Reflections on the City in New York

Columnist Raymond Yeung examines how corruption, bureaucracy, and diversity have come together to form today’s Empire State, answering the question: how did the shiny star of capitalism come to this?

Empire State (photo: Raymond Yeung | sociecity)

New York, the greatest most populist major city in America. So how did the shiny star of capitalism come to this?

Corruption and police brutally, streets filled with potholes and trash, a subway system that equates to an uncomfortable cheap thrill from a traveling carnival, astronomical disparity between social classes paired with high unemployment, blunt racism and prejudice. All the things you would see in classic sci-fi dystopian stories are emerging in this city.

Is it greed and corruption?

A mayor who secured a third term in office by changing the law, a Department of Sanitation run by questionable characters, (to this day recycling trash is still considered a joke on the streets,) a militarized police force that takes advantage of an already broken system with gun trafficking, ticket fixing and senseless violence.

Is it the age of the city and its antiquated bureaucracy?

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and many of its defenders claimed that it is too costly to give one of the oldest, most well-used metro systems in the world a much needed facelift, and stared down any opposition with fare hikes; but fare hikes happened anyway. Meanwhile, over half of the disability claims made by MTA retirees have been discovered to be fraudulent, with employees collecting more in pension than salary when they worked.

Is it diversity?

Any diverse society with wide ranging views forced to live together, forced to contradict or tolerate one another’s ideologies, is likely to generate conflict. Many immigrants brought with them valuable insights, but along with those insights came prejudices as well. Long time locals often resisted new comers, demanding them to become assimilated with established social and culture behavior while overlooking their very own irrational prejudices.

New York is a place where ideas constantly clashed, it’s a place where no one can ever reach consensus and there is no majority. Perhaps people here have lost respect for democracy, perhaps they have lost respect for work in general. There is an aura of bitterness, disgruntledness, a constant feeling for a need to do less, out of spite. Even the most casual observations of subway stations and streets of NYC will reveal just how much respect people have for public property.

Perhaps the lack of a homogeneous social construct fostered an ever-diluted culture fueled by greed and materialism. Social diversity is a grand concept even the Romans embraced, but the level of diversity we are experiencing is generating a new phenomenon, and it is indifference.

Rarely do individuals or groupings of individuals feel obliged to care for individuals or other groups. Everything in our society is compartmentalized, linked together only by necessity of commerce. This is mine, that is theirs, and what’s not mine exclusively I have no responsibility for.

The most challenging and counter productive occurrence in a diverse society is when these various groupings of people all claim to have a solution for conflict, to bring peace and harmony to society, when they are really plotting to make life easier for themselves by wanting others to change.

The people of Occupy Wall Street are an interesting addition to this ever increasing social divide. Perhaps unwittingly carving out yet another social identity with a pretense to change the world, yet with questions as to their own goals and execution. To the elite, they look like bitter, lazy and uncompetitive workers who want to do less while receiving more compensation.

In societies with an overpowering majority — China, Germany, Mexico — a homogeneous culture with homogeneous morality and social expectations fostered cohesion, a society where there is shame, where people have fear of being ostracized, and where people have a basic level of respect for one another, for human life.

To a large extent, in America there is no such thing.

Here, anything goes: invent your own religion, invent your own science, invent your own morality, it’s all covered by freedom of speech, even if one wishes to be a completely irresponsible moron.

NYC is a prime social experiment of what will happen when all the people who think they are better than everyone else come together and are forced to live with people who they either dislike or have no concern for.

Read more:

American Exceptionalism
LIRR scandal NYPD scandal
New York City Demographics
Electoral College

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