Friday, August 15, 2003

Heart Of Darkness
While I was living on the east coast it was California who was grabbing headlines with major power shortages and revolving power outages. Now the east coast has taken center stage with a blackout of historical proportions. But once again, the stars of the show are the citizens of New York City.

With a city of such phenomenal density as the Big Apple, one could reasonably expect chaos to reign. With the August heat one could easily imagine tempers failing soon after the A/C went out. With all the elements that enforce civilization crippled by a lack of power, a descent into madness is not unthinkable. But New Yorkers continue to show the country what makes them special. They persevered. They adapted. They remained calm. Civilized.

The evening news has been filled with pictures of New Yorkers maintaining order. Pitching in. Professors started directing traffic. A truck driver let dozens of people hitch a ride. People sold water to passers by for a buck a bottle. That's regular price in some place that is not notoriously expensive New York City. Laws of supply and demand make something as common as water as precious as gold but these people chose service intead of profit.

Surely these utopian observations are an exaggeration, or at least not entirely accurate. After all, there were reports of a few lootings. People probably got pissed off and yelled at each other. But the event highlights an important difference between New Yorkers and people in, I don't know, L.A.

New Yorkers have humanity in their face 24 hours a day. They live every waking hour with people stacked on top of them. People in New York learn real quick that you can't fight everyone in front of you. You have to adapt and move among them. For that reason there is a sense of community, or at least a sense of tolerance, that helps distinguish them when their vital and fragile systems break down.

Folks in Los Angeles are different. We move in solitary, isolated waves. We are not forced into contact with each other on the freeway like New Yorkers are when they ride the subway. We do not feel or hear or smell each other. We see everyone through panes of glass, getting partial glimpses of lives that will never touch us. Every morning we see obstacles, not people. Our paths are choked by the damnable misery that is everyone else. By man-made machines but no men.

I hesitate to guess what a prolonged blackout would yield here. Maybe New York's example would force the image concious in L.A. to compete. Maybe it would give us something to live up to. Or maybe we would just fuck it all up and burn it to the ground.

In other news...
Air conditioning is the greatest invention ever.

Tofuttiecutie is insane.


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