"Broken in What Way?"

I am in New York again, and I am sending you this postcard from a city I love and have loved; from a broken city. Broken; yet struggling to reimagine itself, as it has so many times before.

Are we better? Are we lost? Are we changed, changed utterly?

Here are some images, some moments, for you.


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The culture of New York is now completely fragmented, and this happened through language.

It used to be that while there were a million different languages and accents here, everyone was trying to communicate as best he or she could — all the time. New Yorkers were famous for this! Any given day was thrilling, because random strangers, from whatever part of the world, would say something silly or funny or wise to you in passing, and everyone would manage to get the gist of each other, whatever anyone’s level of English. We were all present in the joy of being Americans — New Yorkers!— together.

That commonality is simply gone. Culturally, this city could now be anywhere in the world — any globalist, polyglot city. The culture that was New York has been smashed right through.

This is the globalist play, right? The globalists understand better even than we had done, how precious a specific culture is, and they understand that if you throw enough people at it from everywhere in the word, with no acculturating processes or numerical limits, there is eventually no culture left there at all.

English-speakers are no better than anyone else, of course, but there is value in a shared culture that can only come about via a shared language; indeed, a lingua franca; national language.

The fact that somehow, all at once, English has collapsed as even the remotest goal of New York City common speech, and that speaking English seems not to be important at all to many of the newest immigrants, means that there is a loneliness and sadness and boredom and homesickness, involved with getting around New York City and its boroughs — journeys that used to be thrilling because you met people from everywhere, through their English.

Somehow it has suddenly become acceptable completely to ignore people in ordinary human interactions, and not even to try to communicate with them in even very basic English.

I got into an Uber to go from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and the Nigerian driver kept speaking into his headphone in Yoruba (I think); he barely acknowledged me in English once I entered his car. Gone are the days of deep philosophical discussions with New York City cab drivers, of whatever origins. This driver kept on speaking Yoruba (I think) to the invisible presence in his headphones, as I left his car.

Union Terror: Debunkin... Addicott, Dr. Jeffrey F Buy New $21.95 (as of 04:17 UTC - Details) I entered the supermarket near our Brooklyn apartment, and the young lady checking out my groceries kept speaking in Spanish to her colleagues throughout the entire checkout process, not interrupting her conversation with them once. She did not say a word to me in English, though I was friendly throughout. That linguistic iciness never used to happen.

Even recent immigrants with very little English in New York used gladly to say “Good morning!” or “Have a nice day!” — whatever chit-chat their language levels allowed — as recently as just a few months ago. We were all participating in a common linguistic community, at whatever level anyone happened to be.

Now that effort of participation seems to have simply been dropped in many quarters. I don’t know how or why cultures suddenly shift in these ways or why the prestige of English suddenly collapsed; but the fact that many people in the City now have given up trying to communicate in English, and tend to ignore those who do not speak their languages, creates an anomie, a fractured civitas; atomization. And it weakens us as a city. We cannot speak to one another in a crisis, let alone create culture, dance, or music together, or even spark romance or build families together; we can no longer have those moments of humor or goofiness or the deep many-cultured into one-cultured exchanges, that I miss so much.

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