Upside Down Notebook

Putting the street into the notebook. By Ben Dangl

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Dispatch from the Middle East

April 19th, 2007 · No Comments

The Price of Fire book tour continues and we are now located in a place which many refer to as the Middle East of the US. I picked up a few books on pirates, as well as a strong cold, somewhere between Detroit and Chicago. When I am on the radio for interviews, my voice sounds like it is being protected for my own safety, like some ex-FBI agent on “60 Minutes”.

Factories and smoke stacks bordered both sides of the road as we entered Detroit. A cold rain fell. People walked in the streets, pushing their ragged umbrellas into the pounding rain. The emptiness of the streets was accentuated by the vastness of the city. Old crumbling, vacant buildings seemed more common than buildings in use. Windows were gutted eyes, glass shards and howling wind. The whole time we drove around the city, I only saw one cop car. Apparently, the police stations, along with schools and fire departments have been shut down by the local government.

The Price of Fire book reading took place along with presentations from local activists on water issues in Detroit. I spoke of the water revolt in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The similarities between the two cities were incredible.

Water issues are huge in this great lakes region with tons of fresh water. In spite of this, a lot of people can’t afford the water hook ups and fees. The city and local governments keep jacking the prices up. When people can’t pay fees their water is shut off. 40,000 people in one part of the city had their water shut off. Corporations have worked with governments to put water under corporate control, but they don’t use “privatization” they call it “streamlining” to avoid protest. Locals who couldn’t afford fees connected to existing water lines, pirating water.

Graffiti on one bathroom on the way out of town said, “If you don’t think Detroit is number one now, wait three years.”

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