” (Boyle 109). Detroit has fallen into a state of ruin, as blight progressively consumes the city. In the history of the United States, no city has experienced such fantastic growth and equally drastic decay as Detroit, the nation’s most tragic, most American city.

With the arrival of the media spotlight, Detroit’s woes have been nationally illuminated. In 2001 the one third of Detroit residents lived below the poverty level, the highest among the U.S major cities (Boyle 110). The depth of the crisis beleaguering the housing market became clear in mid-2008, when a single-family two-story East Side home sold for only $1, whereas just two years earlier, the same house would likely have been valued at $65,000 (Watson and Moore). Since that time, the number of abandoned homes has risen astronomically; in March 2010, Detroit encompassed over 40 square miles of vacant property, and the number has undoubtedly continued to rise (“Detroit”). Businesses routinely shut their doors and companies ship jobs overseas, leaving many workers displaced as education levels and property values hit an all-time low – such is the harsh reality staring down the citizens of Detroit. Prosperity has packed its bags and found a new home, while poverty has arrived for an extended visit.

Social and economic collapse does not occur without cause, which leaves many people scrabbling to identify the factors catalyzing Detroit’s turning point. In the city, racial tensions have exacted a significant toll, as has educational decline, and other social forces such as inequalities in profit distribution and the rise of an unskilled, readily replaceable workforce. Cognizant of these issues yet trapped in its own cumulative causation web, Detroit struggles to find the resources and manpower needed to revitalize the city.

Detroit has a major problem of population loss – the city has continually declined in population, especially within the past ten years, suffering the most severe loss of all major American cities. Now considered only a midsize metropolitan area, Detroit was once the fourth largest city in the United States, home to nearly two million people (Gray). In a city built to house millions of residents, mass depopulation of the past fifty years has proven devastating, resulting in abandoned, decaying homes.

Detroit’s blight issues intensified further in the wake of the 1967 riots; up until that time, racial tensions had been slowly mounting in the city, and the riots served to ignite the “white flight” to the suburbs, again hastening the city’s decline (Herron). In the subsequent years of the Coleman Young administration, political tensions and feelings of alienation drove a significant portion of the middle and upper class populations out of Detroit, causing a severe setback in the revitalization of the city (Gray). Today, with just three quarters of a million people, Detroit is plagued by the relics of a dying society: entire neighborhoods stand as gaping zones of destroyed and forsaken houses, further exacerbating the crisis of plummeting home values. Abandonment and blight, accompanied by arson and vandalism, rule the city.

It is with all of this in mind that one comes close to understanding the complexities of blight, its causes, effects and the issue in finding an effective way to deal with the problem. The struggle against blight is one that Detroit has yet to be overcome. The City efforts are lacking the necessary funds and planning, states efforts are being fought against by city residents, no one is winning and therefore, nothing is being solved. A major issue with establishing effective policies regarding blight lies in the fact that to get anything done in a bureaucratic society everyone has to jump through hoops. Luckily, some citizens have realized this and taken matters into their own hands. Small scale efforts, have begun to help get things done and actually make a difference in Detroit communities. It is thanks to the individual efforts of Detroit citizens that hope remains.

Urban blight is clearly a threat to the well-being of this city and its citizens. It leads to a negative perception of the city and takes on a toll on the mindsets of city occupants. The key to creating change in the city is making the public realize how important it is become more politically and socially aware. Yes a lot of the problems are due to the recession and yes government corruption further contributes to these problems in Detroit, but what has anyone really done to try and fix it? Everyone loves to point out how messed up things are, well then maybe it is time we all do something about it.  So for everyone who is sick of hearing about how messed up the city is let’s work together and try to change it. Citizens need to start taking action if they want to see change and more emphasis should be put on educating the youth about relief efforts.

Although defining  blight is a topic controversy, the greater debate lies in how the problem can be solved. A number of individuals feel that the only way to truly eliminate blight is from the top down. These individuals wish to see a change in the policies used to deal with blight. Opponents of this, believe change must begin from the bottom up, because to them the only way to effectively change blight in communities is by getting people in these and surrounding communities to care enough to evoke change themselves. The way they see it, the government was designed for the people and if the people truly want change and make an effort towards change then the government has to follow suit. This debate unfortunately, divides individuals into two groups those who want to see institutional change and those who want to see stronger community involvement. It’s this difference in opinion that has slowed the fight against blight.

