Thursday, February 09, 2012

Of Swine and Pigmen.

Whilst in New York my family and I decided to make a visit to the financial district.  We passed Trinity Church on the way to Wall St and some remnants of the Occupy Wall St crowd were there.  They were fenced in a very small area calling out to passers by. They were the usual nose-studded rent-a-Socialist types who looked like they need a wash. They seemed pleasant and friendly enough, still a visceral contempt stirred inside me. Not because I had any problem with them protesting against the corruption and idiocy of Wall St but because their solution was  even more idiotic and corrupting. Should these guys ever get into power, I thought, my family and I would be considered the near equal to the pigmen as objects of their rage.

Socialists, like lawyers are the natural enemy of the medical profession.

We moved on and spent the morning exploring the financial district. The architecture of the district was quite spectacular though I was surprised at just how small the district actually was; somehow I always imagined the centre of the financial world to be physically bigger. Still, the joy in appreciating architecture is in the details. As I wandered around the district I walked past a street sign, on it was written Maiden Lane.

I remembered that Maiden Lane was the name of the holding company that the Fed set up to receive toxic assets after the collapse of Lehman Bros.  Though I was not looking for it, the thought of Maiden Lane triggered an association with the Fed  which in turn led me to the conclusion that it must be close by.  I pulled my guidebook out of my bag and soon realised that all I had to do was walk about a hundred meters and I’d be there.

I have an interest in Architecture and recognised the Fed building immediately, but before I could say anything to my family, my son pointed it out as a building that looked like Gringotts, the bank in the Harry Potter novels. To the casual passerby there was little to indicate that here was one of the temples of global finance, if not the epicentre. There was very little in the way of signage on it  except for a small plaque, but observant onlookers would have noticed that there were something peculiar about this particular building. Unlike other buildings in the immediate vicinity, two policemen appeared to be on permanent guard duty and there were more than the usual number of CCV cameras (discretely positioned) monitoring it.  Here at the temple of Bernanke, I thought of GBFM and his secretive tapings; except here the tapings weren’t so secretive.

It was an imposing building that did not want to be noticed, still, in the spirit of GBFM, I wanted to get my photograph on it’s steps.  The two policemen eyed me as I approached them. They were OK with me getting a photo on the steps and then ignored me. I wanted a record of being at the Lion’s den.

There was a slight incline uphill as we walked away from the building and approaching us from a downhill direction were three men in the early twenties. They were walking three abreast occupying  the whole of the sidewalk and it was apparent from their appearance that they expected people to get out of their way: they were not moving for anyone. It’s not that these people were thugs; they were worse. They were immaculately dressed and their overall bearing gave them the appearance of being “financial types”. From the expression on their faces they conveyed the impression of uninterrupted and effortless success, of supreme arrogance, self-assuredness and power. They were pigmen.

They wore an expression that I’d seen before. On surgeons who’ve never lost a patient, on men who’ve broken hearts but never had their hearts broken, on the fabulously gifted who’ve never known loss or hardship. Men who knew incredible success and no loss: they were invincible.

My wife could see that we were going to collide with them and she stepped off the sidewalk onto the road. However the expression in their faces stirred both a simultaneous sense of revulsion and instinctive defiance in me; I was not going to yield.

As they rapidly approached I braced myself for impact; they giving no hint that they would move. A the last possible moment, seeing that I wasn’t moving, they attempted to make an opening, with the pigman to right of me trying to get between me and the wall. However, it was too late and our shoulders collided. It was quite a heavy blow, which affected him more than me. I turned around expecting to be abused by them and steeled myself for their onslaught but they continued their march downhill, not even turning back. It was all over in an instant, as if nothing had happened.

It was an event of no significance and yet if felt like it was. The sky was grey, the mood somber and the Fed sinister.

Still, somehow it felt like an omen.


Hubbard said...

Were you trying to recreate the bumping-into incident from Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground?

The Social Pathologist said...


No. I'll have to read up on it now.

It was just something that unexpectedly happened to me near the Fed.

Anonymous said...

Even though I sometimes disagree with you, this is why I respect you.
You, a mere MAN faced off with men who thought and were used to be treated as GODS and held your own.

Too bad so much of our society dances to their disharmonious music.

GK Chesterton said...

Good for you. It was probably something the fellow needed to grow.

I was unaware of this till recently but evidently much of the "financial center" has moved out of the area and had done so before the 9/11 attacks.

That being said I do think they provide a useful service they just need a bit more humility.

JMSmith said...

Sorry to hear of this rude treatment. In the America I was raised in, young boys were taught always to walk between a woman and the traffic. This was always the case when walking next to a woman, but the rule also held when one met a female on an uncrowded sidewalk. The idea, as my mother explained it, was that the man would intercept anything splashed up by passing vehicles, although we now know that it was a means to impose patriarchal control over women, just like opening doors, doffing caps, or eschewing vulgar language in mixed company. So what you saw, I'd say, was partly an expression of the mindset of what Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities called "Masters of the Universe," and partly an expression of feminist America. In any case, apologies to your wife from someone who remembers a different America. I've enjoyed reading your observations on the "domestic manners of the Americans."

Brendan said...

Actually it's just New York.

If you venture out in the burbs, far away from the Masters of the Universe types, and take a walk through the shopping mall, you'll find the same attitude/posture/approach being taken by a good percentage of males under 50. Same in New Jersey. Same in Philly. (I grew up in the NYC area). This is a New York thing, not a banker thing.

The Social Pathologist said...

Sorry folks, I've had a quite a busy two weeks and basically have not had the energy to blog.


No, these were unlike all the other New Yorkers bumped into me when I walked down the street. These guys were different. Real arseholes.

@GK+ JMSmith

Nearly all the Americans we met were exceedingly polite. Even if it was in a non-sincere way, Americans take formalities far more seriously than here in Australia. I hope to put up a few more posts on the subject of Americans soon.

Anonymous said...

"Should these guys ever get into power..."

They already have. We call them "the Obama Administration."