There’s no dearth of specious, gaseous political rhetoric in this fevered democracy of ours, but one bit of grandstanding that irks me in particular is the occasional portrayal of the city as a dark graveyard for civic virtue stalked by hedonists with no sense of community.
It’s not the hedonism part I mind. I take that as a compliment. It’s the notion that we urbanites are a less neighborly, respectful sort.
Quite the opposite. In the city we can’t get away with the kind of rugged individualism on which country dwellers in fact pride themselves. With every subway ride at rush hour and every brave foray into the blessed, cursed mosh pit that is the Fairway on the Upper West Side, we’re forced to cede our ground, to wait our turns, to budge, to bend.
There’s a contract to urban life, and it’s inked in humility. We agree to sacrifice some of our own will and many of our own whims to what works best for everyone involved. The music is turned down. The poop is scooped. The line isn’t cut. The smartphone is put on silent.
And we trade away private spaces for public ones, which bring us together—force us together—in a manner that tests and ultimately refines our abilities to get along. While the country dweller has his property and the exurbanite his yard, we in New York have Central Park.