If Bell’s Bend were a woman, by now she would have gotten a court order to keep Jack May from stalking her, and Jack’s latest move in this apparently never-ending story would have landed him in jail rather than before the Davidson County Commission, where I and a lot of other people went early this month to watch Lonnell Matthews abruptly withdraw his, or rather Jack May’s, motion to overrule the Planning Commission (not to mention common sense) and allow Mr. May to go ahead and rape the tip of Bell’s Bend. Hey, he brought her flowers, and he’s promised not to penetrate as deeply as he originally said he wanted to go….what’s the problem, sweetie? Relax and enjoy it!
Hmm…that’s about as far as I think I’d better go with that metaphor!
Just the facts, m’am…Councilman Matthews withdrew his motion to allow May to proceed on the technical grounds that, since May has scaled the proposal back quite a bit in order to meet complaints about the strain that Maytown would put on Nashville’s infrastructure, it is essentially a new proposal that has to go through the whole Planning Commission process again.
That brings up another metaphor–the story of the Bedouin, his tent, and his camel.
One cold night in the desert, a Bedouin made camp, taking shelter in his tent and leaving his camel outside to fend for herself. Now, it just so happens that this was a talking camel, and as the desert night grew colder, the camel said to her master, “Oh, it is so cold out here! Might I just stick my poor, hairless nose in your tent so that I can keep it warm?”
The Bedouin, being a kind man, assented, and so the camel stuck her nose in the tent. The night grew colder, and the camel said to the Bedouin, “My ears are freezing! May I stick the rest of my head in your tent?”
And so, the Bedouin let the camel a little further into his tent…and soon enough, she asked if she could keep her neck warm, and then her whole body, and lo and behold, there was no more room in the tent for the poor, indulgent Bedouin, and he passed a very cold night, and never again was he so kind to his camel.
I think you can see the point I’m making with that story: approving an initially smaller Maytown Center is just a way to get a foot in the door, which starts to get back to the stalker metaphor I started with…but, of course, it presumes that the development will be successful, and that, I think, is quite another question.
We are having a sort-of recovery, a “job loss” recovery, as many wags and pundits are terming it. What this means is, the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are still getting poorer. If Jack May’s target demographic is the middle class, Maytown Center will flounder even worse than Metro Center. If, on the other hand, he’s wooing the über rich, he’s offering them a much more secure hangout than any other location in Nashville: with only one bridge for access, it will be easy to keep out the homeless and other riffraff. Should things get really crazy, like,rioting and looting, that one bridge, which could easily be guarded and gated, becomes a great selling point.
“Condo in Maytown Center? $1500 a month. Ability to walk the streets without being mugged? Priceless!”
Of course, you can’t talk about things like that to Metro Planning Commission or Metro Council. The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades, and our new Nashville Convention Center will attract thousands of free-spending tourists, and pigs will fly. O, Megan Barry, how you let me down!
Back to that Metro Council meeting…as I walked in the door, I passed a circle of smartly dressed young black women, all wearing “support Maytown Center” buttons, and I felt the irony. Consider: the once-iconoclastic womens’ movement has somehow been twisted to mean that most women should work outside their homes and give their children over to so-called professional daycare at the expense of real family life, not to mention “freedom” for women to serve in the military. Uh, wasn’t one of the original goals of the womens’ movement an end to militarism and corporate domination?
Similarly, the black power/equal rights/anti-discrimination movement has largely turned into a demand for people of color to be included in the corporate world. Turns out, the corporate masters are only too happy to include people of color in their hierarchies. It helps legitimize them. Just ask Michael Steele, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, or…Barack Obama. But don’t ask Stokely Carmichael or Rev. Martin Luther King. For all their differences, they would be united in spitting nails about what the movement they once led has come to.
Both these movements, womens’ liberation and black power, have lost their original thread, which was a critique of the corporate capitalist state and its dehumanizing effects on society. Similarly, the labor movement, which started out as a socialist/communist/anarchist assault on the status quo, ended up trading its radicalism for a bigger pile of crumbs from the capitalist table. Indeed, now we see the Green movement encountering the same temptations–for instance, if you go to the Maytown website, you will see it pitched as “green,” anti-sprawl,” “walkable,” “preserving nature,” LEED certified,” and many other bits of window dressing from our deep critique of Western culture.
But the line between window dressing and the real deal is a very blurry one. Suppose Jack May steps back from his determination to subjugate the wilds of Bell’s Bend with new urbanism, and instead cuts his 1500 acres up into several small farms, each carefully planned to be a reasonable size for a couple of families to support themselves on. What if Jack May used his extraordinary wealth to help these new farmers with “seed money” for the buildings, livestock, and equipment they would need, and what if Mr. May further provided a fruit and vegetable packing house, and infrastructure for local dairy, egg, and meat production? He could probably do all of that for less than the amount he is prepared to spend for a bridge across the Cumberland, and would actually get the money back directly, albeit over time, instead of having to charge insanely high prices for commercial property at Maytown Center.
OK, there’s one problem with this idea–the May family paid $14,000 an acre for that property, and there’s no legal way a farmer can make enough money to buy land at that price…since our cultural religion is profit, this could be an insurmountable objection. Or maybe the Mays (and where is Elaine May when we need her?) could decide that this is a way to cut their losses, sell this rural land for less than the crazily inflated price they paid for it, get a big tax deduction, and maybe leave everybody happy Is that a “green solution”? Or a grey area? Life’s like that, ain’t it?