Despite various efforts to eradicate blight, it continues to plague countless cities across the nation. The struggle against blight is one that Detroit has yet to overcome. Eminent domain was/is one policy tried but failed to show any significant results. Smaller scale efforts, however, have achieved better results.  In October 1988, West Side Detroiter John George decided to fight the decay slowly pervading his city. Initially dedicated to guarding neighborhoods against arson and vandalism, George’s project expanded to other revitalization efforts in the Detroit community. His realization that abandoned houses were being used as havens for drugs prompted efforts to board up vacant properties (“About”), leading to successful eradication of neighborhood drug trades. After recruiting volunteers, George founded Motor City Blight Busters, with a mission to stabilize, revitalize, and repopulate the city of Detroit.

Since its inception, Blight Busters has demolished over 300 decaying homes, in addition to beautifying and constructing close to 750 other buildings (Spencer). Volunteers devote hours to tearing down the city’s broken homes, creating urban gardens in the cleared space to add aesthetic beauty to the area and raise home values. Recent initiatives include the Artist Village, a community center for the arts, and the Motor City Java House, a community-oriented café (“Ongoing”). Each individual Blight Busters project constitutes another cobblestone in the path the city paves for its future. Detroit needs more citizens like this, people willing to put in the time and effort to improve the city. Blight arises from society’s inability to adapt to the changing times, and the only way to combat it by going out and fulfilling our societal responsibilities. Whether it is by volunteering or creating effective policies both are key components to making a change and in conjunction with one another they are vital steps towards defeating blight.

Funding is an obvious necessity that the city must acquire. At this point however, it is doubtful whether or not such funding can come from the state. In other words it may be time to stop depending on the government and public funds to help revitalize communities. Private partnerships, benefactors and private Grants are a few alternatives to solve the cities financial problems. Unfortunately, finding businesses willing to invest in the city is a challenge within itself.

As the city continues to decline despite honest efforts to revitalize Detroit, the city and its citizens are faces with a serious question. What can be done with the miles of empty vacant lots? “Some suggest the city embrace much larger interventions — large-scale urban agriculture or huge fields of solar panels. But city government — underfunded, understaffed and risk-averse — has hesitated to approve any of the larger proposals. Even so, many Detroiters have been quietly remaking the cityscape on their own, even without official blessing” (Gallagher). It is clear that city some occupants have taken the initiative and begun to put the abandoned lots in Detroit to good use on their own accord. However, a number of these urban gardens, and other repurposed land developments are unofficial and therefore undocumented by the city. John George of Blight Busters made this statement in response to a similar statement, “As long as we don’t start bringing in lambs and horses and cows, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with that” (Gallagher). George definitely has a point, if the land is going to left to rot, there should be no reason to not give it to individuals who hope to create something beneficial for the community with it. This of course is simply one possible (local) way to help utilize the abandoned properties in Detroit. A number of other city models exist throughout the world and they are worth looking into as they may also help us find the best mode of securing our city and saving it from further blight.

Detroit and other U.S cities are not the only ones facing the issue of blight, a number of cities across the world have had to face a similar issues in terms of repurposing formally industrial land. One country that has seen a similar intercity decline after deindustrialization is England. However, their efforts, though at times similar to our own, have been proven to be more of a success. In the UK, private developers handle a majority of the redevelopment of formally industrial regions,

“One study estimates that private developers initiate 75 percent of all redevelopment projects in the UK. To help spur additional private sector investment, developers can take advantage of tax credits for remediation costs…This program should be familiar with American practitioners, as it resembles the federal “Brownsfields Tax Incentive” originally adopted in 1997 and found in Section 198 of the Internal Revenue Code…These national government goals in brownfields redevelopment are supported by strong local government role in environmental cleanup and urban planning. Local government identifies contaminated lands, determines responsibility for site cleanup, establishes remediation requirements and maintains the public registry of related orders. Through their planning and permitting powers, local government can coordinate cleanup with future land uses, thereby ensuring that remediated properties are suitable for the contemplated site use…” (“Executive”).

