The Root of the Problem

The eighth Chapter of Fleming’s City of Rhetoric argues that the failure of each community explored in the first two sections of the book are reliant on the uncontrollable factors of the extended local environment. Citizens in the city of Chicago, particularly those toward the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, have fallen victim to the power of assumption by the surrounding neighborhoods. It is often portrayed that news teams portray the story as it is happening in reality. However, the media has misrepresented their lives in a way that connotes poverty as a problem with the citizens rather than the deeply rooted environmental problems that Fleming outlines throughout the section. This media misrepresentation then influences the ideas of the rest of the city and builds a framework actively opposed to those living in the defined communities.

He begins with recounting his first two chapters. This acts as a good reintegration of the argument of the work into the final third of the book. Fleming once again explored the face that decentralized and private communities have become the assumed “best” place for impoverished communities to move in to given the opportunity. This sentiment has caused some city dwellers to flee into the more open areas outside of the metropolitan area and into suburbia. Per Fleming, this is an experience of mobility which has unfortunately resulted in a negative response. Residents more from the poorer areas of Chicago in search of better job opportunities, safety, and schools, but are instead met with isolation, fear and silence (181). Mixing these fragmented groups directly also resulted in negativity. The process unfortunately only caters directly to the middle class and turns a blind eye to the fact of racial prejudice. The statement that those at the top are unwilling to put aside their bias to those at the bottom is a vital tenant of Fleming’s argument that is simultaneously divisive, but gives a sense of unhindered observation. Empowering the residents such as those of Cabrini Green becomes bogged down (182).

With these obstacles, it is easy to say there is too much to overcome, but the author instead uses this notion as an opportunity for a counterpoint in which we can learn from the flaws at hand. While it is claimed that residents should instead return to their former residencies, it is not that simple. These citizens often do not have the opportunity to return and are instead pushed from the area entirely.

However, the author provides a space for discussion on often overlooked solutions. Fleming says that homes are necessary for economic and social advancement and absence of homes in addition to close jobs, successful schools, density, diversity accessibility and sovereignty all work against the success of the people in the environment. By offering up an alternative to the common idea that citizens are to blame for their own situation and identifying three qualifications for change he begins to rearrange the discourse away from identifying the problem to giving solutions. The ideas that rhetorical activity is not contingent on a single factor, civic powers effect those at the top more than the bottom and that humans change over a lifetime are all identified as prerequisites to understanding the plight of the city. Fleming’s ending of the section, that poverty is a result of a poorly represented environment which feeds fears and assumption, is the clear identification of the problem.

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