Recently, I had the chance to watch Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe’s final film, “The Misfits.” Gable twice complains how life is different. “Everything has been changed around on us,” he says. To some extent, that is how many of us feel about life in America these days, and specifically in the taxi business the last few years.
Look around. It used to be that the hippies were the left-wing radicals with long hair and beards. Now, it’s the right-wing devotees with the hair and beards. Conspiracy theories used to be the domain of the radical left, especially those surrounding the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert and Martin Luther King. Some espoused the idea that the “Trilateral Commission” – made up of bankers, politicians and military – was the controlling force on the planet. Yet others on the left believed that the Council on Foreign Relations dictated policy internationally. There were conspiracy theories on any and every topic, and they were usually an expression of helplessness and the desire to make explanations out of disorder and chaos.
Recent history shows that the hard right wing in this country, aided by social media, and encouraged and enabled by Trump and Trumpism, is where conspiracy theorists now thrive. According to them, nothing from government or media is to be believed. Nothing is to be taken at face value. Only Trump is the truth teller, according to his followers. “Don’t believe your own eyes,” he has said.
In World War II, the Allied forces defeated the Nazis, Mussolini, and the Japanese – and with it, some believed, fascism. That the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were authoritarian regimes was an incontrovertible fact. Yes, they were Communist or Socialist governments but they were also fascists. Now, fascism is on the rise again, and seemingly well supported by the right wing in American politics. The appearance of the Confederate flag in our Capitol, of Neo-Nazis with tiki torches in Charlottesville, of book banning in Texas are all harbingers of a dark period.
Back in 2013, we used to crow about all-time low interest rates, all time high medallion prices, and all-time high medallion leases. Drivers could make $400-500 per shift. And then, poof. Gone. Was it an accident? A random event? Or was there something more sinister at play?
What do James Hickman, Gordon Gossage, Katrina Wyman, David Yassky, Meera Joshi, Brian Rosenthal, Michael Bloomberg, Ashwini Chhabra, and Evgeny Freidman all have in common? They each played a role in destroying a $15 billion business that had fed a lot of mouths over a 75-year period. And for what? So Travis Kalanick could pocket a $2 billion payday? So that Wall Street and Silicon Valley could be the transferee of the wealth that was stolen from medallion owners?
Now, it’s very difficult to hail a yellow taxi or an Uber due to the destruction of the industry. And look who’s back! It’s newly named Deputy Mayor, Meera Joshi. It goes to show you that nothing succeeds like failure.