Moving to a Big City Is a Stupid Idea

Living in a big city is a stupid idea. Living in a big city is a stupid idea. I don't actually believe this, but living in a city is a stupid idea. Living in a big city? Stupid idea by my estimation. Who would want to live in a big city? Fucking everyone. That's why living in a big city's a stupid idea. Moving to a big city is a stupider idea. That means you haven't had the life-long conditioning of a big city, the Chinese water torture of years of abuse, and projected, collective neurosis, and social molestation from all sides that entails living in the big city. That's right, social molestation. That's when you're in your peaceful abode in 10 minute increments before your peace is perturbed by the neighbor upstairs dragging his feet, the car alarm, the police siren, the vibration and audio of neighbors banging like savage animals. And they have to bang like savage animals, why? To deal with the stress of living in the big city.

Housing complex in the dystopian film Brazil 

New York City contains a population of eight million and yet still people brag, patting themselves on the back for their ability to make it in the most densely populated city anywhere. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! You never hear the poor New York denizens bragging about this stuff, just the people that think moving to a big city matters. I'm sure NYC has its charm, great landmarks and inspiring events. From an outsider's perspective, it seems like the anus of the United States. If you need to visit that place, you get in, you get out, it's not really a place you wish to dwell. This isn't personal. The claustrophobia is the same in other cities. Chicago where I've spent good time, or the ghost town of abandoned factories and dim lighting that makes up most of Milwaukee. But there's a good reason everyone wants to and romanticizes the idea of living in a big city.

A city within a city

The city is full of life. You can't be alone with a highly condensed population, so much more to see and do. Or so it would seem. It also seems you're like bees in the honey comb, trapped in tiny boxes. It reinforces what's fragmented and compartmentalized like your mind will slowly become, with an increasing pool of friends and potential experiences. Bars, eateries, events, celebrations, advertisements swindling you, whittling away at your options, competing for your senses, and challenging your ability to emote at a speed less than mach level neurotic urban twat. What if you like groups of people but not the self-important, goal-orientated masses struggling like starvings dogs for last tight parking spot? You're always in 5th gear with no option to go slow. You cannot emote.

You're in tiny boxes. You're in a maze. It's not necessarily bad, The Shining's a great movie after all. You're all in tiny boxes, conditioning yourself for claustrophobia. The city is dreamy and full of promise when you see it growing out of the horizon and skyscrapers are partially obscured by clouds, but's it's just a giant warehouse of box upon box. That's right, the Sears Tower is just a stack of Charmin Ultra Strong triple rolls, or a stack of Jenga if you want to be derogatory about it. Boxes, boxes, boxes. You drive in and every area is called a "block," the streets for the most part are a grid of boxes. You travel from place to place on foot sometimes, on these little boxes of cement called sidewalks, and you work inside of a box. We'll, technically you work in a cubicle, a box within a box. Or you work in a factory with a wide open floor and interesting things to look at... while you load, open up, and send out factory items in boxes. After a hard day's work you walk back to the box you call home. Well, first you open the gate of your apartment complex, some strange concoction of boxes built with brick. You get past the gate, through the door, walking through a tight corridor with about 6 inches of grass on each side of your yard, then you enter the big box, go through a hallway, enter a moving box called an elevator and enter the box you pay for monthly, sit down on a chair, and watch the latest cable has to offer in front of a glowing box. If you're lucky, your window won't be a rectangle showcasing your neighbor's brick wall.

(It's all) Relativity by M. C. Escher

It's said that when people are asked what they want, it's a unified community of people who get along; above all else, money, career, whatever. "A frenzied way of life that challenges your sanity" never makes the list. In a city, in your stagnant, immobile dwelling, people probably live above you, directly below you, all around you, and likely diagonally. Yet this densely populated area doesn't guarantee community. Cities seem like they were built from need. They're utilitarian. They're detached from emotional need, instead tailored to survival. Survival. Few things inspire sadness in me more than the idea of survival for survival's sake. It's as simple as quality over quantity. Few people would pick a decade of picking food from a landfill over a year in paradise, but who's putting this ideology to practice? People are fun to be around, other life is attractive and all that, but going to an empty restaurant or movie theater is an equally amazing experience.

A lonely and beautiful evening

So I take it my point in this post is to point out my skepticism in the myth that moving to a big city as an amplification of life itself. Maybe it is right, depending on your personality. Maybe like alcohol it amplifies mood whether good or bad. Loneliness seems like it would just reach a fever pitch surrounded by millions of people. What's more despairing than knowing there's a million more people out there you don't mend with? Then there's a community of neighbors you'll never speak to and streets congested with cars and nowhere to park. All the tiny little nuisances prickling you out of that last coin to make up for all the benefits of living in a herd (not used derogatorily). A ticket here, a mugging, a city sticker to forget, a religious pamphlet, a long grocery line, bus routes to remember and nowhere to piss. Never anywhere a gosh darn place to piss. There's no place to legally take an easy piss in a city unless you're a dog. We could learn a thing or two from Amsterdam and their sidewalk urinals. Why do they exist? Because the people of Amsterdam understand a community of well-behaved and loving people is founded in piss, and the ability to do so free, freely, and without shame.

