Monday, May 17, 2010

The City So Nice They Named It Twice

FLG hasn't really been following the New York is too culturally significant debate. Mostly because he's sworn off reading Conor, who started the whole thing.

But Phoebe decided to weigh in. She examines several aspects of the anti-NYC dynamic. First, is the extent to which NY = Jew. There's definitely some of that, but FLG isn't so sure that NY = Jew is the only reason. Then, there's the idea that it is a city consisting of "socialites, celebrities, investment bankers, and other not-so-relatable demographics." FLG isn't so sure this explains it either.

The big thing in the NYC versus the rest of the country struggle is Wall Street. New York is for many in middle America the embodiment of big corporations. And not just big corporations, but the one's whose CEOs and financiers are making decisions far off in Manhattan. Decisions that affect people's livelihod and, rightly or wrongly, those people think are stupid. Now, to the extent that Wall Street means banks and banks mean Jews or to the extent that concerns about the nexxus of wealth and power often coincide with Antisemitism, FLG concedes there may be a NY = Jew thing going on.

FLG guesses his point here is this: FLG loves NYC. Maybe in the anti-NYC bias there are cultural, racial, political, and other prejudices at work. Nevertheless, New York City wouldn't be what it is today without Wall Street and finance. Wall Street and finance generate concerns and anxiety about wealth and power, but also generate lots of other media and cultural things that only extend New York's cultural influence. Where other cities have fallen, particularly blue collar cities, New York is still the city that never sleeps. All influence that NYC holds over the rest of the country is directly or indirectly due to Wall Street and finance.

13 comments:

Phoebe said...

"There's definitely some of that, but FLG isn't so sure that NY = Jew is the only reason."

So is Phoebe - that's pretty much the exact next thing I say in the post. It's obviously a combination of factors. The reason I focused on fuzzier cultural ones rather than Wall Street is that here I was following Amber's lead and focusing on sitcom-type representation. Populist anti-bank ideologies are not a major part of, say, "Friends."

Anonymous said...

I dunno. My experience has been if you ask anti-NYC-ers -including those who have left the City and moved to not the Heartland but the 'burbs- what they dislike about NYC you get 2 answers:

The smell - which I happen to love.

The cost of living/taxes.



Mrs. P

Phoebe said...

Mrs. P,

Sounds like you're talking about people who fundamentally like NYC, but choose to live elsewhere. (Even many of us who live here could do without the smell - particularly of certain stations of the R train - and the high rents.) What I think of as anti-NYC is when someone has specific negative feelings about the residents of the city, whether it's that everyone's rich and snooty, that everyone thinks New York is the only place that matters, or that everyone's a criminal about to mug you.

FLG said...

Phoebe:

Agreed, it's hard to make a direct line between Friends and banking. And it's not quite anti-bank populist ideology.

Let me put it this way -- New York represents upper management and banking and all its trappings. The cultural stuff is a by-product.

Even in Friends there was tension about Chandler (an accountant?) versus other friends, like Joey the struggling actor or Rachel not having money.

Anonymous said...

Phoebe, perhaps. Though those who don't like the smell do not like the City. That I know for a fact.

As far as people disliking -hating- NYC for Wall Street, I've yet to meet someone who dislikes -hates- Wall Street. But that may be because I don't hang out with socialists and commies. The people I've always hung with like money. True, how much they like it varies, but most have a real affection for it. Interestingly, I have heard over the years how the type of person -character wise- who works on Wall Street has changed. and not for the better. Even more interestingly, these new people are not native NYC-ers but those who have arrived in the City to conquer.

I've always been of the (wrong?) opinion that the dislike of NYC is because of the more ridiculous aspects of it. Now totally anecdotal here but we are speaking of people's perceptions so anecdotal evidence is not out of bounds. My husband used to work for a Fortune 500 based in NYC. And he was a Vice President. More than a dozen years ago, he came home from work to say he was no longer a vice president. I thought he had gotten demoted. No. NYC or NY state passed a new tax on vice presidents in corporations. Corporations had to pay a fee for each vice president they had. So in my husband's Fortune 500 worldwide company - all the vice presidents were changed over night -worldwide- to "partners" to get around the new tax. This meant changing all the books, stationary and flow charts and who knows what else. Now how could it be the geniuses in NYC, if it is indeed the center of all, couldn't predict that one?

