Where Millions of Dreams are Crammed Together

From Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi:

Now that it is clear we can work anywhere, why would you live in a dirty, expensive city?

But, of course, people don’t come to cities for jobs alone; people come to places such as New York and London to be around other people. They come for the addictive energy that you get only in places where millions of dreams are crammed together. And many of us – misfits and minorities – stay in cities because they are the only places we feel we can be ourselves.

I must admit to similar thoughts. I love cities and I want to continue to live in one. I don’t like the spooky suburbs and the countryside, though I confess to a fondness for barn owls, just isn’t my bag. Efficient, well-run cities (high-density living) are probably the only way to accommodate our blossoming population numbers and the most important things in the world to me are culture and a sense that intelligent, kind, cosmopolitan people are nearby.

I have been wondering what to do, however, if culture never comes back. COVID-19 containment measures shutting everything down and stopping non-streamable cultural production combined with high rents pushing creative people out presents a problem. If I can’t go to art shows or small cinemas or jazz nights or coming-out parties or book launches, what’s the point of paying such a high rent?

What’s the point of lining our lungs with carcinogenic fumes if we don’t also get the advantages of being able to hobnob with other culture vultures or go for a midnight urban stroll or see a fringe play or visit a comedy club or see a big dinosaur skeleton in a Victorian public building or eat kimchi?

Dare I ask: is it time to escape the city and just get a tiny home and be done with rent forever?

I don’t think that time has come yet. I’m holding out hope that true city life will come back. Mahdawi’s column offers a ray of hope at least. If the super-rich would only bugger off (shite flight?) with their empty cashbox apartments and their obsessive condo-building and their tacky-ass musicals and their Silicon Valley-assisted grooming of a precariat, I think we natural city slickers would all be better off. Back, moneyed devil! Get ye back to yon superyacht!

I have a new book out. The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Available now in deluxe paperback and ebook.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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