Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Travel Lessons From Inside America

On my current road trip, my wife and I have been to Detroit, Birmingham, Ann Arbor and Coldwater, Michigan. In Birmingham we stayed with my uncle. He has some power in the automotive industry. I thought it a duty to tell him that I do not think American executives have been putting America first. He came back with some good culturist points. We agreed about the impact of international competition. Where he and I greatly disagreed was his putting so much of the blame on what unions have done to our work ethic.

We have been down sizing at an amazing rate. Detroit is an example of that which I speak. The industry has been slaughtered. One corporation went from 250,000 to 85,000 jobs within the last four years. Detroit's downtown has many, many closed businesses. That means that people like my uncle have to move to suburbs like Birmingham. The entire city of Detroit has been stranded. He told me that a lot of the jobs have gone to the South of the U.S. where unionization isn't as entrenched.

Not having the statistics to contend his assertion, I spoke generically about the merits of localism and the peril of globaism. Globalism not only bodes ill for those fired. Abandoned executive mansions circle downtown Detroit. While we were there a blackout that lasted five hours impacted our suburb. No American can get off of the grid and remove themselves from their fellow Americans. A big house, without power, surrounded by impoverished ex-employees does not strike me as ideal.

Ann Arbor appears to be a model for success. In Ann Arbor we went to Zingerman's famous deli. Their food is sublime. The passion for their staff for their specialties inspired me. University of Michigan has created a learning culture that has brought people from all over the world and seems to have created research centers that are supporting themselves. There is, as my uncle would say, opportunity in America if people would only have a progressive and disciplined culture. This is true, but not all people will create small businesses and staff research facilities.

We came to Coldwater because Frances Kellor, the head of the 20th century Americanization movement, grew up here. As a classic sociologist Kellor looked at society holistically. One half of her program to Americanize the immigrant involved getting native born Americans out of the blaming mode and into the helping mode. Workers need to ask themselves if their implementation of our traditional Protestant work ethic is falling behind that of China. But Kellor's Americanization told those in power that blaming is too easy. Americanization put pressure on all sectors of society to recognize that the West is a team that must compete with others. Where ever you travel in our Western nation you learn the culturist truth that we are all, rich and poor, in it together.
Post a Comment