by tim middleton
It is estimated that over 50% of all people live in cities, compared to just over 30% in 1950; indeed, it is anticipated that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities within the next 15 to 30 years. Such figures might in fact be challenged after our recent experiences with the pandemic, as many people have discovered that they do not need to go to the cities to work but can do so wherever they happen to live. Yet what is the enticing lure of the city to this generation? Why is urbanisation such a big attraction? Why is living in a city the dream of so many?
Most people who move to the city do so for work; that is where the most work is found. Closely linked to that is the fact that work for most people equates to wealth; cities are seen as having the “concentration of wealth creation”. If we want to be rich we need to go to the city. However, many folk will move to the city due to lifestyle preferences, where cities provide more variety and thus more choice; others will do so because that is where we will find people with whom we can engage. The younger generation will see the city as the place where we can be entertained, above all for the nightlife (which is clearly more appealing than the day-life)! The lure of the city is powerful.
A similar mindset to the prevailing one that says we must move to the city for all our wants to be fulfilled is the mindset that our child must go to one city in particular – univer-city. Parents have this conviction that university is the only place where children can learn and even prepare for life and work thereafter. The fact is, though, that children can learn as much, and in some cases much more, in other cities than univer-cities. Take, for example, Curiosity, a place where around each corner there is something fascinating and new to be explored. Equally, many people see the greatest place to learn is in Diversity. This is a city with many different sections; every house is different, every street is different, every shop is different, each one representing various alternative cultures, races, nationalities, philosophies and creeds. We have to learn in order to survive in such a city.
The city in which we will perhaps learn the most, however, is potentially the fastest-growing city, namely Adversity; here the roads are narrow and pot-holed, the houses dark and dreary, each one seemingly built on top of each other. A near-neighbour of Adversity is Necessity, where everything appears to be smaller, less grand but much more practical. This is a city in which we should all spend some time as it is here that we discover what is really relevant, important, significant, perhaps the biggest lesson we ever need to learn. One of the smallest cities, though, is the one where incredible and invaluable lessons can be learned, for when we are moved to Generosity we find that the open doors of neighbours show how much people value and trust each other. The more they each contribute, the more they learn they benefit.
Our children however do need to be warned that some cities have great threats and dangers. Some people are living in cities that are in fact not good for them, where they are not learning anything positive. Some are tempted by the façade of Monstrosity where everything is big, expensive, gleaming and garish. Others end up in the squalor of Obesity, the superficiality of Pomposity, the temporariness of Intensity and the aggression of Animosity. Yes, we will learn and enjoy much in these cities yet what we learn and enjoy will not be of any great benefit to ourselves or to others.
We must remember that as each country has more than one city, so people do not all go to live and work in just one city. Each city is different; no city is better. The same truths apply to the Cities of learning about which we have been reading. We do not have to go to University to learn; indeed we can learn far more important lessons in other –sities. We must just make sure our child goes to the right city at the right time for the right reasons.
It might well appear that this writer has been living too long in two other potentially-dangerous and harmful cities, namely Verbosity and Perversity. In that regard, therefore, we shall draw this to a close. We in Africa have always held the view that it takes a village to raise a child; with this move to cities, we need now to realise that in fact it takes a city to raise a child. In that regard, therefore, it is vitally important that we choose that city wisely.