Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Impure + Manhattan : Oxymoron ?

Most of the world has always admired and even envied Manhattan and wished they could be among its residents, if only for a year or two.

Agreed, a significant minority of us has also always hated and loathed Manhattan and wished they could bomb and burn it to the ground.

Still, on balance, 'Manhattan' has long been seen as a highly positive word.

While 'Impure' has usually been seen as a very negative word.

My only visit to Manhattan lasted just seven hours

I am a near life long resident of small bucolic Nova Scotia and someone who has spent a total of maybe seven hours - max - in busy Manhattan.

So the fact that the title of my blog (and book) is "Impure Manhattan" suggests that by bringing these two absolutely opposites intimately together I planned some sort of an ironic oxymoron for my title.

Not exactly.

Today the demographics of Manhattan are not actually that different from a dozen other global cities its size.

But let us never forget what a pioneer Manhattan was for almost a hundred years.

From the 1880s to the 1980s, it was unique for its mix of high income high ethnic status native born residents and its low income 'migrant' residents coming from low status nations or national sub-regions.

It was unique for mixing millions of the richest and whitest of WASPdom with millions of poorer people : slavic Jews, swarthy Italian Catholics and rural southern negroes.

All seen then as overly violent, overly sexual, overly loud, overly smelly and dirty.

And yet for all of that, from Rudy Valentino to Louie Armstrong to Al Jolson, they were also found at the very top of the most admired people in the world.

A paradox as much as an oxymoron

So, for those who have always hated Manhattan, they did so precisely because they saw it as impure, in fact the very ground zero of global impurity.

However by picking this title, I do wish to argue that those of us who love and envy Manhattan do so because it is, in fact - just as the haters always claimed - impure.

But that we love it because it is impure, not in spite of that fact.

And that we actually love impurity itself - as long as it is re-phrased, as it usually was/is by lovers of Manhattan, as cosmopolitan, variegated, diverse and inclusive....

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