Saturday, February 22, 2014

At Least It Didn’t Happen to Me

In my Manhattan neighborhood, even the high-end boutiques are starting to close.
Etiqueta Negra, a store that sold $8,000 leather jackets is empty. A shoe store on Spring Street that sold $500 shoes sits vacant. Has conspicuous consumption finally reached its peak in Soho? Or is it just that the top .01 percent is pulling as far away from the top 1 percent as the top 1 percent is pulling away from the other 99 percent (not that I feel sorry for the bottom 9/10ths of the top 1 percent)? So now, mere luxury stores are giving way to super-luxury stores, the same way mere luxury apartments are giving way to super-luxury apartments. No longer is the average, $1 million dollar Manhattan apartment enough. Now Rupert Murdoch has to buy the top four floors of the former Met Life building for $57 million. At least his ex-wife gets to keep the former Rockefeller apartment on Fifth Avenue.
All around me, it seems, people are walking around in denial. The common feeling seems to be, “Well, at least it didn’t happen to me.”
I just heard about a man I know, one of those only-in-New York characters who was just kicked out of his apartment after 40 years. He was the building’s super and the building’s landlord decided to renovate his apartment because God forbid someone shouldn’t monetize every square inch of space available.
After the last Senate vote on extending unemployment insurance failed to pass for the third time, the issue JUST DISAPPEARED FROM THE HEADLINES. People JUST STOPPED TALKING ABOUT IT. Even though President Obama said it was “urgent” and “important” and even though 69% of the American people wanted it to pass, IT JUST WENT AWAY. Like it never happened. 1.7 million long-term unemployed people JUST DISAPPEARED.
Because that’s what happens. Out of sight, out of mind. At least it didn’t happen to me.
Sometimes I look at the protests happening in Ukraine and Venezuela and Syria and ask myself, “Why isn’t that happening here?” Do people not know or do they just not care? Or are they just too tired from working 80 hours a week to think about it?
At least it didn’t happen to me.
So we go on about our lives and watch The Real Housewives and Honey Boo Boo while our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us, the world is warming, the oceans are rising, and we continue shopping and eating and having sex and drinking and doing drugs, anything to prevent us from having to think about what’s really going on, holed up in our tiny apartments with our cell phones and our computers and our large, flat-screen televisions, hoping that real life won’t encroach upon us and our cozy little world.
At least it didn’t happen to me.

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