Sunday, November 04, 2012

Class, politics, class

All is back to normal-ish in these parts. Tree limbs are looking a bit less precarious, and I've calmed down some from my maniacal cooking-and-baking-because-OMG-electricity extravaganza. The storm's truly minor inconveniences are now making themselves apparent, most notably that all this happened when I was on the cusp of getting a drivers license. Parallel parking for hours on end becomes kind of a silly use of fuel, given current limitations, not to mention that the streets are tough enough to navigate (branches, debris, lack of traffic lights) for experienced drivers. I'm now day-to-day focused on the various challenges, for myself and my students, of getting to class. (NJ Transit on a special schedule should be... interesting, but at least it's now running? And walking from Penn Station to NYU isn't so far, right?)

So, the election. Polling places have changed in Princeton and elsewhere due to the obvious, and unless you happen to have/pick up a land line and/or have with-it friends posting about this on Facebook, you will go to the wrong spot. This, along with the number of others on Facebook unsure if they are even registered to vote (and I'm thinking they may be thinking about this too late), is somewhat distressing, when one considers the larger-scale implications. It seems entirely possible in this day and age to seem politically aware, yet for one reason or another, not vote. Oh well. I'm not sure I seem anything-aware, post-storm, but unless NJ Transit screws up in some unanticipated way, I'm voting on Tuesday for sure.

Anyway, to my storm-addled mind, some of the storm news stories brought to mind the nanny-murder coverage, especially the one about the crane accident "at what is supposed to be the city’s tallest building with residences and which has become a trophy address for some of the world’s richest people." Although with $90 million apartments, and with the story being quite different (not about singling out individuals but rather a building itself, and no mommy wars), this I didn't find so controversial. But the location of the storm brings up "coastal-elites" anxieties. Was this a story about nature as the great equalizer? Or was it one about disasters being only disastrous for the poor?

The reality is, of course, a bit of both - there are many times when it helps to be rich (loss of a summer home =/= homelessness), or not-poor (the option of occasional meals/coffee out when electricity fails at home but not in town nearby), and others (the falling-tree-limb example comes to mind; as does the difficulty of fleeing from anywhere, upscale or not, if roads are closed, trains aren't running, and fuel's in short supply) when it does not. The SNL bit about white people in NYC being upset that they can't watch HBO started clever but ultimately in poor taste, not to mention inaccurate (Staten Island, ahem). I can see this mobilizing people over the 1%, or the 0.001%, but my guess is the Conversation to come out of this will be more about infrastructure and climate change. This storm showed that the butler-will-deal-with-it class contains not so many people, even in the coastal Northeast, after all.

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