I have another friend who is a life long NYC-er and a Yankees fan. Last I knew -it may have changed by now- he had to bring his passport with him to a Yankees game. Why? Because being a NYC-er, he doesn't have a driver's license - he has a driver. But they have mandatory IDing for alcohol at the ballparks so my friend who graduated from college when Johnson was in the White House, can't get a beer unless he shows his passport.

It's hearing the little things like that that make folks out in the Heartland laugh....pretty hard too.

I've never known a real true blue *hater* of the City. But may be because I've hung out with fairly content people who can see the advantages and disadvantages of life in NYC.

Mrs. P

C.S. Perry said...

Far be it from me to ever cast aspersions on “Big City” life. After all, I live way down here on the Right Side of the Mason/Dixon line.
But I recall being asked once by a friend why I showed so little interest in the sit-com “Seinfeld.” Before I could even think about formulating an answer I said…and please believe that I’m not an anti-Semite…”It really doesn’t matter to me what a bunch of Jews in New York are doing.”
While this seems rather infantile, I think it may point to the rather “general-consensus” sort of disdain that many people have for New York.
New York has an almost Alien Quality to a lot of folks and I don’t think that money plays such a large role in that conception. I live in a rather smallish southern town that is peppered with Antebellum homes (Sherman missed us in his famous March) and even more with Old Money so old that it outdates most of the plantation houses. And I mean MONEY; scandalous amounts in some cases. And, well…Money is as Money does no matter where you’re standing.
But all we have down here to get a feel for the Big City is Atlanta and it’s the very sort of “Hipness” that the city engenders that makes many people dislike it. (And, yes, I’m speaking mostly for myself.) In Atlanta there’s a bohemian section of town called “Little Five Points” and I can’t shake the feeling that all of New York would end up having the same effect on me. Yes; there’s lots to do and things to see and many interesting wares and sights but it’s the damned people that make it intolerable.
We’re not all yokels and morons and we can read books and just because we choose not to live in the bustle of the city doesn’t make us a bunch of rubes and squares. I don’t need arms full of tattoos to like music and I don’t have to wear turtle-necks and wire-rimmed glasses and work in a used bookstore to know what I like to read and I damn sure don’t need a bunch of pretentious hipsters telling me what’s good and what’s not. The most interesting people I’ve ever met I had to discover…they didn’t wear it on their sleeves like a bloody badge. It’s all too exhibitionist in a way. It just feels like the sort of thing that one should grow out of. I’ve known too many old friends who couldn’t wait to shake the dust of their Small Town off their feet and get to the Sacred City. And now…well, they usually end up coming back for a little Peace and Quiet and a chance to raise their kids in a decent place.
Sure, I know it’s rambling and oversimplified and …well, I’d probably end up liking New York. But I also like to see the stars and hear the pine trees at night. And that old saw about New York being where it’s “At” and how you can only succeed if you go there has been rendered almost meaningless by modern technology these days.
And maybe we should poll New Yorkers to see what they think of San Francisco. I’d bet we’d see the snobbish gloves come off then, eh?
I have precious little interest in New York, or Wall Street or the East Village and the reason is that it simply doesn’t seem real. It feels more like a lot of superficial people convincing themselves of how in touch and in tune they really are while they engage in activities that seem to lead nowhere in the end. I’d rather be where I could actually know a few people and have a real place in their lives rather than be able to take a taxi to the theatre and complain about how miserable it all is anyway. Which seems to be what most of the New Yorkers I’ve known tend to talk about most of the time.

Withywindle said...

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Phoebe said...

C.S. Perry,

What you write doesn't make you an anti-Semite, just someone who really, really doesn't know what he's talking about when he talks about NYC, but who perhaps takes pride in this? You dislike NYC because of a type of person you see as definitive of a huge, huge city, filled with truly all kinds of people, from the hipsters you describe to impoverished immigrants, well-to-do immigrants to native-born, parochial, preppy all-American types - some of whom are, get this, Protestant! - who, if you didn't know their subculture existed, you'd never guess had spent much time in NYC, let alone grown up here.

