« Chapter 13: Tip of the Iceberg | Main | Footballing Days »

Donkin's World: A Walk In New York

A walk in New York led author and journalist Richard Donkin to ask some serious questions.

In time the memorial to the victims of the attack of New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001 will be accessible to all who happen to be in the vicinity. But for now, since its opening recently, a decade after the attack, it can only be accessed using a pre-booked ticket.

I'd thought, mistakenly, I would just be able to pop in on a short visit to New York but the memorial was shut away for all who had not pre-booked. It’s the American way – pre-book and stand in line. They were even standing in line on 5th Avenue on Sunday to get through the door of Abercrombie and Fitch and to buy new iPhones from the Apple box. Recession? What recession?

I went down to the financial district anyway, partly to see the extent of the Occupy Wall Street protest. The protestors have taken up residence in a park. I have some sympathy with the anger at the bankers and financial people who have let us all down. The world is facing environmental melt down - dwindling fresh water supplies, over-population and finite supplies of fossil fuels, not to mention climate change, and yet the economists only know one song: "we have to go for growth."

But this financial model is out of tune with public need. Yes, people are still queuing at the doors of branded clothing shops, but a lot more people are waking up to the understanding that the richest proportion of humanity has too much stuff while billions of others are scraping by on very little. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

On the day I headed down to New York's financial district the Wall Street Journal ran an article bemoaning the trend of spenders and borrowers turning in to savers. This, it said, was a real economic problem. Little wonder then, that all kinds of activists have parked themselves off Wall Street and outside St Paul's Cathedral. These people may not have any co-ordinated responses, but they know in their hearts that something is wrong with the world and that people have to start saying so, and in the streets if they must.

Most people, however, have neither the time nor the inclination to protest. They just get on with their jobs. Walking down towards Greenwich village I passed some fire-fighting crews packing up after attending a house fire. Their fire engines had memorial plaques on their sides, commemorating firemen from their stations who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Some of those men, I'd guess, might have questioned the ideals of those who only trade in money. But they didn't question anything when asked to go in to the Twin Towers that day in 2001, knowing there was every chance they would not come out alive. It's the same today, attending a small house fire, as it was a decade ago. Those who serve in the emergency services and in the forces retain a strong sense of duty. "Ours not to reason why," wrote Tennyson in sentiments that have been echoed in succeeding generations.

Maybe today it is time to reason why. But how can we question our broken system, while preserving the nobility and purpose of those who must do their duty and leave the questions until later? I don't know the answer to this, but a walk in New York certainly made me think.


To purchase a copies of Richard's celebrated books please click on


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.