Clearly the UK is doing things a bit differently then here is the U.S, especially Detroit. In the city of Detroit the issue of handled largely by city government, in a far more inefficient manner. City government has a tough time identifying areas at risk of being blighted and struggle to handle it in the most efficient way. Eminent domain as mentioned before was a method by which the city acquired blighted land from owners and redistributed it to owners who the believed will make proper use of it, but these procedures were difficult to regulate and in many cases the power was abused for personal agendas. With power comes corruption. “The stated goal of the urban renewal program was to provide a means for public/private partnerships in urban development. But renewal programs were controlled by a small number of real estate interests and politicians who used the power of eminent domain to reorganize urban land” (Pritchett 5). One of most famous cases of eminent domain was here in Detroit it involved the construction of the General Motors plant. The plant was to be built on the racially diverse, working class neighborhood of Poletown (which all agreed was not blighted) members of the neighborhood opposed the idea but the city government and labor unions all supported the project. It cost the city 200 million dollars to acquire and prepare the property, only for it to be sold to General Motors for 8 million. In ideal cases regulatory policies are intended to protect the rights of the public by limiting the power of a select few, but in the case of Detroit it is further displaced. Theoretically speaking the idea of taking property from owner that do nothing productive with the property sounds like a good idea. However, if driven by private interests it can create more of a deficit than a renewal. The city government needs to take a little more responsibility and if necessary officials need to be replaced if they can not uphold the utmost integrity and objectivity. Using the UK as an example, it is clear that a possible solution for eliminating  would be a precise process in identifying blight, analyzing what is needed for the recovery and allowing for private sector investment. All of these actions involve changes on a policy level, which unfortunately at this time may not yet be within our scope of power. However, as students of Wayne State and citizens of Detroit we can focus our attention on evoking more community involvement among the youth and working in partnership with non-profit organizations to improve Detroit.

First off, as a part of Detroit Wayne State needs to educate all its students on how to help the city, so my proposal for the school is to introduce a new course (similar to the PS 1010 offered through the honors college) to the curriculum, “Step Up: Detroit” would be a class offered to all Wayne State students, it would qualify for honors credit and fulfill any service learning requirement. Students would select a section based on a city issue they want to learn about such as blight, healthcare, greening, nutrition etc., and collaborate with different non-profit organizations within the city. For the first month and a half students would learn about their problem and for the rest of the semester they would work weekly with their organizations, and meet monthly as a class. At the end of the semester classes will give presentations on their topic, what they learned from the service experience and a needs assessment, to a different class. The class would offer students a long-term first hand experience in city relief efforts, the opportunity to learn from one another and most importantly help the Detroit community. Making small steps now will lay the necessary foundation for the future, which is to the key to successfully changing the city. The American economy and society is constantly changing, as should policies. Policies are meant to meet the needs of the people, therefore, they must be flexible and if they no longer work they need to be removed. Our best chance at anticipating the future is by educating and empowering the youth of today.

The second course of action would be the elimination of bureaucratic control over funds given to non-profit organizations by the federal government. John George, the founder of Motor City Blight Busters here in Detroit, when asked about why he does not take government funding had this to say, “Well I shouldn’t say that we never do or wouldn’t,  but we try not too because there’s too many strings attached. Basically they want you to spend five dollars on something I could do for a buck and a half, you know  just a lot of taxpayers money being wasted. Also the other thing is there are too many middlemen sometimes the money goes to the state they take their cut, then it goes the city they take their cut and then it goes the county they take their cut  and by the time it gets to the non-profit group doing all the work there is nothing left. Personally and professionally if the federal government wanted to give money to Blight Busters we’d be interested in doing that but we’ve got to cut out all the red tape, all the middlemen, all the wasted money”  (George). It is clear that bureaucracy is major setback in the fight against blight, however, at this point the feasibility of Wayne State students evoking policy change on a larger scale is very slim. The idea of working from the top down is a option that is simply not available to us at this time.

On the other hand working from the bottom up allows all of us students here at Wayne State to have significant power, within a limited scope. An institution like Wayne State is the perfect place to start a movement towards a creating a more active and engaging youth here in Detroit. If enough students come together then a group can be created that would focus on the needs of Detroit, it could network with other groups within Wayne State, and through peoplemovers (a site similar to Facebook, but for non-profit organizations) they group could build relationships with some of Detroit’s major non-profit organizations. Finally, once the group has grown and relationships between Wayne State University and surrounding NGOs has further strengthened students can petition to have “Step Up: Detroit” added as course available to all Wayne State focusing on intercity problems, providing all students the opportunity and the much needed experience of working with non-profit groups to solve not only the issue of blight but a number of issues that this city currently faces. Institution change on the city level may not be within our power but working to improve Wayne State’s relationship and involvement with the rest of the city will ultimately bring about the change we want to see in the city.

