3 Years in NYC: A Tribute

3 years ago, I stumbled upon a small but cozy restaurant in the Lower East Side that beckoned me with its rich brown decor and aromatic Indian spices.  The owner – let’s call him MasalaWala – welcomed me with a cup of signature Masala Chai and warm naan. This gesture, accompanied by amazing food, was fuel for my hungry heart to continue the relentless job search amid the throes of a jobless winter.

masala walaWhen I officially moved to NYC a few weeks later with a job, I became a regular. Nursing a warm cup of chai, I wrote:

I can’t stop raving about how great NYC is. Call it naive wonder or puppy-eyed love, the novelty of this glorious concrete jungle hasn’t worn off…yet.

Several natives have warned me that when I move here permanently, the dazzle in my eyes will fade as quickly as the fast-talking New Yorker who snaps at missing her train.

In some ways, I’ve morphed into that snappy person…but the dazzle has yet to fade.

In the city that never sleeps, our options are truly endless. Part of this, of course, is branding. New York City, to this day, remains the world’s greatest brand. It may sound a bit goofy, but you need only look up at the skyline to feel like anything can happen.

It can also completely demoralize you with its intense, all-consuming culture.IMG_5683

I moved to New York City, wide-eyed with a lion’s mane of hair much in need of taming. I quickly chopped it off, resembling something like a mushroom head for the next 18 months. “To hell with it!”, I said. I was going for radical transformation.

And that’s what I got. Living in 5 apartments with a dozen different roommates will quickly make you a much more interesting/crazy person. You learn to appreciate your alone time. Between weathering job dismissals, writing furiously to meet deadlines, and navigating bureaucracy, I now know what people mean when they say this city “chews you up and spits you out”.  Yet there’s only more gravel-digging ahead.

I know, because I have yet to set foot in all 5 boroughs. I have yet to learn what it’s like to be committed to a cause larger than myself.

I have yet to truly understand the inequality, strife, and deep-rooted fears that befall many of New York City’s most hampered communities.

Moreover, while my persistence has gotten me thus far in NYC, I am aware that my hard-earned diligence was hardly work compared to those who can’t afford (financially or logistically) to spend time at hip co-working spaces and coffee shops to network while searching for a job. Let this be a reminder to all who are highly-educated, connected, and culturally literate that we have a vast amount of resources on our side, including the most basic: access.

So, on my 3rd anniversary in this great city where anything is possible, I give thanks for all of the above: the many opportunities I have been afforded, the goodwill of those who have believed in me, and the valuable lesson of “struggle”, though it pales with the real struggle of the 21% of New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty line.

I am here to to see what this city will be when every New Yorker is activated to meet their full potential in a truly inclusive economy, and everyone can tap into the vast number of resources available without jumping through impossible hurdles.

I’m here for the imagining…and the becoming.

Democracy’s Greatest Force

Could modern democracy’s greatest force be the Internet and Social Media?  More than elections, a governing body, and live town hall meetings?  The world must really be coming to an end.  The cyber world is emerging as a force to reckon with when battling the new democratic wave.

Okay, perhaps crowning the Internet  as democracy’s greatest force is a slight exaggeration.  Some people are calling the latest Egypt demonstrations as a direct product of the Twitter and Facebook Revolution.  But, as FastCompany.com wrote, “Certainly, it takes a lot more than the 21st century version of a communication system to persuade people to take to the streets and risk harm, imprisonment, or death.”  Fair elections, a responsible governing body, and civil discourse are still the essential keys a healthy democracy.

That said, social media played an integral role in the Egypt revolution.  Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube did not send people out into the streets, but they undeniably accelerated the process.

Here’s how:

Even before Egypt started blocking Twitter and Facebook, these tools were used to coordinate and spread the word about the demonstrations. Without social media, fewer people might have shown up and last Tuesday’s protests would likely be nothing more than a fading headline.  In this respect, social media served as an effective organizing tool.

Social media also helped exert pressure on Washington simply because it allowed information to flow out of Egypt at a fast pace.  Since Washington is a close ally of Egypt, at any other time, it probably would have spun the narrative in favor of the authority in power, in the interest of maintaining stability and its relationship.  However, it would be foolish to ignore the endless details escaping the country.  Whether they are truths, untruths, exaggerations, fallacies, opinions, or facts, no one can deny that a genuine uprising is taking place. Real time tweets (#egypt), live stream video, Facebook storytelling (Nick Kristof’s page), and Tumblr curation are allowing the Egypt scene to play out before our very eyes.  With such vivid imagery pouring in, it  would be irresponsible for Washington to downplay events and maintain a distanced posture.  As a result, we’re witnessing a subtle shifting of the U.S. position, with officials declining to articulate explicit support for Mubarak.

As the revolution wears on, updates from the ground will continue to pour in and no doubt, affect US action.  What better democratic force than civilians yielding a direct say on governmental policy?  Who cares if it’s in less than 140 characters? Social media did not create the Egypt uprising, but it certainly made everything happen much sooner.