The hottest bank holiday this century saw many a pink body exposed to excess sunshine across the nation, not least down my way at Portobello beach. I love the fact I live in an international capital city where I am 10 minutes from the beach and ten minutes from the city centre – without getting into a car!
It is on weekends like this last one I really appreciate this great city, especially the green gems of Holyrood Park and Calton hill and even my local green space at Lochend with its loch, fed by a natural spring, and “ghost trees” (trees that have refused to die, in the middle of the loch).
￼It’s stating the obvious that our capital city, as with any city, needs to be taken care of. It needs care and attention, and a good decision making process so the care and attention happens effectively and in a timely manner. This has been true for as long as there have been cities in all their forms and in every place. It’s no surprise the word politics – the art of decision making – comes from the Greek word Polis – meaning city. It was from the need to manage the spaces in which people began to gather to trade and to live in which led to the formation of a political decision-making process. The birthplace of many of our political ideas and ideologies, philosophical and pragmatic, was in the cities of Greece several thousand years ago.
The very first written record of democratic decision making was in a 2500 year old Greek play “The Suppliant Women” – a play about war, refugees and who gets to decide who can have refuge in a city; as pertinent today as it was all those years ago.
Cities grew not because of democracy but because of trade; democracy managed the inherent tensions and challenges of people from many places living and trading together in one city. Politics was a mediation between many different cultures, the reconciliation of difference, adjudicating disagreements, framing the rules of trade and of justice and fairness.
How we manage our cities is not just a question of resources but attitudes: our capacity to see difference as an opportunity rather than a threat and the other cultures our fellow citizens bring as new light on our own view of the world rather than a threat to our identity. Of course, the same applies in every community, no matter how small, but our cities require a different approach to smaller places where relationships and intimacy of shared history can offer a different type of mediating force (though not always).
Our politics today has become binary in approach and tribal in motivation with an unhealthy obsession with one version of truth to be possessed and weaponised. It is used to divide people, not bring them together. On this sunny weekend, I longed not simply for more good weather to enjoy the green spaces which make this city so beautiful, but for a better politics, rooted where it first began, in caring for the communities which make up our cities and their citizens, no matter whether they came from or how differently they see the world.