Blog: Gregg Newsom

Gregg Newsom is a native Detroiter and co-founder of Detroit Evolution Laboratory --a wellness and education center -- in Eastern Market. He's seen Detroit through the eyes of a late 80's/early 90's anarchist punk as well as the eyes of a young professional during a recent five-year stint working for Compuware. Gregg will be writing will about how Metro Detroit needs to embrace a process of economic and community evolution rather than chasing the single big fix.

Post No. 2

These 10 principles work well for a city that exists for only one week out of the year. They also smack of an idealism that harkens back to the failed revolution of the sixties. From our rather dystopian perspective, they seem naïve, but over the past four years I’ve seen them put into practice in the desert and found them empowering. Save the “tourists” that come out for the climax of the event, the majority of the citizens engage in a great many of these principles. This means the majority of the population takes the ideals of their society to heart. Due to this they not only adhere to these ideals, but also propagate and protect them.

This level of involvement, of participation, is quite unheard of in our non-temporal society. In the Detroit region and within society at large we tend to experience the exact opposite. The majority of the population has become “tourists”. Currently the active minorities of the region are divided into big business interests, small entrepreneurs pursuing the establishment of a creative class, and dog-eared activists that have been pounding the pavement for years.

Black Rock City has a real “buy the ticket, ride the ride” feel to it. The majority work hard and spend a great deal of cash to get to the middle of nowhere and participate. They’re engaged and involved because they chose to do so. So, the question here becomes, how do we expand the ranks of our active minority and encourage the regional population to buy the ticket? Though it is tempting to simply brighten the place up and create a few amusements here and there, these actions tend to impart passivity rather than participation, and certainly negate sustainability.

Returning to the 10 principals, it’s vital to note that the touchstone of Black Rock City’s culture is immediacy. Of course, the decision to overcome barriers to our experience is an intimate choice that can’t be dictated or coaxed. Angela and I wake up every morning before sunrise, light a candle, chant and pray for Detroit. Yeah, we bought the ticket and are having a Very immediate experience. Though this manifestation of immediacy is our unique expression, we find others in our community practicing immediacy in other forms. So, what would occur if those who are already practicing immediacy engage in or at least connect with a few of the other principals?

Actually there’s a natural process here. The already “immediated” tend to be active in inclusion, self-expression, participation, and lean towards environmental awareness. For many, this is part and parcel of immediacy. The big bugaboo of translating the culture of Black Rock City, especially to Detroit, is decommodification. For our region, the failed revolution of the sixties stratified the community and led to a procession of political and corporate quick fixes that continue to this day. Though commerce is vital to both the mass populace and active minority, exploring decommodification at a minimal, neighborhood level will assist to create sustainable therapeutic practices rather than simply applying another logo embellished band-aid.

Next time, I’ll wax further on decommodification in a city of commerce and open a dialog between the terms renaissance and evolution.