Posted by: danzaland | April 9, 2008

Wilson’s blog: The last days

Couldn’t have said it better myself…

Wilson’s blog: The last days
Apr 6, 2008 12:34 PM by Tim Wilson It was 2.30 am, and my cameraman/editor Doug and I were sitting in Circus, a bar on Ninth Ave and 44th St. It was Saturday morning – we’d finished work about an hour and half before- and the bar was filled with young Americans singing lustily. “Dont stop believin’!” they chorused to the jukebox. Some women had just danced on the bar, fully clad, I’m sorry to report; though the bar staff had dissuaded a bearded hippy in denim from joining them. Pity.
The kids all knew the words to this song by the band Journey, the sort of big dumb epic that only makes sense inside the US, and makes even more sense in the early hours of Saturday morning.
They sang, “walkin down the boulevard!…”
“Don’t you think were living in the last days of an empire?” I said to Doug. Doug had spent the afternoon, camera in hand for the entertainment show “Extra!” dodging flying Cadillac Escalades outside Jay-Z’s Hudson St apartment. He’d come uptown to do a piece on Martin Luther King day with me.
“Yeah, like the end of Rome, and Bush is Nero.”
This a conversation I often have with expats in New York, that we arrived here too late. America reached its apex in the 90s. We are spectators of decline, rather than rise.
My New Zealand friends tend to agree. Americans spend too much. They’re overly preoccupied with money. Their society is cruel. They go into debt too readily. They are too self absorbed.
But quick as we might be to put the boot in, Americans are quicker. They wonder about this sort of thing constantly. Not comparisons to Rome (those are for lazy correspondents such as yours truly), no they worry about how they are. Are they happy? Are they rich? Are they getting the right amount of sleep, or love?
A New York Times poll out this week suggested that 81% of Americans felt the country was headed in the wrong direction, compared with 65% the previous year. Job losses in March were 80,000, the worst in five years. Once again, the dollar plunged. Car sales are down. The guy in my local fruit store downstairs says business is off by a quarter. A friend in finance told me, “UBS Bank writes off 18 billion dollars, and the Dow surges, I don’t get it.” The true cost of the war has yet to be counted. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has written a book suggesting that once all costs are in, the war will beat the $5 trillion cost of World War Two. Now thats a headline. “Iraq War: More Costly than WW2.” Meanwhile Republican John McCain is cheerfully saying the US will be in Iraq for 100 years if needs be. He is running with equal-ish with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in polls.
I don’t get it.
And as I watched the kids, taking mobile phone pictures of the dancing girls, and singing happily, I felt uncertain how they would deal with the last days, if they ever did commence. I’ll admit that some of this is the envy of a paysan from a small country contemplating America the superpower. Much of the world’s criticism of Americans catalogues their insularity, their love of comfort, their refusal to face awful truths.
But I wonder if perhaps these arguments are just ways of saying that the US is a megasociety that produces specialized humans, as well as roles. The idea of well-roundedness, of adaptability doesn’t exist here. Why do you need to be well rounded? The best thing is to be very good at your niche, and pay others to do the rest.
Perhaps America is a little like the Journey anthem, a tune best sung from within.
Problem is, it’s a song that requires dollars, and confidence; both of which are in short supply at present – though, thankfully, not at the Circus Bar with Saturday morning coming down.
About Tim Wilson Tim Wilson is the ONE News US correspondent. In his time in the role he has covered a myriad of stories – from celebrity woes, to politics and national tragedies. Tim reports across the ONE News family of news programmes including ONE News at 6pm and a regular spot on the Breakfast programme.
Source: ONE News


  1. Why do you stay here if it is such a failing, miserable place full of self-centered, money grubbing people? Are the Flickr pictures posted beside your blog those of your child or grandchild? Are you raising a child in this “horrible” country? And do you really think New York City is a true representation of the US? I advise you to get out of the bars and big cities and talk to real people like me! It would open your bleary ‘Saturday a.m. at the bar’ eyeballs to a bit more reality than you are currently being exposed to! Good luck in finding that reality and a bit less to look down your nose about! Erika Collins

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