And before writing off all NYers as "superficial," consider how your own comment might come across to a real, living person from that locale. It's hurtful stuff. I don't think people are "yokels" because they didn't grow up in my city or region, and would love to see a bit more mutual respect across the various US regional-cultural divides.

Withywindle said...

All of my folks hate all of your folks; it's American as apple pie.

Phoebe said...

Yikes, my comment came out rather harsh. I suppose what I'm getting at is, we're not that bad, really, I swear!

FLG said...

C.S. Perry:

I tend to agree with Phoebe's complaint. There are millions of people in NYC. Many of whom are not hipsters, hippies, or beatniks or even generally douchebags.

Phoebe:

There's the other side of this too. As somebody who grew up near NYC but most certainly not in it because traveling circus folk cannot afford the rent, and then moved to flyover country Colorado, I can definitively say there is a New York vibe. I had it to some extent when I moved. After a couple of years, I lost it, I think though I'm not quite sure, and could recognize it in others. Prior to living in Colorado it was one of those asking a fish about being wet things. You don't notice the NY vibe because that's how it is. And to a large extent moving to other big, coastal cities (LA, Chicago, DC, Boston) won't bring it out.

Lastly, Mrs. P:

People who moved because of the smell obviously didn't understand the awesomeness of the scent of roasting nuts on the street 'round Christmastime

C.S. Perry said...

Phoebe,
Ah, well…you can trust a fine, Southern Gentleman like myself not to take offense. And I think I understand the raw quality of my comment. Perhaps I might have done better to relate that what I really dislike are the morons who try to ram NY down my throat, if you take my meaning, and the almost left-handed insinuation that all smart, hip and trendy people with anything to say should all surely be devout lovers of the Big Apple. It causes a lot of people to wear cultural blinders and to miss a lot of good writing, art, film and other worthy things that they end up rejecting simply because they may not come from one of the more major “Cultural Mecca’s” of our times. And that can be very frustrating.
I also understand that in any city the size of NY one is bound to find the entire gamut run in terms of culture, socioeconomic demographics and well, shucks…just folks in general. It might even be better to say that I did not seek to impugn NY so much as I did to impugn the “idea” of it…if that seems to make any real kind of sense.
I’ve been a keen observer of people long enough to recognize that Good People are where you find them and that any kind of pre-existing bias based on regional locale will probably only get you a swift kick to the head. But I might also point out that the fine folks down here have long been portrayed in a less than flattering light by the “City Slickers” and it tends to cause a bit of a knee-jerk reaction sometimes. After all, I know that I don’t eat corn pone and sow belly three times a day. (But Lord knows I have eaten more than my share of both.)
A good illustration: Some New Yorkers came to my town and opened a bar. Instead of designing their d├ęcor and menu to fit the locale, they just got frustrated with their lack of business and assumed that all the “red necks” were too stupid to know what’s good and what’s fashionable. And I find that offensive.
I guess what I’m really driving it is that, as I said earlier, I would probably like NY but the problem comes for me when it’s time to get away from it. I hate crowds and I can’t stand being hemmed in any way, either literally or figuratively and NY seems like a place that moves at a pace I couldn’t tolerate. And, all things being equal, I’m sure that lots of people can tolerate it…but I suspect that they march to the beat of a drum that I will never hear.

Anonymous said...

"It causes a lot of people to wear cultural blinders and to miss a lot of good writing, art, film and other worthy things that they end up rejecting simply because they may not come from one of the more major “Cultural Mecca’s” of our times. And that can be very frustrating."

Spot on. If I had to put my finger on a real flaw of NYC/NYC-ers - and the NYC-ers would not really be the residents of the City as much as those who run the industries like publishing houses & whatnot- this would be it. Adding only the frustrating - if you're an artist, writer, or filmmaker- is usually more than *very*.

Mrs. P

 
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