The essence of capitalism is not accumulation, but acceleration. All of science, art and technology becomes a means to a competitive edge. The plane whisks you into the city. The car speeds you down the freeway. Coal and iron roll by you on the rails. Wheat tumbles down the elevator chutes. Soybeans get vaporized into bio-diesel. Containers from China whirl round in the air, land on trucks and start sprinting again. What happens when all these commodities finally reach their destinations?
We came to Kansas City to catch the tiger by the tail. On the websites it looked like the El Dorado of just-in-time production. What we found were vacant development sites, useless and sinister weapons plants, rails leading nowhere. Gigantic speculations on a future boom that remains thankfully out of reach. Along the riverbed flats, the old industrial plants belched smoke and the locomotives rumbled. Then, in a working class district called “the Argentine,” we came across the mural. It’s a century-long story of Mexican immigration. Mythological origins; labor in the railyards and the steel mills; life and joy beneath the hidden gaze of the Klan; the Great Flood of 1951; eternal recommencements.
It turns out Kansas City is the home of some very friendly people. When we arrived, a multi-colored crowd of lefties and queers and occupiers were booing down a pathetic bunch of Nazis who had come to make the town theirs. In an hour we set had up enough meetings to fill out our three days. As planned, we went to see the warehouse districts and intermodal hubs, without forgetting the deadly monuments of the nuclear establishment. What seemed most compelling in the end was not the critical study of sheer untrammeled speed, but instead, an approach to the ways that people’s lives weave slowly in and out of infrastructural entanglements.
The last site that we visited lingers first in memory: a beautiful wetlands on Native American ground that’s about to be bulldozed for a freeway bypass. So much of what happens seems irrevocably mad, like carefully formulated plans for future disasters. But that’s the way it is. Let’s go forward through the ruins, meet more lovely people, slip through more cracks, and create the slower pathways toward better lives in the present.
It was wonderful meeting everyone, thank you, we will definitely come back to Kansas City!
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