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June 8, 2022

Ben Pauli: Democracy and the Flint Water Crisis

Ben Pauli: Democracy and the Flint Water Crisis
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Ben Pauli, a Kettering University Political Science Professor, is a water rights activist. Pauli embedded himself with a group of Flint residents during the Flint Water Crisis. This is the group that brought the tainted Flint drinking water problem to the public's attention. The group also was successful in advocating that government fix the cause of the toxic water problem. 

Professor Pauli discusses the historical activism that helped Flint survive economically and environmentally for almost 100 years. He concludes that Flint has been fighting David vs. Goliath-type battles for generations which helps it survive. Pauli argues that generational activism is an asset to the city's efforts to overcome the economic crisis for the past 40 years. One lasting change resulted in recognizing drinking water as a right in the Flint City Charter. 

Pauli's ethnographical research is done in an academic book, not your typical data-filled one. The book reads like a CIA or police intelligence field analysis of the capability of a group in fostering and accomplishing public policy changes. "Flint Fights Back" is an insightful book and takes an extensive view of the Flint Water Crisis, remarkably different from other books and articles written on the Flint Water Crisis. Most fascinating is Pauli's analysis of the ability of local activists to form an identity and narrative story that sells their cause in the marketplace of public opinion. 

Pauli concludes that Flint is a parable, the canary in the coal mine forewarning for other cities and towns in the United States. Many of whom may catch a glimpse of what their futures may be in years to come. Professor Pauli claims that Flint's activism has sparked change that eventually has taken hold in many other places in the U.S. 

"Flint Fights Back" is a guide for those who wonder how to bring change to their towns and cities. Rather than see an involved and active public as an asset, many leaders and residents view some in Flint as the "problem." Professor Pauli speculates that, in all likelihood, the Flint Water Crisis would never have been discovered and addressed without the persistent and determined work of the Flint activist. Yes, the same activists who didn't take gaslighting by their Mayor, Governor, and government as the answer to fixing poison in Flint's drinking water.




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