Work Cited

“About Blight Busters.” Blight Busters. Blight Busters, 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

“Executive Summary International Brownsfields Redevelopment .” N.p., 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <https://connect.wayne.edu/service/home/~/International_Brownfields_Summary.pdf?auth=co&loc=en_US&id=62300&part=5&gt;.

Bales, Kevin. “Determinants in the Perceptions of Visual Blight.” Human Ecology 13.3 Sept. (1985): 371-387. JSTOR. Web. 3 Mar. 2012.

Bond, Vince. “Michigan Communities Seek Federal Help to Target Urban Blight.” Online posting. Capital News Service. Michigan State University, 14 Nov. 2009. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Boyle, Kevin. “The Ruins of Detroit: Exploring the Urban Crisis in the Motor City.” Michigan Historical Review 27.1 (2001): 109-27. Web. 2 Mar. 2012.

Brachman, Lavea. “Vacant and Abandoned Property: Remedies for Acquisition and Redevelopment.” Land Lines. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Oct. 2005. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Breger, G E. “The Concept and Cause of Urban Blight.” Land Economics 43.4 Nov. (1967): 369-76. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Gallagher, John. “With their city shrinking, many Detroiters use empty lots to grow gardens.” Detroit Free Press 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <http://www.freep.com/article/20120409/BUSINESS06/204090356/With-their-city-shrinking-many-Detroiters-use-empty-lots-to-grow-gardens&gt;.

George, John. Personal Interview. 16 April 2012.

Gray, Steven. “Vanishing City: The Story Behind Detroit’s Shocking Population Decline.” Time NewsFeed. Time Magazine, 24 Mar. 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Herron, Jerry. “How Did We Get to Northland?” HON 1000. Wayne State University, Detroit. 15

Nov. 2011. Lecture.

Isidore, Chris. “Detroit faces state takeover threat.” CNN 4 Apr. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. <http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/04/news/economy/detroit-state-takeover/?source=cnn_bin&gt;.

Landon, Simon. “Detroit Consent Agreement Vote Could Come From City Council.” Huffpost Detroit 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/02/detroit-consent-agreement_n_1396164.html&gt;.

Mix, Wende. The Geography of Urban Poverty. Publication. Buffalo State College, 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Ongoing Blight Buster Events.” Blight Busters. Blight Busters, 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Pritchett, Wendell E. “The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain.” Yale Law & Policy Review 21.1 (2003): 1-52. Web. 2 Mar. 2012.

Roelofs, Ted. “Grand Rapids, West Michigan Suburbs Both Lead Nation in Growth of Residents in Poverty.” The Grand Rapids Press 20 Jan. 2010. M Live. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Tavernise, Sabrina. “Minorities Lead Growth in Biggest Cities.” The New York Times. 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

United States. Bureau of Justice Assistance. Center for Court Innovation. Addressing Foreclosed and Abandoned Properties. By Roxann Pals. Bureau of Justice Assistance, Apr. 2010. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Watson, Debra, and Anne Moore. “Housing Crisis Accelerates Blight in Detroit Neighborhoods.” World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International, 21 Oct. 2008. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Wilson, Carter. Public Policy: Continuity and Change. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005. 12. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs* (an analysis of an analysis)

Over the past few decades pop culture has constantly evolved or as some may argue has gone through a state of “de-evolution”. It can be difficult to recognize there has been a clear change between the ideologies of past generations and our own. In Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman argues a number of claims about the many pitfalls of society such as the use of power in relationships, the manipulation of truth, the cultural need to be identifiable and the desire individuals have to fit in. Klosterman establishes ethos with by using his own personal experiences, giving his claims more authenticity. He critically analyzes a number of issues and brings in useful comparisons to draw our attention to the social issues our society faces, his analytical tone gives the book a raw feel and his accuracy allows readers pick up on his main arguments.

As a writer and essayist, Chuck Klosterman has written for a number of newspapers and published multiple books and American pop culture. Witty, sarcastic and dangerously blunt, Klosterman has no problem hitting the issues many of us are aware of but choose to ignore. He engages readers by proposing ideological and social questions. Opposed to the classical way for discussing and analyzing societal problems Klosterman offers a playful, raw alternative way to engage oneself in the social problems facing our society. Chuck Klosterman’s book can appeal both to the youth and certainly to individuals who are socially aware. Readers, however, must keep an open mind that Klosterman’s views are not necessarily the only way to perceive these problems, but they certainly a possibility.  Sex, Drug and Cocas Puffs is an accurate analysis of pop culture laced with humor and of course the not too lovely truth about our present society.

