The thing about New York

Sign from a building, overlooking the Ground Zero site site. Democracy and free speech at work.

What can I say: this place is amazing. This is Rome, Centre of the modern world. Wireless internet is plentiful, laptops are cheap. I’m loving my daily read of the New York Times.

There are some big amazing buildings — Skyscrapers rule, but there are quite a few areas where there are old dilapidated buildings and crumbling infrastructure — almost the opposite of Zurich, where everything was frighteningly new and ordered. People also aren’t afraid to cross the road even if there is a red light (a big no-no in Switzerland and Germany) — so I feel quite at home here! The subway is completely grimy and dirty, a sharp contrast to the London Underground. The subway is literally like an oven, there is no ventilation and it is hot and muggy and just generally allround yech. The financial district with the Stock Exchange is modern and clean.

South Africa can also learn a thing or two about the multi-racialism and multi-culturalism here. Class divisions cut across race and culture here. I am sure there are problems, like everywhere else, but it has the appearance — at least to an outsider — of tolerance and people of different races and cultures working together. A city founded and now thriving on immigrants. South Africa, with its racist past, could learn a thing or two here. We could also learn from the city’s embrace of emigrants, which has turned it into the powerhouse it is today… South Africa needs skills for its booming economy… we should be inviting skilled labourers from all over the world and South Africanising them (whatever that is).

New Yorkers are loud and not afraid to give you a bit of attitude and sarcasm if you ask a stupid question or dither over a decision. They also speak quickly, mumble and swallow their words. You’re speaking English right??? There is an old saying that if you ask a New Yorker for directions…. sure, he’ll tell you where to go…

If you are not ready for it, you could easily be offended or intimidated by this brazen self-confidence and generally irritation with their fellow man. But I quite like the honesty of it all, and it shows a self-confidence and pride that not many other nations have in this modern era. I like it.

The Americans have an incredible pride in their history and values and what they have achieved. And good on ’em. It is a culture that encourages openess and dissent, despite what you would think from the US’s worst ambassador, their president. I am an idealist at heart and this place is all about idealism… they feel they can change the world and make things right. They feel they have gotten things right. It was also interesting to see a sign yesterday, displaying high-up from one of the many windows of a skyscraper overlooking the Ground Zero site. Written on the sign were the following words: “Dissent is patriotic.”