Maureen Taylor's message is succinct and prescient
There was a gem that many missed at Netroots Nation 2014. That gem was a well-received speech by Detroit activist Maureen Taylor. I recorded her on Thursday of the event, uploaded it to YouTube, and then went on to another panel. As I recorded I remember thinking that more people needed to be in that room. In her prose was a subtle message that every poor and middle-class American needed to hear.
I blogged about Maureen Taylor before. She is the brave woman that stood up to Hank Winchester, a reporter at Detroit Local 4 (WDIV-TV). Maureen Taylor was rightfully upset when in a segment on MSNBC they both appeared on, Hank Winchester made a rather insensitive statement. He said some of the Detroit residents would rather pay their cable bill than their water bill. Ms. Taylor understood the dog whistle clearly.
If I had not seen Maureen Taylor on MSNBC, there is a good chance I would not have attended the panel because it was not advertised in a manner that enticed. Inasmuch as I had Ms. Taylor’s video, I did not write a blog specifically about it. After all, I mentioned her in many other blogs where I covered Detroit’s water debacle.
Laura Bonham and I interviewed Maureen Taylor on Thursday on our Move To Amend Reports radio show. After listening to her answers I recalled how important her message at the Netroots Nation 2014 panel was. I pulled it up and listened again. It was evident it was prescient.
Maureen Taylor starts by noting that small incremental changes are how we can be manipulated. She gave the example of the unverified story of a frog in water that is incrementally heated. By the time the frog would realize he is in trouble, the water would be boiling and he would be cooked.
“In history, there are analogous kinds of things that have happened,” Maureen Taylor said. “You can’t incinerate thousands, millions of Jewish people unless you put forward a national narrative that this group of people, there is something wrong with them. You have to do all of that first. You can’t pick Africans up and bring them across the rivers and the seas and just do bad things for hundreds of years unless you create a national narrative that says well this must be accepted.”
In today’s parlance, the world could not stand by and watch the carnage effected on the Palestinians, and not take action if Palestinians as a people were not vilified. It is all about narrative.
Maureen Taylor then details Detroit’s path to incremental decline. She explains that with automation and offshoring, Detroit’s employment base was decimated. A large percentage of Detroiters live in abject poverty.
The powers that be never attempted to solve Detroit’s problems organically. Instead, several tactics are being attempted in Detroit. As Maureen Taylor insinuated, the national narrative of a lazy stupid people was created. That narrative allowed America to mostly ignore the plight of the city. That narrative made putting the city under an emergency manager, a nondemocratic act, easier to accept. That narrative allowed Detroit to experiment on a large population by setting the gears in motion for privatization of water and other services. It allowed the city emergency manager to steal taxpayers’ assets by selling off taxpayer properties on pennies on the dollar to cronies.
“These are the small steps. That’s how it starts. You incinerate people. But you do all the national narrative first. So when you get to killing folks, and taking away people’s right to vote, and taking away people’s right to have a house, and now taking away water, people won’t say anything because they will be thinking. ‘If I speak up, somebody will call me a Detroit lover. Somebody will call me an urban resident lover. Somebody will call me one of those ugly things. So I better step back and be quiet’”.
Maureen Taylor provides a warning. She believes the seeds are being laid for a change in tactics America is not used to or ready for, violent disruption. When people feel powerless, when people feel they have nothing to lose, and when people feel they have no further recourse the behavior and outcome is a worldwide human standard. Many may believe the dramatic decline of Detroit is an urban thing.
Many may believe the narrative that Detroit’s problem is mostly due to a flawed population. As Maureen Taylor said, a narrative will be created for whatever city or town that is next on the list for capital extraction in order to make it palatable for America at large.