In a note to his audience, Chuck Klosterman briefly mentions the ideas he plans on discussing, but more importantly he gives us a quick glimpse of his writing style: “There are two ways to looks at life. Actually that is not accurate; I suppose there are thousands of ways to look at life. But I tend to dwell on two of them”. He starts of by telling us exactly how he views things but at the same time he acknowledges the fact that other people may or not may see things the same way. A vast majority of the book has this same sort of contradictory or at times sarcastic tone to it that makes reading the book all the more interesting. He assures the reader that though his methods may be unconventional, the claims he makes are relevant and are supported by examples. His purpose for writing this, and many of his other non-fiction books, is to share his opinions on culture and his experience with it. For individuals looking to better understand pop culture in a more contemporary sense, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs is a useful tool to help familiarize oneself with some of the basic arguments concerning pop culture.

Relationships are the basis of a successful society – the interactions we have with those around us, whether good or bad, determine who we are and who we become. One of the most determinant relationships we have would be romantic relationships. The type of person you choose to have by your side reflects the kind of person you are. Klosterman, however, focuses on the claim that the way people currently choose their partners is severely flawed. When Klosterman says, “The problem is that the Harry-Met-Sally situation is almost always tragically unbalanced…Inevitably, one of the people has been in love with the other from the first day they met,  while the other person is either (a) wracked with guilt and pressure, or (b) completely oblivious to the espoused attraction” (9). By saying this he means analyze the way some relationships truly are and how each person is that relationship plays a different role depending on their feelings, comparing that to how a relationship is portrayed in When Harry Met Sally.  He establishes ethos by using his own past relationships as an example of how romantic acts are really just power moves in a much bigger game.  He argues that media influences such as movies like “When Harry Met Sally” have created an environment in which people have absurd expectations about relationships. People are conditioned to believe that as long as they have faith everything will work out, but this is a lie. Of course there are times when two people share mutual feelings which is a beautiful thing, but there are also cases in which one party is bound to get hurt. Because in real relationships the scale is always tilted in one person’s favor. Klosterman makes this claim: “Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less” (9). The media downplays the struggles that occur in relationship because in most cases movies have a happy ending. Reality does not. This is one flaw in American’s mindsets, we consistently believe in happy endings.

It has often been said that history is written by the victors and what they believe to be true ultimately becomes a fact. Every story has more than one side to it, but we have all been conditioned to make it so that the “truth” is what we believe it to be. Klosterman on the other hand attempts to give us a more challenging or versatile definition for “truth” that better fits the context in which it is now used. In Sex, Drugs and Cocoas Puffs, Klosterman states, “Life is rarely about what happened; it’s mostly about what we think happened”. As a result of the multitude of media outlets with varying bias, people’s personal views and interpretations of the truth is obscured. Klosterman focuses on news outlets, along with writers and how they portray the truth. He makes a point to tell us that the truth is not twisted on purpose, it a result of a faulty system.  “It’s not that the truth is being ignored; it’s just that the truth is inevitably combined with a bunch of crap that’s supposed to make news stories unbiased and credible, but really just makes them longer and less clear” (209). This statement, to the rhetorically aware, makes sense because at times the truth can be hard to handle. People do not always want the whole truth because it makes them face too harsh a reality or in other cases it is not interesting enough. However, the greatest downfall of our truth system is that a story can be altered and passed around enough times until it is accepted as the truth.  In a society that shares information and leaves everything up to individual interpretation no complete truth can ever exist.

As children, our parents often told us to always stay true to who we are, but as we grow up we realize that this is not always possible. Colors no longer exists, unique is replaced with uniform, until people can no longer recognize themselves. Klosterman states, “Being interesting has been replaced by being identifiable”. Creativity is no longer valued the way in once was because people can no longer comprehend or accept things that they see as unexpected or out of the ordinary. People are constantly trying to fit in and in doing so everyone is consistently changing themselves to be like someone else until everyone is essentially the same. Being unique and creative is important, that is the problem. Klosterman uses Saved by the Bell, an NBC sitcom that ran from 1989 to 1993 and centered around six high school teens, as an example:  “It’s like I said before: Important things are inevitably cliché. Zack’s relationship with Belding – his niece – was just too creative, and bad television is supposed be reassuring. Nobody needs it to be interesting” (141-142). Klosterman made this argument in 2003, but is still holds true today. People watch reality shows like “Housewives of (fill in blank)” and “Jersey Shore” because they are predictable, you can figure out what is going to happen even before watching; there is no thinking involved. Americans do not like to be out smarted; they like to think that they have control over the things that happen around them.  Therefore, they enjoy predictability, calculability and routine because these things are familiar, they are safe. In maintaining the American ideal of having control over ourselves and our surroundings we have sacrificed our individuality. No one wants to be interesting – they just want be identifiable.

