Places other than New York exist, and people do things in them

I guess we all knew it was coming to this eventually. This one perfect shining moment, the thing it’s all been building to, the culmination of my life’s work, the definitive commentary on contemporary American culture and society. It is this:

Places other than New York exist, and people do things in them.

I know. You may be startled and alarmed to read this. You may be groping around you for something to hold on to as the world shifts, turns, tilts away from its axis, sending you spinning into an unimaginable hell. Yes. There are places beyond New York, people who inhabit them, doing things, living, cooking dinner and organising marches and going to work and reading books on the grass in the sun. Some of them are from New York but most of them are not. Most of them are from different places.

New York elitism is a documented and extremely frustrating issue, but in recent months, it’s really felt exacerbated — by culture, political climate, I’m not really sure what, honestly. Whatever the reason, I’ve noted a growing number of New Yorkers acting like the rest of the world doesn’t exist and the things that happen there are irrelevant, and I’ve reached my breaking point. What once I tolerated with a grim smile has officially become intolerable and honestly quite dull. If this is the best you have to offer, New York, get over yourself.

I’m not even talking about the urban/rural divide here. Nor am I talking about ‘coastal elitism’ or red states versus blue states. I am talking very specifically about how some of the residents of the city of New York, New York seem to be under the impression that they are the only people on Earth, or at least, the only people who matter.

It’s there in careless assumptions about time zones and the attitude that everything should take place at a time that is convenient for them. It’s there in a smug comments when people find out that someone is not in New York, the ‘oh, it must be so hard for you.’ It’s there in the suggestion that obviously everyone understands the culture and geography of New York City, in the fact that so many jobs in a variety of industries require relocating to New York — but don’t actually pay for shit, given the cost of living in what is apparently the greatest, most wondrous, most perfect city on Earth.

But what really chaps my hide, what really irks me, what really infuriates me about New York superiority, is this: The assumption that only people in New York are capable of doing something with meaning and relevance. I’m tired of seeing New Yorkers opine on how the rest of the United States — and the world — should do things. Tired of seeing them position themselves as experts. Tired of seeing them swoop in to Show Everyone How Things Should Be Done because they know best, being, as we know, from New York.

I’m tired of seeing amazing people from all over the country overshadowed by New Yorkers — yes, especially those of you who appropriate other people’s ideas and campaigns and work for your own use. I’m tired of seeing New Yorkers talk over experienced organisers and activists and agitators from all over the country since obviously their experience, views, and opinions mean nothing. What could they know, being Not From New York? I’m tired of seeing media profiles of New York-based activist movements to the exclusion of others.

Places other than New York exist, and people do things in them.

You should try learning about them. You should step outside your zone of familiarity and explore what people are doing in Charlotte, in Atlanta, in Austin, in Chicago. In Portland and Chicago and Missoula and Kansas City and Cleveland. In small farming communities where people are radically rethinking food systems and sprawling metro areas where public transit activists are working to change the face of how we get around.

You should maybe consider that people actually know their communities very well and do not need to be told how to do things. That if they want help, they will ask for it, and that they may want to solicit help from people and organisations who are a better match with what they are doing, who understand their work, who have common ground with them. If they need assistance from the holy city on high, they know how to ask — but prancing in to show you know best, only to waltz back out again when you get bored, simply won’t fly.

All urban residents, to some degree, have a sense of elitism when it comes both to interacting with their rural counterparts, and with people from other cities. However, New York is one of the biggest offenders, with an elitist attitude that runs even deeper than the ludicrous ‘there’s an app for that’ culture of the Bay Area’s elite. I don’t know how or when or why precisely this happened, but I don’t like it. It’s counterproductive and obnoxious and often serves to reinforce biases and frustrations, and at times, it can be actively harmful. So sit yourselves back down, New York, and enjoy living in a world where people from all kinds of places and all manner of backgrounds are contributing important things to the conversation.

Image: New York New York, Thomas Hawk, Flickr