CARMEL IS A MODERN real estate phenomenon with a per capita income twice the national average. This was largely the result of middle-class families in the 1960s fleeing crime and the Indianapolis School District. Indeed, its population growth exemplifies “white flight,” going from about 1,500 in 1960 to 18,000 two decades later.
In recent years, though, it also has become a diorama for a new ruling elite, complete with creepy, lifelike statues of “citizens” scattered about the city in demographically ideal proportion. These conform disturbingly to a secret wish suspected of such elites to exchange the current citizenry for one more worthy of their civic efforts.
You might find it similar to the humanoid renderings that architects put in their presentation drawings. They project not just bricks and mortar but a new and more perfect social order. These images have evolved from stick figures to individualistic and expressively realistic images of people going about their day as planners might imagine in a halcyon vision — always happy, busy and productive with a “Brave New World” look about them.
Now, of course, they must be diverse as well, and — fitting with our times— divisive.
In Carmel these humanoids have become three dimensional, showing up about five years ago as colorful full-size figurines placed near public walkways and depicting citizens at work and play in a sort of sculptured Hoosier nirvana. Carmel has a budget of $1.4 million to dress itself up in this way, all to the delight of the local intelligentsia.
One of the statues, commissioned to provide racial balance in a city that is 84 percent white, cost $75,000. Alas, it has become a point of contention with Carmel’s black activists, who say they were not properly consulted in its selection. Among other complaints, the figurine is said to be romanticized, dated and patronizing.
Okay, are they suggesting a scruffier version in a Black Lives Matter T-shirt maybe, throwing a Molotov cocktail or looting a CVS? Shouldn’t there be groups of figurines outside City Hall depicting rent-seekers vying for municipal subsidies or a developer calculating cost overruns on a city project. Or how about a working-class Carmel family at a kitchen table trying to pay the mortgage? Or some civic-minded Democrats harvesting mail-in ballots? Or a public employee reading the fine print on his collective-bargaining contract? Or a hospital administrator inflating COVID deaths for reimbursement. Where, come to think of it, are the figurines lined up outside an abortion clinic?
Lastly, there should be a larger-than-life statue of Mayor Jim Brainard so when he has retired to the Gulf of Mexico and all of this soft-headedness collapses in a fiscal and social muddle, Carmel’s beleaguered real-life citizens will have something to topple. — tcl