The more I travel and experience this “global” western empire culture, the more I realize that the problems we are experiencing in the world and in our lives today emerge from the fact that more and more of us are living as “cityfolk”.
Why is living that way a problem? It comes down to the effect that growing up in crowded conditions has on us.
Since the Sumerians, the first urban empire-builders, we’ve heard about adolescent males wreaking havoc on the people around them in the urban environment. Gangs are as old as cities. Mob violence—an extension of the gang mentality—erupts on a regular basis throughout history, usually about every 35 years, in urban settings. Passive aggressive behaviors and thievery become the norm in an environment where it’s possible to slip into anonymity simply by not going to the same places you have before. Likewise, promises are meaningless.
Disease spreads quickly in urban settings, regardless of the care taken to minimize the spread of “germs.” In large part this is due to the fact that a city dweller is always prepared to be attacked, or at least to have one’s privacy invaded—the stress level is high and takes a toll on the immune system. And, because there’s always a low level of adrenaline pumping, numbing the senses, there’s a need for greater and greater intensity of experience: louder, more intense music, more powerful stimuli—including drugs, images, colors, sound, and interactions. The result is that “cityfolk” move more quickly from one thing to the next, not fully taking in anything because they’re always seeking more.
The strange thing about the past 50 years is that all this has moved out of the cities, through the suburbs, and into the rural parts of Europe and the US—and perhaps other places as well. Continue reading Is urbanization the heart of our global predicament?