Monday, November 5, 2012

Unpopular Thoughts: NYC Marathon

Whether it's being excoriated for not voting or laughed at for supporting a total debasement of the state, it's safe to say I'm used to holding heavily marginalized positions. I'm never really too surprised when someone reacts to some of my views with a strong sense of bewilderment. It's generally because I at least understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree adamantly  But every once in a while I'll have what I consider a pretty normal view or reaction regarding something, only to find that it's not the common view at all. Enter the NYC Marathon.

A Thought Experiment:

An earthquake has devastated your relatively well-populated city. We are days after the initial event. Many are without power, water, gas, and so on. Private and municipal forces alike are struggling to find the resources to put things back together in a timely manner. Clearly this will be a long-term project.

Behold, there is word of a giant money-machine...and it's coming to your city. It has approximately $340 Million to dispense, and plans to do so in two days; once reaching the center of town, it will volley all of the money high into the air and let it fall down to the ground over the city like confetti.

In order to get the machine into the center of town, the city must divert some resources (policemen, etc.) to ensure safe passage. The machine will also have to slowly navigate through the streets, many of the people of which still remain devastated and helpless. Some find it tasteless and offensive that such resources would be diverted to usher in this money-machine.

Should the city allow the money machine to enter or not?

I would think that the money-machine should be allowed to enter; that the small amount of resources diverted (temporarily) would pale in comparison to the newly affordable resources that could be obtained when the money-machine made its way into the city. It seems that such a thing would provide an immense amount of help, ultimately, to many people in need. But if I'm to believe the reactions of most people regarding the NYC Marathon, my opinion is a heartless one.

They shut down the NYC Marathon because there was a public outrage over the tastelessness of holding a marathon at a time when people were hurting for resources. The $340 Million that the marathon brings into the city annually apparently was not given a place of consideration as a "resource." And while it might seem awkward to have a group of people running through devastated streets, I would never uphold peoples' "feelings" about it up as so much of a sacred cow that I would let it stop the city from getting this additional (seemingly needed) financial boost. But, if I'm to believe the reactions of most people, I couldn't be crazier for thinking so.

It doesn't help that there's been a lot of confusion over exactly who was doing what regarding the marathon either. For instance, critics were loathing the tents, water, and generators being publicly stockpiled for the coming race, and slammed the mayor for not utilizing these resources elsewhere. And this morning, by extension, they seemed disgusted that those supplies were still sitting around unused. Of course, it had never dawned on them that simply because the marathon was being held in NYC that the city itself was not running it. Nor did it occur to them that the supplies belonged to the organization that was running the race, and that the generators were privately rented and paid for by that organization. It also didn't occur to them that the organization was paying the city handsomely to utilize other resources for the marathon (police).

But we shouldn't get into the habit of letting facts get between us and our misdirected ire. I think the argument about time and sensitivity is fine as far as it goes, but I don't know if we should let it stand the in the way of reason. As I see it, the city is now far worse off than it would have been had the people decided to control their outrage and allow the marathon to take place. I could be wrong. Certainly most people believe me to be. But it wouldn't be really too terribly shocking to find that a majority of people supported cutting off their own nose to spite their face either.

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