This is just a quick thing.
I’ve watched several seasons of the show Parking Wars. The basic conceit of the show is that it follows parking authority officers around during ticketing, booting, and release procedures. Generally it is just about the malaise around parking and ticketing that’s accented by the ways in which these private enterprises work to financially punish the lower class. It is an object lesson in the class struggle, and if you care about that kind of issue in the least, I suggest checking out some episodes.
The show’s first season was all about Philadelphia, but later seasons also added Detroit into the mix. I’ve never been to Detroit (I’ll be going at the end of September), but the show generally portrays it (I think on accident) as sort of a ghost town. Where Philadelphia is full of cars driving around in packed streets with hundreds of pedestrians, Detroit lacks any kind of urban pedestrian traffic. The residential areas, which the ticketing officers often travel to, are full of abandoned homes. It seems like 1/10 houses are occupied on the streets that we get to see. Visually, it is confirmation of the narratives of flight from the Detroit area that we’ve been hearing for the past twenty years.
What is interesting about this whole thing is how the expectations of the ticketing officers and the people receiving the tickets are so far from one another. In some ways, it is the best lens into the authoritarian state that I’ve seen in a long time. The people who live in on the abandoned streets are materially connected to the reality of the situation: they live in a radically depopulated world where jobs are scarce and people are just barely getting by. When a ticketing agent issues something for a car being over the curb on a block that has maybe one or two occupied houses, the people who are being ticketed come out of their houses screaming. “The city is going to ticket me!” they scream “Why doesn’t the city mow these abandoned lawns?!”
This is postapocalyptic ticketing. The material reality that undergirds the relationship between normal people and the state structure–the idea that these people will be getting basic services in exchange for taxes or just generally following the rules (and paying the financial price when they don’t)–is laid bare. These people are getting nothing from Detroit and they know it, but the ticketing system has to disavow that information to keep on living.
“The law is the law.” I keep hearing it from the people towing and ticketing. But the law, in this case, has been reduced to a particular kind of financial subjugation.
I know none of this is shocking or new or anything, but this is just a place where all the ideological mess is wiped away and you can see the machinery of the state grinding so hard that is strips every social gear.
People want to have something to hold on to. Like tickets. There’s some sad beauty in it, but also a deep frustration.
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