The tragedy that is “The City”

I’ve lived in 5 countries so far in my life, and in a variety of places (tiny villages, towns, bigger towns, cities, bigger cities, mega-cities). The places I liked it best at were villages, towns, and small cities (up to ~25k people).

I have a problem with big or mega-cities. A big city stops being a home, and instead it becomes a storage unit for human beings. Floor after floor, crammed in a dusty apartment with no yard, and only a few (over-crowded on weekends) parks to call “nature”. Life in a big city is by definition a routine: wake up, get the bus or drive to work, come back, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Everything looks artificial: the billboard ads, the sky with no stars at night, the countless cars on the street. Most humans resemble flocks of ants waiting for a green light to play Frog, while the rest live on the streets hoping for some change. This situation has a detrimental effect overtime in the human condition. People lose track of what’s important, and they become apathetic shadows of themselves. Violence then erupts at every corner. People still evolve, but they lose authenticity.

Sure, a big City provides big shops, exhibitions & events, entertainment. It all sounds exciting, no doubt, but in reality it’s more an addiction than anything else. Running on a puppy field with a kite, or having a picnic near the water, is more appealing to me than shopping. Storming a local art shop is also more interesting to me than a big art exhibition, because I’m always on the look out of new, revolutionary points of view though art, rather than admiring 100 year old points of view that someone else labelled them “classics”. Art is supposed to look forward, and it can equally happen in a small town, or a big city. It’s just that the art industry today doesn’t look there for talents.


New York Times Square at Night” by Werner Kunz. Licensed under the CC BY-SA-NC 2.0.

Having lived at my dad’s mountainous village for a few years (400 inhabitants in the 1960s, but only 150 left when I lived there in the ’80s, about 50 today), I got a good idea of what community really means. Sharing your milk, yogurt, eggs, vegetables with your neighbors. Knowing absolutely everyone there, and helping out when they are in need. Even on a town (like the one my family currently lives in Greece), the same feeling of community remains, albeit reduced in intensity. At the village I was among care-free, happy people, bosses of themselves. Even the ones who left for other cities or countries, still go back there as often as possible, and keep in touch with “home” via the village’s newspaper. Interestingly, the village was self-governed in many respects, nearly free of external state influences. Finally, houses are built far apart, as they all have land around them, but they’re still close enough: just 1-2 minutes of walk. The perfect ratio to both feel you’re with others, but also have the space you need to breath.

As with everything, there are some negative points living in such a commune, the biggest one being the unending gossip (everyone about everyone), and the lack of intellectuals. However, it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. When I lived there in the ’80s, most people only had 6 years of schooling on their belt at the time. But today this is not the case. In fact, I would expect the truly smart people to immigrate to such a place. Tele-commuting is a possibility these days for example, for many professions. And robots should soon free up the rest of the professions.


Mountain life” by John and Melanie Kotsopoulos. Licensed under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Unfortunately, today’s people try to connect with one another by getting physically closer to as many people as possible, by moving to a big city, but that’s a misguided approach. True connection only happens when people are free of multiple fake identity layers, and this can only happen in a relaxed and pure environment where humanity thrives.

1 Comment »

Michael C. wrote on March 9th, 2012 at 9:13 AM PST:

I love big cities. I also like your idea of living in a village. Problem is, that there are no villages in the U.S. There is horrendous suburbia, there are farms, there are small townships, but there are no villages. And no, an American small town is not the same as a European village.


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