Since Wall Street crumbled and the yunnipocalypse began, it seems more and more journalists have come out of the woodwork to say:
1. They never liked investment bankers, hedgefunders, and other masters of the universe
2. They believe such people have half-destroyed New York
3. They miss the old, pre-Gilded Age city and hope the downturn will bring about its return
I'm glad they're speaking up, but where were they for the past 10 years, under a cone of silence? I don't remember hearing these sentiments. At least not until right after the initial crash:
Judith Warner in the Times discussed "a certain kind of resentment and sense of injustice that a particular class of non-monied professionals in the New York area came to feel sometime in the late 1990s... a sense that the wrong people had inherited the earth. They had taken over everything."
In the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote, "maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous. Dangerous in theory, but not to you or your family and friends. Dirty, but in a good way."
Alex Williams in the Times declared, "Wall Street hotshots were never beloved figures on New York’s cultural landscape. It’s no coincidence that the protagonists of books and movies like 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'American Psycho' tended to be narcissistic jerks, or worse."
Fran Lebowitz told the Observer, "Just when you think how horrible New York has become in terms of things interfering with the tone of the city, they’re finally leaving! The rich people! They’re leaving! They’re leaving!"
The Times of London attested, "in New York, nobody likes investment bankers... In recent years, there have obviously been way too many of them and, as a result, a load of bad restaurants, galleries and bars have been allowed to flourish. Now they’re going, that froth will be off too, and it’s no bad thing."
These quotes all come from last fall, back in September and October, before the sins of Madoff, AIG, and all the rest were made public. Since then, many more people are claiming that New York always hated Wall Streeters and Sex & the City kids, with their indulgent ways, their bottle service and shopaholism, all those values that permeated and wreaked havoc on the city.
But is that true? Did most New Yorkers resent Wall Street culture until last summer's end?
I seem to recall everyone having a pretty good time, riding that golden wave of conspicuous consumption, munching cupcakes, making "resy's," buying shoes with abandon. Let's face it: There wasn't much complaining until now.
(Even celebu-chef Anthony Bourdain has jumped on the disappearing New York bandwagon, visiting almost-lost Sophie's bar and bemoaning, "Where can a guy get a drink when the last gin mill closes down, when there’s nothing left but the fern bar or the lounge, when the barkeep has been replaced by the mixologist?")
To be sure, everything we now all seem to agree is detestable about the Narcissistic Age will come again. Hopefully, when it does return, New York will resist. And members of the mainstream media will be critical of that corrupt culture from the start. This last time around, they could have provided a strong voice of dissent, powerful enough to help sway mass culture.
Maybe then our city would not have vanished.