As Detroit faces possible bankruptcy and more calls for safety-net shredding austerity, 98-year-old activist, author and visionary organizer Grace Lee Boggs offers a powerful counter-narrative to the system that rewards banks with bailouts and discards residents of the nation's cities as victims of free market ideology.
Speaking with PBS's Tavis Smiley, the six-decade Detroit resident said that the poverty-stricken city was not a hopeless cause but a place that is "providing a model for change in the world."
The vacant lots lots left by behind by outsourced industry, seen by some as "the end of everything," also brought opportunity, said Boggs, "opportunity to grow food for the community and give city kids a different sense of time and change," and the opportunity to create a healthier, more sustainable city.
Even more, she said, "we're creating a whole new society which is post-industrial. And that turning point, the evolution of humanity, is a great privilege."
Boggs sees this turning point as crucial, being "culturally as important as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and from agriculture to industry."
People are hungry for change, said Boggs, and they know that "that there’s something unsustainable and really invalid humanly about the way we’re living." People are "just recognizing that all the contradictions of an industrial society are coming home to roost and we have to create something new, and we are."
The re-think that has been catalyzed delves deep into what economic crises really mean.
And the crises won't be solved, as the Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr has attempted, by privatizing or chopping public services, because, as Boggs said, they may "have seemed like economic crises, but there are more crises of our humanity," and therefore prompt questions like, "How do we think of ourselves? What do we do? Are we just interested in jobs so that we can buy a lot of goods and become materialists? Or are we living a life that violates human values?"
Detroit was an symbol of the mindset that fostered the idea that "producing more, faster, even at the expense of the human beings on the line, was progress." But the "dreams of the 20th century are dead," said Boggs.
"And we are shaking the world with a new dream."
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Watch the full interview between Grace Lee Boggs and Tavis Smiley below: