By the end of my walk, I was tempted to scream, Charlton-Heston-in-Planet-of-the-Apes-style: “We finally did it! You maniacs . . . God damn you!” They—we—turned the greatest city in the world into Podgorica at nighttime, except weird and dystopian to boot.
When I got home, I told my wife that I wished to launch a civil-disobedience movement against the lockdowns. She blessedly talked me down, and I slept off the strong drink and inspired resolution. Still, I’m angry, as an American and a New Yorker, and have been angry since this all began. I can’t avoid holding in contempt the virtue-signaling double-masking types on the Upper East Side (“I’m one of the good ones, Dr. Fauci!”); the moms at my son’s Catholic school who pull Junior away from touching a metal railing (“Watch out! The virus!”); the young professionals who seem to take a perverse pleasure in the possibility that we are unlikely to socialize in person ever again and must learn to love the Clubhouse voice app.
The pandemic and the lockdowns are highly complex events and, as the social theorists might say, overdetermined. But one clear factor is the behavior of a laptop class that lives in fear of risk, with no transcendent horizon and “the consolations neither of Christ nor of Seneca,” as my friend Rusty Reno likes to say. That class seems prepared to desolate a place like New York City in service of safety-ism, to reorganize our way of life around its own neo-gnostic preferences, its horror of embodied relationships and inherited obligations—including obligations to place.
Yes, it’s now the Big Empty.
h/t John Tierney