Ayn Rand/Objectivism Sightings
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The Big Apple Versus the Big Easy: A Tale of Two Cities
Blame welfare. Praise private initiative. Blame bureaucracy. Praise the successes. Blame the mayor. Blame the police. Praise the people who understood and got out. Blame President Bush. Praise the officials who took action. None of that is essential.
Ayn Rand allowed the symbolic or analogous use of the term "Geist" (spirit) as an attribute of a society. Passed from Nietzsche to Spengler, the Geist is the essential and perhaps ineffable summation of that which typifies a people in their time. The ancient Greeks were man-centered rationalists. The Romans were defined by duty. If the Middle Ages did not have piety, they would not have been "the Middle Ages." America is the land of opportunity.
The difference between New York City after 9/11 and New Orleans after Katrina is an undeniable contrast between a city that rose to the sky, because its people could not be held to the ground, and a city that wallowed in a swamp, as long as the red beans and rice were as cheap as music and bourbon.
Welfare? Both cities have them. ("Had" is probably the verb to go with "New Orleans.") Bureaucracy? Idiocy? Violence? New York is not short on anything -- except patience. No one ever said, "I'll be there in a New Orleans minute." In the morality play, Wall Street, Gordon Gekko warns Bud Fox that technical trading will leave him "just another $100,000 a year analyst," at a time when $100,000 would have made just about anyone feel like a king in New Orleans. In New York City, not even the welfare bureaucrats are complacent. The desire to better oneself and the opportunity to do so typifies New York and makes it quintessentially American.
As soon as Hurricane Katrina hit, commentators called New Orleans a "third world city." It was. It always had been. It had nothing to do with the ethnicity of the people. New York has the same third worlders -- but they come there to become Americans. In New Orleans, most people had no desire for a better future, and expected every day to be just like every other, with nothing new or unpredictable. One reason why New York City recovered from 9/11 that there is always something new going on in the City.
New Orleans was perpetually sleepy and New York is the town that never sleeps. A few years back, Gotham mayor Rudy Giuliani cracked down on the windshield washers -- people who wiped your car windshield when you were stuck in traffic and who then expected a dollar for it. It was annoying -- but it was enterprise. On the other hand, the Big Easy was wiped away by a big waterspout.
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