Even the most enthusiastic urbanites occasionally crave respite from the noise and nuisances of the city. You can see it on the faces of the people crammed into the subway train, waiting in line at the grocery store, or trying to pass the guy who’s loafing in the fast lane. Somewhere, someone is ready to snap. Still, urban centres have amazing potential to foster understanding and solidarity across cultures, lifestyles, classes, etc.
While some city dwellers are content with just enjoying the plethora of ethnic foods, festivals, restaurants and nightlife, there’s always a contingent who feel that they’re part of a throbbing, breathing global village in which it’s their duty as citizens to contribute to the greater good and expand their consciousness. It can be tricky to draw a line between the average person who leans toward this tendency and the hippie or hipster – whatever term you want to use to describe people who think they’re not mainstream, but are really just annoying. These folks likely feel they’re different, subversive, alternative – but they’re not terribly original, and they look like idiots for trying to make some sort of vague statement about society by wearing clothes they bought in a mall or some pretentious boutique. This is sadly not just an ignorant stereotype. You can normally tell what type of music a person listens to by their apparel. I’m not generally a proponent of violence, but if you’re wearing skinny jeans, Converse sneakers and vintage eyewear, you deserve to be punched in the face. Especially if you think having a Ron Jeremy ‘stache boosts your sex appeal. I’m pretty sure the person next to me on the streetcar doesn’t expect me to be listening to black metal in my business casual attire and fashionable heels. I’m not a sell-out; I don’t have to dress like an idiot to enjoy good music.
Are city slickers really as sophisticated, cosmopolitan and open-minded as we’d like to think? Hardly. If people in one borough can be ignorant about the one at the other end of the city, or if downtowners and suburbanites can look down their noses because they just don’t ‘get’ each other, how much do they know and appreciate about the rest of their country, or world, for that matter? We tend to think that only city dwellers are rough around the edges and experience poverty. Not so. And it’s difficult to live your environmental convictions when you’re surrounded by concrete and choking on pollution. You can try to pressure the government to improve public transporation, do more composting and tighten emissions regulations, but the fact remains that the place where you’ve chosen to live is a cesspool of toxins. That’s what it means to live in a city. And even if you shop at a farmer’s market instead of a grocery store, you still probably don’t have your own garden. You might be lucky to grow some tomatoes and herbs on your condo balcony, if you have one. You can wear as much organic clothing as your income will accommodate and get dread locks if you’re that ‘radical’ – but don’t bother pretending you’re into a ‘natural’ lifestyle. Nothing about your environment is natural. If you were really that much of a hippie, you’d say, “Fuck it!” and move to the hinterland to work on a farm (or something equally as liberating – and arguably insane).
City and country – I love them both. I spent a solitary weekend recently out in Muskoka, horseback riding and hiking. It was fantastic and totally recharged my batteries. The city is like a girlfriend who’s great to party with, has cool clothes, and doesn’t ask me what I’m talking about when I bring up current events or the lastest viral videos. But she’s pretty much useless around the apartment if something breaks down, and when we go camping she doesn’t know how to build a fire and screams like a banshee when a curious raccoon comes skulking around. You just can’t hang around with her 24/7. Is it possible to find a place where you can have the best of both worlds?