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Why the city can kill you

Continuing the last few posts on “God’s bias for the city”, “why cities matter” and “why Toronto matters“; much of what makes cities great is also what makes cities dark and depressing.

Cities amplify the best, but also the very worst, of humanity.

City centers are fueled by individual self-interest.  Everybody goes to the city to  ‘get’ something – career, education, entertainment, money, power, sex, etc.

Population density in cities with limited resources and limited opportunities creates a competitive and tension filled culture.

The pace of the city makes people less compassionate even when they may want to be, ie.  “I can’t stop to help that person because I’ve got to get somewhere to get something.”

Cities are deceptive. In the words of Jay Z and Alicia Keys Empire state of mind – “These streets will make you feel brand new, The lights will inspire you”.  The problem is that while the city may be alive, that doesn’t mean you are.

The busyness of cities prevents us from stopping, reflecting, and asking questions like ‘why’ until we’re completely broken and miserable.

Cities are dense with living beings that refuses to connect with one another.  ie. I can be nose-to-nose with another human being crammed in a gloriously life-filled subway and we can completely ignore each other.  This chips away at our humanity daily because we know something’s not right.

The diversity in cities naturally brings with it conflicting interests and cultural clashes.  Not only does the fringes of culture collide, but those who are already oppressed, are condensed into tight spaces which creates an even more volatile environment.  People can be ticking time bombs.

Cities thrive on anonymity.  Relationships become transactions and we further dehumanize one another.

Cities export evil. Cities inherently create, magnify, and propagate culture.  When it’s bad, it’s bad for everyone.  ie. how cities of the west have led the cycle of work-to-excessively-consume lifestyle now seen as the pinnacle of living for those in rural, village, suburban communities.Cities often displace wildlife and native cultures (we name our neighborhoods and streets after what we’ve destroyed ie. shady oaks, parkway forest, etc.)

Whether it’s for more affordable housing or an easier lifestyle – cities build up towards high-rise apartments.  The living-in-a-box-in-the-sky infrastructure (that I currently live in) disconnects our relationship to the land and creation.

Cities can become empires.  Empires oppress neighboring cultures, serve only the privileged few, and have an insatiable need to always expand and conquer.

And the list goes on.  While murder rates are actually dropping in many cities compared to rural areas, cities can cause a death you’re not even aware of because it’s so broadly accepted.

With all that being said, cities are crucial and strategic to our global future.  We need people in the city, especially those who want to seek the good of the city.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • joeie February 10, 2010, 11:20 pm

    Great post! Very well-balanced… I didn’t anticipate you doing a series, so this is really nice!

    • Lon February 11, 2010, 1:27 pm

      Thanks Joeie! I didn’t know it’d be a series either, but it just worked out that way.

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