Tuesday, 29 April 2014

City of Contradictions

I am sick, disorientated, I have a major test to sit in a week and it feels like everywhere I go an ear-splitting headache follows me to no end. Yet I sit here smiling.

I flew back from the Big Apple the other day, otherwise known as New York City in attendance of a Model United Nations Conference. What a city of insight and history, where the grandness of the world's hub is disproportionately expanded, simultaneously with the gaps in wealth, nature reserve and mental states. Put simply this is the city of contradictions, whereby polar opposites are inexplicable sitting next to each other in a perverse melting pot of awe and wonder.


A city for the rich, a city for the poor

The immense wealth here is staggering. Visiting areas such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art saw great artefacts, priceless wonders all lined up for visitors to see and appreciate the culmination in progress of the human race. The beautiful, brass scrubbed handrails of Grand Central Station, with that amazing murale painted as if the heavens opened up from the terminal itself. The steel titans of the Empire State building that reaches up to give us a view of the riveting city below. The hard hitters of Wall Street, suits tucked up nice and tight with an air of derision and superiority to the people around.

But yet you see the hordes of people who have nothing. Great numbers of people sleeping on station platforms, on the streets in the freezing weather that hailed on our 2nd day present. They didn't seem to be aggressive, mean or angry, but I felt that they had a spirit of defeat. Even the middle class is not unaffected. In anecdote I met two amazing people in my stay in New York City. Sitting along the edge of Williamsburg I met a lovely lady who was painting on canvas cutouts next to me. In conversation it was revelaed that she was $100,000 in school debt, that the economy for young people was in a dire state of emergency, and that the time that she has invest in studying and maintaing marks, pursuing a career in art in what she truly loves was a daily struggle to say the least. I met a charming lady on the train with a caste on her arm. After I helped her pull together the elastics she shared with me the exorbitant cost of healthcare, $50 a visit to see her practitioner, and the lack of safety execrcised along this ageing subway platforms. Back home we are deliberating on a $7 fee, where I am in opposition to but see to the great lengths that this door ajar can open the floodgates to future price hikes.

The sprawl and the underworld

In natural reserves it feels like theres a disparity to the world above and the world below, and the concrete and steel landscapes against greenery. Above ground the towers go on for what seem like kilometres, glistening in the sun and basking in its magnificence. But only a few hundred metres away lies the environmental beauty of Central Park. Cycling along its bike trail, taking in the sights and pleasures in the simple thrill of seeing those trees, with the backdrop of those buildings behind, is simply unparralleled. But once you go underneath, things become a different story.

The subway system is steeped in ingenious history and innovation by its founders. The envisioned a time where the land above would become precious, and taking the system underground in electric rapid transit trains required the foresight that many of us don't have. But today its in a state of wofeul under-maintenance. Rubbish lies in the middle of the tracks, paint peels sickeningly form the ceiling, grime and dirt cake the walls with the tiles confines decorated with posters of "Notice: rodentcide sprayed area".


Psychological purity and venality

Finally, the contradictions between innocence and corruption are as stark as they are perplexing to me. I visited the Toys R Us store in Times square, the most beautiful and grand toy store I have ever set foot in. I saw the ferris wheel emerge within its 4 floors to command centre stage, kids , parents and toddlers everywhere smiling and laughing. Not too far away was the Disney Store, where a similar sight could be held.

But only a couple blocks away lay a Gentlemn's club and an adult DVD store. Close to that half naked women lined the walles of these collosal steel buildings, posters akin to the area of three basketball courts. It seems like an odd mix of real estate category choices which evades me in common sense. The mentality of the population here is also heavily drawn in the idea of celebrity worship. It may be the case that it is also present domestically, but I bore witness to the hordes waiting hours on end just to catch a selfie with James Franco, my teammates inclusive.

This may be the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of", but I'd gander to say a fair few nightmares have emerged in this city of relatively unbound freedom and personal will.

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