A little more than a year has passed since the lockdowns were first announced in NYC over the pandemic and little did I know looking back that it was just the start. At first, a lot of us enjoyed the privilege of working from home and no longer having to get up early on a cold morning to take the crowded subway where you were likely to encounter a crazy homeless person on drugs. Work from home became quite a gift, other than the fact that the bars we drank at were also closed.
Overtime, what started out as lockdowns started to wane a bit. Things were starting to get back to “normal”, especially during July of this year when they said that NYC has officially reopened since the vaccine has been released. Only a month later, vaccine mandates were passed meaning that if you wanted to sit inside for a meal at a restaurant or go to the gym, you had to show proof of vaccination.
Now, I am in a part of the country where none of that is happening (yet, and I hope it stays that way). What gets me about NYC, at least Manhattan where I lived the whole time, how very few people actually pushed back when all of it was announced. It’s like whether the lockdowns happened or whether the mandates happening, everyone went with it. Not only did people just go with it, they also turned on those who would not get the jab or practice whatever the CDC preached.
Little by little, NYC started to fall apart as crime rates spiked and rents continued to get higher. I personally saw how building before the pandemic which were full and lively with people partying on Fridays were empty during the pandemic. How well NYC bounces back is anyone’s guess but that was not the question on my mind. The questions I asked along with the many that fled NYC is why did those living in Manhattan not do a damn thing? Why did they not resist? Why did just take it? More of all, why did they turn on their fellow man and woman as opposed to pushing back against the government? They didn’t have to resist, but why did they so happily comply?
Quite a few of us asked this question, how the so called tough New Yorker who is known for being brash somehow just dropped to both knees for big government. More of all, how the city became so divided against itself instead of pushing back against nonsense from the local government. As I left, these were questions that left me potentially thinking that I should never return to the city. After all, who is to say that if the next pandemic comes along, the cycle doesn’t repeat itself? Yet, I had to have my answer and after thinking about it for weeks and comparing NYC to my new home, I started to realize some reasons as to why the people of Manhattan never pushed back.
Life in Manhattan moves fast and most of all, it runs on instant gratification. Whether it is quickly getting my lunch from a Halal cart or quickly getting my slice, I need to have it now and have it fast. Hurry it up, I got work here, I gotta get to my meeting, fast! The people of Manhattan have no time for nonsense but really, they don’t have time for much of anything. Once you are done with a long workday, you go home after a long subway ride into your overpriced yet tiny studio if you are lucky (likely a 3 bedroom you are sharing with roommates if you are in your 20s) and go to bed.
There is no time to think, you have to move fast. You might miss that next train or miss that cab you are trying to get the attention of (because Ubers are damn expensive). In some ways, this also works out in the favor of some of us, culturally that is. Hookup culture in Manhattan is better than most college towns and everyone is looking for Mr. or Ms. Right Now instead of Mr. and Ms. Right. It’s a blur and it moves faster than it would in any other city out there because you barely have time for much of anything.
I notice how now I have more time to blog and actually cook my own meals which has been better for my health. Meanwhile, in Manhattan I ran on Uber Eats and delivery or just fast foods while rarely grocery shopping. The life comes with its pros and cons but the one major downfall it had for me was that I barely had time to think about this sort of stuff. I almost lost myself in a way as well as the big picture idea of my goals.
Life in Manhattan for me consisted of climbing the work ladder, making the big bucks, getting some drinks after a long hard day at work, getting laid, and then partying hard on the weekends. Once that was all done, I had time for basic chores but barely much time for anything else. People like me are too distracted to think that much about politics because most of us are too busy just getting our lives together and surviving in a place everyone wants to live in.
Who cares if I have to wear a mask, just give me my damn slice of pizza. Who cares if I have to stay home, I prefer it, just let the government handle it so we can get “back to normal”. Who cares if I have to get a jab, it’s just a poke, get it so we can “get back to normal”. “Hurry it up over here” and “come on already!” are things frequently said in Manhattan. We want it now, we want it fast, and we don’t care what has to happen for us to get it.
Lack of ownership amongst a transient population.
Most people living in Manhattan are in their 20s or maybe 30s and renting an apartment, likely with roommates, as they try to make their careers and extend their youth of partying and drinking as much as possible. I don’t blame them, I am that guy myself at heart who plans to keep the party going throughout his 30s if he can. This is one of the reasons why Manhattan went overwhelmingly blue in the past election.
When you don’t really own anything, you don’t think much about the consequences because it’s not really yours. I even saw it with my roommates who’d occasionally have parties and thrash the place because it wasn’t actually their home, they’d move out and at the end have a good chunk of their security deposit deducted and that was it.
Most people in Manhattan are not actually local to Manhattan, they are usually from elsewhere. A lot of people from small town and small city USA go to Manhattan to enjoy their 20s and 30s as they build a career, drink hard, party hard, and leave no fun behind before old age. I know that feeling, I am that guy. What this really means is that whatever happens, you don’t really have to live with it because Manhattan is not your home. This is why the people of the more residential Long Island tend to be far more Conservative.
This means who cares if things get bad in NYC? You can just leave. You don’t really have to live with the consequences of much of anything because you know that you are not going to buy a house or raise your kids there. Why push back? Why resist? Who really cares about NYC itself? You’re there for the partying, drinking, and networking for your career, not because its your home.
An easy life.
There is a saying that goes something like this: Tough times make for strong men, strong men make for easy times, easy times make for weak men, and weak men make for tough times. What you will notice for the population of Manhattan and the more hipster parts of Brooklyn is that they come from affluence. Majority were raised in wealth and are immensely privileged, ever been to Westchester County? Filthy rich people there in some of those places, it makes Long Island look like Mississippi.
When you have lived a life of that much privilege, you tend to get scared of a lot of stuff that normal people have become accustomed to. A certain illness may be laughed off by some but someone who lived an easy life will look at it and get scared shitless. The other downfall of an easy life is that you believe whatever the mainstream media tells you because the established institutions have always been in your favor, so you trust them more.
Why question any authority or government entity? They almost always came through for you and rarely bothered you.
This is why the mandates themselves were not taken so well by the working class communities of color in Manhattan compared to the privileged white and Asian communities. Notice a trend? The former have seen certain horrors while the latter have lived a very easy life.
When you live an easy life, it is easier to make up enemies where they might not exist. Your biggest threat is no longer an actual criminal that wants to kill you, a gang member that wants to ruin your community, or a bunch of violent men who want to break into your house, rather its the guy who doesn’t agree with your politics and refuses to take the jab. When you grow up in rough circumstances and make it, you are a survivor who has a lot to be proud of. Meanwhile, the privileged bunch who had everything handed to them in life see getting the jab as their chance to be superheroes.
Overtime, it did become less of a mystery to me, now I wonder what I want to do about it.
I am starting to enjoy my new city but obviously, there is a honeymoon period here. I have no doubts in my mind that soon, I am going to find quite a few shortcomings here. Originally, I thought that I simply stick it out here for a year or two until things get “back to normal” in Manhattan but I know that is not happening. I’ve learned that the underlying issues with the social fabric of Manhattan will bring back the same restrictions that came about in 2020. In other words, we yet another pandemic or tough year away from Empire State of Mind turning into Escape From New York. Time will tell.
Plus, I am not even sure if I could live with myself knowing that when things went from bad to worse in Manhattan, I could no longer stick it out and moved. Quite a lot to come in these next few years but I remain open to all possibilities.