Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Toronto Navel Gaze

The Toronto Star , like all other Toronto media outlets, is torn by two conflicting impulses: the belief that Toronto is the greatest city in the world, and the fear that Toronto does not have the ability to achieve true greatness.

The only conclusion I can draw from today's especially self-centred article is that Toronto needs a tyrant with bombs and a staff of urban planners to make it great:

What are the forces that shape the urban landscape and culture into something recognizably wonderful and inspiring? And what can we learn as Toronto, the most culturally diverse city on the planet, at last begins to accept and maybe embrace its own potential greatness?


In the past, you could make a city great by sheer, often bloody, willpower if you happened to be a visionary despot, which is how kings and popes transformed the likes of Paris and Rome, beginning in the 17th century. But those cities, like their early counterparts in North America, were much smaller at the time.

And there has always been the phoenix effect — tragic natural disasters like floods or fires that have, in the end, transformed cities into something ultimately more magnificent.

Confident cities don't need to keep seeking reassurance and approval from others that their cities are great. You wouldn't see an article like this in the New York Times or Le Monde, bewailing the need to make New York and Paris great.

You also don't see this attitude in cities that are comfortable with their own identity and prosperity, and have no need to raise themselves to the imaginary level of Great City. You don't see the people of Calgary whining about why nobody thinks it's a world-class city because its people are too busy working and striving for success.

In any event, the status of Great City is ephemeral. Babylon, Carthage, and Mohenjo-Daro were all Great Cities in their day, and now they are dust.

So, too, will be Toronto.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And in the 1970s it just stopped. I wonder why? Another victim of Trudeaupea