Public pissers in Amsterdam

What's at the opposite end of the city, though? In America, it's the deplorable reality of suburban sprawl with its strip malls, and its lonely farms, and the occasional maniac living off the land with an incredible weapons cache waiting for hyperinflation to hit. Suburbia is the rest of America, with more elbow and breathing room, and an equal isolation. Wide lawns and narrows minds as Hemingway described it. Like cities, again, suburbia seems a mostly utilitarian concept. There's no center of life for these towns, let alone their little subdivisions. A playground here and there are set up and they're always empty. Every place of interest is a four mile drive. The supermarket, the gym, the mall, the public swimming pool, the beach, a six mile drive. The community recreation center is always a 12 mile drive. Work is always a forty fucking minute drive. Just getting to your job and back is a boatload of work. It makes no sense. So you're working forty hours a week in suburbia but add an hour for lunch and a 2-hour drive and it's at least fifty. If you sleep, there's not much time in the week left. You've got to shower and have breakfast, so no work day is anything resembling a real life. You get a sweet deal of living two days a week and you think you got it good even if you're not a part of any real community. It's just as muddled as city life. What's the difference? Well, in the open country you drive 40 miles over an hour's time to work and you get to see cows, and in the city you ride public transportation 10 miles over an hour's time to work and you get to see, well, cows.

The Modern Maze

But finally, to look on the flip side. Tribal communities of the past made sense, living near water, doing much less work, in completely sustainable communities. It's believed they lived literally near the beach. It's easy to mock the barbarity of hunting your food, living in weak dingy little homes, with the only entertainment being your direct interaction with other people. These types of communities still exist and very few people would ever think of inhabiting one of these types of societies. I know I couldn't. Eventually I'd get the itch to watch Robocop and all would be lost. No amount of love, fun, and sense of community, could ever outweigh the desire to re-watch Robocop. It does bring up a great question. Why has our society ignored our most basic and immediate need after food and shelter, the need for social stimulation? Was it a subconscious effort to exploit people for their work? Keep people divided and frenzied and they'll be more productive. But that's too conspiratorial. I attribute it to nothing more than human error.
"Do you know a lot of New Yorkers who keep talking about the fact that they want to leave but never do. Why do you think they don't leave, I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing they've built, they've built their own prison. And as a result they no longer have the capacity to leave the prison they've made, or to even see it as a prison." - A provocative excerpt form My Dinner with Andre 

The above quote is profound and proactive. It continues, "The world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brain-washing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money." It's about how some modern societies have created their own prison. It cannot be called tyranny, because it's so dependent on complacency. If it's self-imposed, where's the problem? There isn't one. It's personal preference. If it's what you want or are willing to accept, that's fine. It's probably causing a lot of unnecessary stress and societal problems, though. If it's a prison for the willing, so be it. If you're in a mental ward by your own accord, so be it. If you're in a shitty relationship because even tumultuous emotional agony is better than loneliness, so be it. Any little box you're forced into isn't a prison if you don't see it as such. A prison itself isn't a prison if they haven't culled your imagination. Unobstructed thought might be the purest form of freedom. You're free even to delude yourself out of pain or tell yourself you're not really in a bind.

An actual prison

That brings me to an interesting part in all this. When I think of a functional society, I think of a prison. Not a terrible, dreadful place to live, but an actual prison. Sure, it needs an improvement first. You hear me? Replace the steel bars with doors and you have a wonderful place with its own exercise equipment and weights! Its own community-wide kitchen and cafeteria! It's cheaper to cook in bulk. Its own medical center! Security and supervision! Large fields where people gather! A library always within walking distance! Entertainment and activities and the occasional Johnny Cash concert. Make prisons the new standard, man. Courtyards where people can contribute for ease of use and rent fancy equipment as necessary. If this system is cheap enough for our government to fund, to house people who smoke pot, surely the rest of the population could easily afford a permanent stay at the Prison Estates. Get rid of the barbed wire and add a few doors for privacy, open up the center to let some sunlight in, keep the concrete to insulate the sounds of peoples' domestic disputes. Line the bottom of the place with pubs and maybe a few nightclubs. And one community firehouse slash strip club because you can't have any good fires in a cement complex so you may as well have babes in firewomen outfits strip-sliding between two floors of the joint. Doesn't this sound better than 90% of places you've heard of? It should.

Prison by IKEA®

An interesting dynamic and a better fit seems to be a mix between the two like San Francisco or Portland, cities which blend both building and suburbia in an organic way. They also provide respite when one is too anxious with one side or bored with the other. Location, location, location is the key phrase reiterated in real estate, and your physical location is entirely influenced by where you are upstairs. Figure out where your are in your head before you hit the trail. All those stories you've heard of people moving the Hollywood to make it, as if the greener grass was guaranteed. But it wasn't, it was merely a trade of one ideal for another, each with a unique set of challenges. It some cases people aren't better off making decisions on dreams rather than need, or vice-versa, but finding a sweet spot in the middle. Yeah, the exact middle of the United States is a place called Lebanon, Kansas. It's the geographical center, or g-spot, rather, of America. Maybe that's the place to be. Maybe moving to the big city is just as tantalizing and hopeful as we make it to be. Maybe the tantalizing part is just in the moving. Move where movement's most accessible, and get a mobile home for good measure. Keep yer heart in the center but your finger in as many pies as possible like the attached blood vessels.

Sympathetic prisoner Sam

Like any great man I gain most my intellectual insights from major motion pictures. Re-reading what I've written thus far, this rambling isn't about moving to a big city, it's more about dispelling the delusions that lure you in with the idea that changing a location can change one's mind. This I've tried, to mixed results. There's no greener grass. There's no final destination. There's no cessation of challenging circumstances. The grass isn't greener when I'm standing on this side, nor is it greener on the other side. It's greenest when I'm walking through it. Like in the end of Brazil where, spoiler, Sam Lowry is fighting against a system of government attempting to control his mind. He deludes himself and chooses to focus on the happier aspects his life and create a scenario where he's at least victorious in his own head. At this point he's declared insane. Living in the right state may be irrelevant compared to the right state of mind.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing post, very good writing skills.. Thanks for the article, its worth sharing.. though, few people will understand i guess..

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