The saga of America’s most dysfunctional city continues…
Well, I thought this was kind of a funny act of political theater. Based on the photograph of the protestors and it being “Detroit Citizens Against Tar Sands” behind it, I’m going to guess that these guys aren’t the ones who had their water turned off (there’s a certain bourgeois tinge to this kind of activism).
I’ve heard different stats, but this article has about 40,000 people without water in Detroit, stemming from a recent crackdown on past due bills. The city is still in dire straits financially and so are many of the city’s residents. People can’t pay their bills and the city can’t keep giving something for nothing because they’re broke too. It’s been called a “human rights crisis” and it is a tragedy but there’s not really a lot of options for the city. How will they raise the capital to unfuck the situation? By collecting past due bills, which the majority of the citizens are behind?
Running water is one thing that separates us from, well, much of the third world. A lot of places don’t have it and it’s one thing we really take for granted that we have so much of it. It should be a real psychological blow to the United States that we now have a part of the country where people aren’t getting access to water. Yes they could just pay their bills and get it but they can’t afford it. I know it’s easy to say that “those people” have a bad habit of blowing their money on bullshit before spending it on practical things, but I have a hard time believing that someone wouldn’t prioritize running water over frivolous things once faced with the prospect of having it shut off. I believe that a lot of people aren’t capable of paying their back bills and would if they could. I’m sure that there’s enough cases of poor prioritization leading up to getting behind but still….
Also, not having running water sucks. In my own life I can think of the great “floods of ’93” when Des Moines Water Works flooded and we were out of water for about two weeks. We had people shipping in bottled water and the city bringing in bladders of non-potable water set up at schools and parks where you could go get it to flush toilets, clean things, etc. Walking a couple of blocks to get a bucket of water to flush the toilet sucked. That was just a temporary inconvenience.
I also remember a house of a friend in high school that was where all the local latch key punk kids hung out because it was pretty much Indian country. They had the water shut off. Mom was a terrible hoarder and the place was the biggest shit-infested rat hole I’ve ever been in. Not having water caused uh, complications in the household. Dishes piled up, nothing got cleaned and people started pissing into bags and throwing it in the tub. Eventually the tub rotted out, or so the story goes. The house had to be torn down once they finally moved out. If you didn’t want to shit into a bag, you had to walk to the gas station down the street. The moral of that story is that when there’s no water in marginal situations, it can cause a bad situation to really, really get worse. Most of these neighborhoods in Detroit are probably beyond “marginal” and when people owe more in water bills than their home’s value (so some stories say), bailing doesn’t sound like a bad idea leaving more abandoned (and completely fucked) housing in the Detroit area.
I guess I have spent some time in the third world without running water…parts of Iraq! Yeah, it’s miserable. It’s kind of a gross subject, but one thing we’re extremely fortunate for in the United States is the fact that most of us don’t have to deal with shit. Like human feces. We flush it down the toilet (with clean water) and that’s that. When you don’t have water, the “there is no ‘away'” maxim really applies here. We don’t have to deal with the smell and hygiene problems that come along with it in an urban area and I’m sure that’s about to become reality in Detroit, if it hasn’t already, compounding the people’s misery.
The really ironic thing is that Detroit might be one of the most water-rich places on the planet being right on the Great Lakes.