Dystopian Detroit

100 Abandoned Houses in Detroit
The last few days have been filled with Detroit sports victories.  Justin Verlander became the second Tiger in history to toss two no-hitters in his career. The Red Wings are on track to make history by coming from behind 3-0 in a series to evade elimination in the playoffs. And the clean, inviting few blocks that make up Hockeytown, Comerica Park and Ford Field are among the only parts of Detroit that ever play host to their creators: people.

I've blogged about Detroit before. But I have to say something again as a disturbing statistic has been reported by several agencies.

Detroit's illiteracy rate is an alarming 47%, reports Huffington Post.

So. Half of the people in Detroit can't read. They can't read the newspaper. They can't fill out job applications. They can't do the work or earn the money needed to attend post-secondary education, although, ironically, many of them have graduated high school. They can't write love letters. They can't read Lord of the Rings. They can't read the directions on a prescription.

The ability to read and write has long been the dividing line between the haves and the have-nots. And the haves have controlled populations this way. If a population can't read, it can't get new ideas. It can't communicate effectively with other members. How do we expect Detroit to pick itself up, rebuild its abandoned houses [click for an awesome photo essay on Detroit's abandoned hosues], and return to the great American city it once was if a person can graduate high school and still be functionally illiterate? How do you climb up when your ladder has no rungs?

The article I linked to at the Huffington Post mentions a statistic that says those who need "help" aren't getting it. But what can you do? You can not force half the people in Detroit to learn how to read. And programs to do it would be expensive. Detroit's citizens must take responsibility. Must take ownership of their city. No one else can do it for them. They need to build themselves up. No government or humanitarian group or charity can force a population to do better for itself. A psychologist may proscribe a pill to help a person to better themselves, but there is no pill that can clarify a city's mind. The soul of a city is its citizens.

I am not from Detroit. But I am from Michigan, and I love it. What happens to your state when your largest city is dangerous, unlettered, and failing? I am not brave enough to try and raise a family in an environment like that, but when everyone in Detroit who can read and knows a dying city when they see it leaves.... We are left with a 47% illiteracy rate, and a population who do not even know how to lift their city up.

I don't have the solutions for Detroit. But I have a lot of hope for it. The city has a lot of history, and a lot of good things going for it. All it needs is the support of its citizens.

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