Volume 78 / Number 4 - June 25 - July 1, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Talking Point

Welcome to MEtopia and iPods, iPhones…iEverything

By Daniel Meltzer

Utopia: an ideal or perfect society or community, usually all planned out and created from scratch — perfect climate, no conflicts, everything works and everyone is happy, healthy, beautiful and having a great time; heaven on earth. Psychotherapists, divorce lawyers, litigators and Blackwater International account execs need not apply. Shangri-La, in the movie of the same name, was a utopia. The U.S.S.R. was supposed to be a utopia. So was your marriage.

Dystopia (also cackotopia — see Webster’s New World Dictionary, also verkockdatopia — look around you): the opposite of a utopia; misery, discord, violence, filth, crumby weather, bad music, bad barbers, neighbors from hell. The rain won’t stop and your car won’t start. Lousy food, rotten dates and your team always lands in last place. Nothing works, too many people don’t work, or they work too much and the pay sucks; dysfunctionality to the max; Zimbabwe, Newark, Iraq, Albany, the Congress. 

Here in Manhattan in New York City, as in other affluent American enclaves, we have neither, or both. What we have is a MEtopia, or MYtopia (see Myopia), where everyone is Number One, except of course, you.

MEtopians put themselves first and everyone else tenth: “That’s MY parking space, and why are YOU in MY way, in MY face? I walk the streets, or the parks, or I ride the subways and buses and elevators listening to MY music, preprogrammed BY ME on MY own personal ME-ME-ME-ME I-I-I-Pod. I answer MY cell phone, or MY I-I-I-Phone, whenever and wherever I please. You got a problem with that? That’s MY condo, I saw it first and if you can match MY offer then I can UP YOURS and put down the bigger down payment. MY kid needs to be in that daycare center, that school or on that Little League team. Yours can go or play, or whatever, somewhere else. 

MEtopia was conceived by President Ronald Reagan when he inseminated, shall we say, American society with the ME-first philosophy of his Chicago School supply-side economists and brought forth its love child, the ownership society. “Supply side” (SS; don’t you love it?), fully realized today via the Bush tax cuts for the over privileged/overpaid, to be furthered, if he gets elected, by the McCain Extension. They read, essentially, as follows: “Help the haves, and the haves will help the have-nots.” These are the haves who have already helped themselves to millions of acres and billions of rooms of real estate formerly occupied by four-legged livestock or two-footed have-nots.

In urban MEtopias such as New York City, whole communities of hard-working affordable-rent-payers are being replaced by enclaves of buyer/seller co-op and condo owners, most of whom buy only to sell a few years later to suck up a profit, then repeat the process over and over, driving the costs farther and farther from the reach of any but the investor class, the transient wealthy. Why work when you can keep trading up, keeping the profit? Why stay stuck in what we used to call a “community,” in which everyone is in the same boat, when you can cruise in luxury yachts from this marina to the next and then the next? Buy, trade up, keep the profit, buy again, sell again, buy bigger, bigger yet, add a Beemer, or a Bentley, or two.

MEtopians look through you and around you and would rather talk, on the street or on a bus, to someone across town or on another coast or in another country on a cell phone, an iPhone, a BlackBerry, whatever. A BlackBerry in your Burberry and the world is your oyster farm. MEtopians’ credo is the more expensive something is, the better it is — from gourmet foods to real estate to tickets to Major League Baseball games. Ask a MEtopian how to join the club and the answer is likely to be: “I upped my income; up yours.”


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