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My Uncle Gunshot

By       Message Sandra Lindberg     Permalink
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One evening on his way home from work, he saw an elderly woman get her purse snatched. Ignoring the warning shouts of his friends, Evert sprinted after the purse-snatcher and ripped the purse out of his hands. Unfortunately, the young man had a pistol, which he shot at Evert and then ran away. Evert ended up in the hospital, luckily with only a flesh wound, but his nickname stuck forever. Uncle Gunshot just laughed about his adventure. "The city was having a tough time when that happened," he said. Then he added more soberly, "That guy just wanted to eat. But so did that woman. And she didn't have a pistol. I couldn't just leave her there."


Uncle Gunshot passed away over a decade ago. He never left Detroit. He never lost his love for the place, though he experienced its steady decline. I am glad that he didn't read the news this morning.


Today's U.S. newspapers report the city of Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. The metropolis can not handle its $18 billion debt. Approximately 38 cents of every city dollar goes toward loan interest payments. If Detroit hadn't declared bankruptcy, the percentage of its money devoted to interest was expected to rise to 65 cents per dollar in just four years.,0,7289375.story?page=2 .

GRAFFITI FACTORY 2 by lundgrenphotography


Ever wonder what it would be like to struggle in a failing European country like Greece or Spain? Just move to Detroit. While what some call third-world conditions have existed in pockets of U.S. cities for decades--remember the slums of the 60's and the race riots that swept the nation?--we have ignored these neighborhoods of misery until we now have entire U.S. cities that are being thrown away. Stockton, CA. San Bernardino, CA. And now Detroit.


But wait. It's not the entire city that's being thrown away. Thanks to supply-chain economics, corporations with the means have reduced expenses and increased profits by moving overseas to cheaper labor markets, or have out-sourced significant percentages of their component manufacturing to overseas factories, thereby cutting the cost of their products. So some corporations have escaped Detroit's fate. Got to love those economic concepts. They're so good at masking the reality of suffering that accompanies such business approaches.


And the banks. Let's not forget the banks. Somehow, even when people are losing their homes. Even when people have no work and don't know how they are going to feed their families. Even when entire cities fail, somehow the banks always get the first repayments on debt. Just like cancer that feeds and grows without limit until its host is dead, banks demand their payments even when they know they are destroying the very communities that have made them profitable for generations. And our government and its laws support them in this sickness. That's what happens when profit trumps life.


In 2010 the University of Chicago hosted a seminar called Global Capitalisms Old and New, which my university was kind enough to send me to. Described as a few days that would be devoted to a reexamination of capitalism's pro's and con's, it turned out to be far more of a paean for the largely understandable and laudable path that capitalism has taken over the last few hundred years. Especially hard to swallow was a talk presented by a political science professor, Gary Herrigel, who studies supply chain economics. (For one of his recent articles with Jonathan Zeitlin see "Inter-Firm Relations in Global Manufacturing: Disintegrated Production and Its Globalization" click here

 His presentation made reasonable the decisions of corporations to "out-source" all or part of its manufacturing to overseas locations where low wages were the norm. His argument was that by taking advantage of such markets, a reduced but still profitable corporation could remain viable in the U.S. where its designers, innovators and high-end employees would continue to have jobs. However, Professor Herrigel also admitted that as overseas employees learned to be effective workers, they would demand higher salaries at which time the corporations would have to relocate to a more undeveloped part of the world in order to retain its salary cost advantage. Again, notice how the concepts disguise the misery that follows in the wake of these strategies.

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Sandra holds a B.S. in theatre, and an M.A. in theatre criticism from Illinois State University. Her M.F.A. is from the Professional Actor Training Program at the Old Globe Theatre--University of San Diego. She also recently completed a Paralegal (more...)

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