Of Corrupted Cities

I’ve been playing the most recent Prince of Persia game over the last few days. The basic premise is that the unnamed “Prince” (actually a wandering tomb raider) gets lost and stumbles into an abandoned city. As it was built to imprison the god Ahriman (of Zoroastrianism), its decaying state means that the defenses are weakened, and about 5-10 minutes into the game Ahriman is partially released. The rest of the game is spent fighting the corruption spread by Ahriman and his minions and renewing the fertile grounds that act as his prison walls.

I think it was when Elika, the princess of the city, described the population’s decline from several thousand a few hundred years previously to fewer than 200 that it struck me: Prince of Persia is really a rather apt metaphor for the urban decay of Detroit, Flint, and, well, the rest of Michigan. Detroit in particular fits this mold well. The population declines; the merchants stop coming. Corruption–physical, political, metaphorical–inescapably spreads. The way the auto industry is faltering–it’s like the final seal containing Ahriman is cracking.

What, then, can we do about it? If only the metaphor carried through to the healing of the city! In the game, the Prince and Elika, with the help of Elika’s magic provided by the creator god Ohrmazd, kill Ahriman’s lieutenants and heal the fertile grounds. I suppose there are urban renewal programs and churches to “meet” both counts. But is it enough? And how can more be done? What can be done to bring Detroit out of its ruin?