I’ve just gotten into reading Derrick Jensen’s two-volume sociological treatise “Endgame,” published in 2006 by Seven Stories Press. I’m already deeply impressed, and he hits early on at a theme that I’ve always felt strongly about.
That is, that cities are inherently a bad thing.
Mind you, I’ve only read several chapters so far. But within those, he points out the obvious (much of this work is about pointing out obvious, but scary things about our culture) fact that cities cannot survive without importing goods; animal, mineral and botanical, from the country.
Okay, that sounds good, right? Trade?
Well, what do cities have to offer, that they can’t grow or mine?
Culture? Technology? Protection?
1. Culture. Cities can winnow their artists and promote the most talented ones. They can effect the transportation of the works of these artists, via media, to the country.
But it’s an assumption that this makes culture better. It’s an assumption to presume that rural cultures are made better by this, that their amateur artists, the ones who live next door to you, the ones who married your children; are not all that important, compared to these heavily winnowed artists from the cities. Living in a city doesn’t make you more talented. It just gives you different material to work with.
I think the same applies for intellectual property. To assume that we must support cities, because there are smarter people there, is horribly elitist and generally unsound.
Living in a city doesn’t make you smarter. It just gives you different ways to hype your brains.
To assume that cities are necessary for talented people, smart people, to reach their full potential, constitutes an arbitrary philosophy that makes sense only in terms of itself. Talented people, smart people, are mostly in cities; thus we must have cities to fully engage them.
2. Technology. People in cities make more technology. They do that by importing resources.
One of the great definitions of higher technology is better weapons.
People in rural areas (including the entire third world) may not really want any of that. They may be perfectly happy with their own cultures, their own art, their own self-sustaining way of living. They may not think that better weapons are necessary, as they live in their communities, where weapons are pretty much about hunting game, and hunting is not considered a brutal sport, but instead an endlessly engaging contest that rewards the clever, and the purpose of which ends at the stew-pot, or as clothing, or for making tools, or for a myriad other purposes people use animals they hunt and kill, or raise and kill, as well.
But, for cities to be a given, that’s not an option. The cities MUST import goods, for their citizens to survive.
And, they have better weapons, because of the technology.
So, the story that is told, is that the people in the country, the people in the third world…NEED the stuff the people in the cities make.
What if the people in the rural communities, in the country, etc.; decide they don’t need any of that? What if they decide they’re just fine with their own resources; animal, mineral and botanical, not to mention cultural; and would prefer to make their own decisions about what to do (or what not to do) with all of that?
Will the people in the cities just complacently sit on their hands and starve to death?
I think not.
3. Protection. That’s another pro-city argument; the people in the rural communities, the third world, etc.; need the people in the cities, the City-States, to protect them from marauding bands.
What if the only marauding bands are from the Cities?