As the need for conformity and a homogenous society grows individuals often lose themselves in the crowd. Throughout Klosterman’s self-proclaimed manifesto he consistently brings up the argument of how authentic people don’t truly exist anymore, some examples would be, “Do you know people who insist they like ‘all kinds of music’? That actually means they like no kinds of music”, “Real people are actively trying to live like fake people, so real people are no less fake” (4-6), “Saved by the Bell wasn’t real, but neither is most reality” (147). In the past few decades, and perhaps even before then, American society has gotten more and more superficial, more “fake”. We have become a people who are vapid and shallow. Because society is not accepting towards individuals who do not conform to what has been deemed as socially acceptable.

Society has a multitude of downfalls, some of which are discussed in Klosterman’s Manifesto, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs for example the misconception of how power plays into relationships, the alterations of the truth, the loss of individuality and identity for the sake of conformity.

A relative flaw with Klosterman’s book us that though it discusses a number of important issues it does not offer any proposal or solutions to these problems, which is one reason why it seems to fall sort in terms of being a manifesto. The author’s intention seems to focus more on enlightening the masses and encouraging them to become socially aware. In addition, though Klosterman pokes fun at a number of irregularities in society but he does not take a firm side on every, if any, of the issues instead he keeps himself somewhat detached as if to not directly influence the audience with his bias. The only concrete stance he takes is that he is just as guilty as everyone else in terms of contributing to the social and perhaps moral downturns of society. After all he concludes his book with this quote: “I’m hoping all those nuns were right: I’m angling for purgatory, and I’m angling hard” (243). In end Klosterman’s goal is to have us all recognize that society has many issues and we all contribute to them, it is important that we accept the fact that we’re not all that different and that we all share the blame for society’s social decline. It is this level of honestly and directness that allow the book to be effectively raw and insightful. Klosterman books tells it like it is. It is essentially all his claims and “truths” about society completely uncensored.

 


Hello world!

Hey =)

It’ll take while for me to get this blog going and figure out exactly what is going to be so I hope everyone is patient with me.

The first two writings you’ll find on me are my evaluation and proposal arguments on urban blight in Detroit. Both, in my opinion, are relatively well written  the first one offering an overview of but blight is and its contentions. Secondly, you  have my proposal argument in which I touch on a few things that can be improved so that the issue of blight in Detroit can be solved more efficiently. Now, I’m not saying that the methods I discuss are the only ways that have been tried or the only ones that should be tried, I’m simply offering a few of what I consider the most feasible courses of actions. If you disagree that’s fine because my intention is not to impose anything on anyone, it simply to offer my take on the topic whether you  agree or not, but more importantly I hope you care. I hope you care enough to do something and act on whatever feeling you get when you read these arguments, so long as your feeling isn’t complete boredom.

These arguments are intended to target the youth of Detroit, prompting them to act and salvage the remains of this once thriving city. Although the key audience is the youth these arguments and proposals can really be applied to any Detroit citizen.  The topic of blight is universal to all cities, so really the possible solutions for urban blight in Detroit can be applied to other cities as well. So truthfully, in the end these two pieces are designed to target those who unaware or indifferent to the problem of blight and prompt them to act and work to help build a better community for all.

Ultimately, my intention is have this blog include a little bit of everything. It is about the world, about music, literature, politics etc. For all the oddly placed quotes on bathroom stalls, all the wacky theme songs of the world and all the chalk on the sidewalk. This blog is aimed (but not limited to) empowering the youth towards making a difference in their community. Basically, I want people who come here for no particular, reason to leave caring about something. Whether it is blight, hunger, education or the inspirational quotes of the sidewalk. I hope that this blog does something whether that is helping keep people informed or getting a rise out of people who disagree with the ideas brought up on this blog. Whatever the case may be the purpose of this blog is simply to spread knowledge and hopefully, have fun doing it.

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